Homeless Advocates in Outer Space

I want to bring attention to a few excellent articles on homelessness by Heather MacDonald, the brilliant writer and thinker, who is a senior fellow and contributor at the Manhattan Institute. She also has a lot of valuable things to say about identity politics, immigration, race relations, policing and higher education.


One is called “Homeless Advocates in Outer Space“, which, though it was written 20 years ago, is as true today as it was then.  I will quote some parts of this article here:

In eighteenth-century London, aristocratic elites visited the mad in Bedlam Hospital and called it entertainment. In twentieth-century New York, professional elites visit the mad in the streets and call it homeless outreach. The results in both cases are the same: the objects of attention are left to rot in their own filth, perhaps to lose a limb or two to gangrene, or to die. The intention, however, could not be more different: in modern times, such hands-off treatment shows “sensitivity” and “respect.”

As recounted in “To Reach the Homeless,” a typical day of outreach resembles a Dantean pilgrimage through the underworld. One day, for example, outreach workers stop by a coffin-sized box across from the New York Times building. “We know it’s a person,” reports Porter, “because we can discern a hand moving underneath some rags.” The workers knock on the box and say hello but get no response. Because the hand is still moving, though, the team concludes that whatever it is attached to must be okay, so they move on.

Nothing, however, compares to the difficulty of enticing the homeless into housing. Time after time, a client deemed “housing-ready” will balk at the threshold of his new abode and plunge back into the most squalid street life. Only a few vagrants even get that close; most keep themselves safely removed from the housing process.

When it gets cold, recounts a scraggly vagrant, “I smash a window with a brick and go to jail. I get along fine in jail.”

“To Reach the Homeless” proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that the homeless are not on the street because they can’t find housing: desperate to give away subsidized apartments, the BID found almost no takers. Clearly, most vagrants prefer the streets to the responsibilities of a housed existence. Some may simply refuse to play by society’s rules, like many hoboes of old; for others, speculates the respite center’s director, housing may represent a scary reencounter with whatever psychological demons drove them to the streets in the first place.

Homeless Advocates in outer space

But although the homeless may prefer the streets, that is not why they are still there. They are there because the advocates need them to be there. Should society finally decide to end street vagrancy, it could go far in that direction by facilitating commitment to mental hospitals (see “Let’s Stop Being Nutty About the Mentally Ill,” Summer 1997) and enforcing existing laws against street living. Though the average householder would surely welcome such a change, the average householder has no say in these matters; a vocal minority purporting to represent the interests of the homeless governs homeless policy.

A sane homeless policy would acknowledge two basic realities. First, many people on the streets need treatment, not housing. For the sickest, legislators need to change rules against involuntary confinement, and states need to recommission mental hospitals emptied by deinstitutionalization. Second, for the rest of the homeless the best medicine is the expectation of responsible behavior—the expectation of work and of civil and lawful conduct in public spaces. (See “Who Says the Homeless Should Work?” Summer 1997.) Accordingly, opinion leaders, from politicians to ministers, should decry all types of no-strings-attached handouts, such as no-demand soup kitchens and indiscriminate alms-giving to beggars, which simply subsidize self-destructive behavior. They should oppose allowing the homeless to turn public spaces into hobo encampments. Effective charity asks for reciprocity from the recipient, building patterns of work and discipline; to exempt the homeless from the rules that everyone else lives by infantilizes them permanently.

Ms MacDonald wrote an article called “San Francisco Gets Tough with the Homeless” about San Francisco’s approach to homelessness at a point in the early 1990’s when it seemed, for a time, that the city’s policy was shifting. Ultimately the city failed to pursue a new tougher policy on homelessness that would have set healthy boundaries.

She also wrote another article about SF’s approach to the homeless in 2010, in the Wall STreet Journal, called San Franciscans try to Take Back THeir Streets.

Stroll down Haight Street these days, and chances are you’ll be accosted by aggressive young vagrants. “Can you spare some change?” asks Cory, a slender dark-haired young man from Ventura, Calif. “Dude, do you have any food?” His two female companions, Zombie and Eeyore, swig from a bottle of pricey Tejava tea and pass a smoke while lying on a blanket surrounded by a fortress of backpacks, bedrolls and scrawled signs asking for money. Vincent, a fourth “traveler,” as the Haight Street gutter punks call themselves, stares dully into space.

Such strapping young hobos see themselves as on a “mission,” though they’re hard-pressed to define it. In fact, they are defined by an oversized sense of entitlement.


Of all the destinations on the West Coast “traveler” circuit, the Haight carries a particular attraction to these panhandlers, thanks to the 1960s Summer of Love. Over the last several years, however, the vagrant population has grown more territorial and violent. “I don’t care if they ask for change,” says Arthur Evans, a self-described former hippie who has lived in the neighborhood for 35 years. “It’s okay if they loiter and make a bit of noise. But I don’t feel safe walking down the Haight at night any more.”

Read or listen to an interesting recent interview (June 2018) by Ben Weingarten with Heather MacDonald here: http://benweingarten.com/2018/06/heather-mac-donald-identity-politics-criminal-justice/


The homeless with serious mental illness

What percentage of the “homeless” are people living with serious mental illness? This is an important question, particularly since many people are over-emphasizing that “the solution for homelessness is housing”.  But if people with serious mental illness are simply given housing, it’s very likely they will lose it again if their mental illness continues to be untreated.

A recent article in Mother Jones quoted a man who works with San Diego’s homeless in the tents provided for them there.

He estimates that about 80 to 90 percent of the tent’s residents are affected by some kind of mental illness.

This is a shockingly high number of individuals with mental illness, considering that in the population at large,  the US population as a whole has only 2% with serious substance abuse — see herehttps://americanaddictioncenters.org/rehab-guide/addiction-statistics/

And the population as a whole has only 4% with serious mental illness

This means that  in San Diego, the estimated figures there imply that the rate of mental illness among homeless individuals there, is 20X or 2000% higher than the population at large.  This is such a stunningly high number that it would be simply negligent to fail to factor this into any strategies to work with the homeless there, or seek solutions for that city’s homelessness.  It also implies what many of us have suspected…that the “explosion of homelessness” is innately a failure of our mental health care system (or lack thereof) and that our streets and sidewalks are being appropriated by our cities and states as outdoor insane asylums, to the extent that these municipalities and governing entities simply allow the mentally ill to continue to wander there.  Homeless mentally ill banner

A study done in Berkeley found a different percentage of those with serious Mental illness — about half that of the number found in San Diego, but still extremely high.
The study done by the Homeless Task Force on Homelessness in Berkeley in 2009 :. Homeless Task Force study on Homelessness in Berkeley 2009

Note from page 3 of the study, 41% of homeless had serious mental illness and 40% were chronic substance abusers. Hence, those who are homeless have 10 to 20 times the rate of substance abuse as the general public as a whole, and 10 times the rate of serious mental illness as the general public as a whole.

A study done by the National Institute of Mental Health had lower numbers of homeless with serious mental illness.

The Treatment Advocacy Center reported that 1/3 of the homeless have serious mental illness.

This study had a lower figure, only 18.4% of homeless with serious mental illness.

A study done for Portland Oregon shows 20% of the homeless there with mental illlness.

This study shows 26% of homeless with a mental illness, 35% with substance abuse.

In another article, Mother Jones had a similar figure:

Mother Jones stats on homeless mentally ill

This study done in Canada shows a 50% rate of mental illness among homeless.

But again, the numbers on the ground in some areas are much higher.  In Oahu Hawaii, the Institute for Human Services found that 60% of the homeless suffer from serious mental illness.

Crazy eye and hand

A study in Whatcom County in Washington showed 38% of homeless with serious mental illness. Homeless in Whatcom Washington

It is really very unfortunate that it is taking us, collectively, so very long to realize that those with serious mental illness cannot take care of themselves.  I’ve personally been very concerned with this problem for about 4 decades now, which is about how long I’ve been seeing those with serious mental illness wandering the urban streets, living on sidewalks, left to rant and rave and talk to themselves while wearing rags and defecating and urinating on themselves.  It’s been incomprehensible to me that we (national, state and city governments) have just ignored this serious problem for so long. Why were we not addressing this very serious problem 30 or 40 years ago?

We are finally realizing that people with serious mental illness — surprise!– often dont’ realize that they can’t see reality as it is and dont’ realize they have a mental illness.  Duh!   They have “anosognosia” , which is a prominent symptom of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.  It’s flatly evident that people out of their minds, do not realize they are out of their minds.   This is why giving those with untreated serious mental illness the “freedom” to do as they please is a form of cruelty — it’s like sending a 2 or 3 year old child out into the world and saying “take care! Hope you can get a job and some housing and take care of yourself!”  These people can’t care for themselves and it’s really abusive of us as a society to expect that they would be able to.

Homeless mentally ill end up on sidewalks
Here’s a good opinion piece on this issue from the LA Times.

A legal RV park…in Berkeley?

Arguably, if one is homeless or low-income, it’s far better for you to be able to live in a vehicle as opposed to a tent on the sidewalk.  This is a far more secure, comfortable, private and desirable way to live.  Particularly if the vehicle is large, and outfitted for long term residence — as with the RV or trailer home.  It’s also a way that many people of means have chosen to live, for significant amounts of time.

But the problem with this way of life,  is, that just as with tiny house dwelling, there are very few legal options for those seeking a “low rent” or free way of living in Berkeley or really anywhere in the Bay Area.

There are very few RV parks in the Bay Area, particularly any that have space available and also offer reasonably low rents.  And — it’s not an acceptable plan to allow people to simply live in vehicles, indefinitely — or in perpetuity, as their permanent, chosen lifestyle — on public streets.  As mentioned in another article here, most cities not only do not allow people to live in RVs on public streets, but they even prohibit the overnight parking of RVs on any city street.

The number of people illegally living in RVs and other vehicles at the Berkeley Marina has gotten way out of hand.  At the Berkeley City Council meeting this week, a park spokesperson estimated that there are 200 people living in RVs at the Berkeley Marina.

Berkeley Marina 200 vehicles (2)

Keep in mind that there is NO campground there, and Berkeley Marina laws explicitly and clearly state that overnight camping is prohibited everywhere at the Marina.  Nevertheless, the city has tolerated this illegal activity for over 2 years.

The result is predictable: the people living illegally in RVs and other vehicles at the Marina, having been permitted to stay there for so long, now feel like they have a claim on the area, and thus, the city of Berkeley is now looking at the possibility of setting up a designated lot or site for people to live in RVs in Berkeley or not too far away.  Berkeley Marina van dweller (2)

Berkeley Marina vehicle dwellers speak (2)


As written, this proposal is over-idealistic and not workable. Yes, it would be nice if there were places for all RV dwellers to live in the Bay Area, at low or no rent.  However, absent someone with a magic wand to wave and somehow magically create more and more low income housing opportunities, it’s not possible to accomodate the huge number of people who would just like to live in Berkeley or Oakland or SF and pay, say,  $100 to $300 a month in rent.  The number of people who would like that opportunity is huge, and even if it were possible to give 200 such people such an opportunity,  within a few months,  there would be 200 to 5000 more people wanting the same thing.

There are many people living in RVs on streets all over the Bay Area, and they all would like to be given a $100-300 a month RV park spot.  For instance these in East Palo ALto:


Those who do actually have a spot in an RV park in a city where the cost of living is far higher than what they are paying, are very lucky.  And rare.


People argue that we need more low income housing in the Bay Area, we need RV parks.  Well we already have low income housing, we already have RV parks, and they are pretty much all full. There are opportunities to live at low rent on a liveaboard at the Berkeley Marina — those slots are taken.  There are a variety of low income apartments in the Bay Area — all taken.  There are RV parks in the Bay Area — most are not in the inner Bay Area, where land costs are very high, but in the outer Bay, for instance in Vacaville. Even those are mostly all full.  There is section 8 housing in the Bay Area…all full, with a long waiting list.

It’s just not possible to meet the demand for low income housing or RV park slots in the inner Bay Area in particular.

If any RV park or vehicle dwelling park is to be set up by the city, it makes far more sense to me that this would be done in the same spirit and with the same purpose as the new Pathways navigation center in Berkeley.  Namely, to offer ostensibly “homeless” people a place to stay for a limited period of time (say up to 3 to 6 months)  while they are provided services and directed to available shelter or housing, not necessarily in Berkeley (as there is little of either here) but somewhere in the state or in the nation.  Those who are not interested in receiving such services should not be given a spot in the vehicle campground/park.  The city should not be subsidizing one select group of vehicle dwellers (those at the BErkeley Marina) , any more than they should be subsidizing one particular group of homeless tent campers (FTCFTH).  Among other things, focusing only on one ostensibly “special” group of people is discriminatory.  But more to the point, governments need to come up with plans for the homeless that work with the big picture scenario.

Berkeley City Council members have indicated that those 200 (gasp) people living in RVs at the BErkeley Marina will “have to go”, and they are considering some type of RV park arrangement, but have recognized that this is not just a Berkeley issue, it is an issue for all the homeless (and low income persons) all over the Bay Area.

The state is finally stepping up and trying to get funding to build housing for some of the most needy homeless.

Instead of expecting the city to find places for them, RV and vehicle dwellers might take the initiative and find places for themselves.  A group called “BusPatch” has done that, and they band together and rent vacant lots in the Bay Area where they can live communally.   http://www.buspatch.com/

UPDATE: September 30 2018

The city of Berkeley, faced with a large increase in the number of complaints about RVs in the West Berkeley area, in District 1, is considering implementing regulations on RV parking in the city. See the Berkeleyside article about this issue.

On October 1 2018, East Bay Times reported that an RV caught fire on a road in the Oakland hills, and the fire spread to nearby brush.  RV burned out Oakland hillls

It’s not clear if this was an RV being used as a residence, but there have been many fires in RVs people are using as residences.  In Portland, this has become quite a problem, with many “zombie RVs” in that city, as explained in this article: https://portlandtribune.com/pt/9-news/376907-262729-portland-gets-zombie-rvs-off-the-streets

Rivera said Portland Fire & Rescue has responded to at least 25 RV fires just this year. One time, a burning RV torched power lines in a neighborhood. He also mentioned abandoned RVs can be a hub for criminal activity. The city had to hire additional parking staff to deal with abandoned RVs.

The task in total has earned quite the price tag.

“We expect to spend more than a million dollars this year, getting RV’s off the streets of Portland,” Rivera said.

As mentioned in this Reddit thread, there was an RV that caught fire at a grocery store parking lot in Portland, and the scene was caught on video…


THe next day, this sight —

Zombie RV Portland

Anyone with interest, can explore the RV park offerings in the Bay Area…I found this list on YELP.  Note that most all of the existing RV parks are in the outer Bay Area, places like Vacaville or Santa Rosa, or Half Moon Bay.

  • 2399 E 14th St
    San Leandro, CA 94577

    Phone number(510) 357-3235

    Robert J.

    This place is located in the heart of downtown San Leandro, and really an awesome trailer park. I stayed here in an RV and had a very good experience. Their monthly rate is $700 and… read more

  • 460 Wavecrest Rd
    Half Moon Bay, CA 94019

    Phone number(650) 726-7275

    Donna F.

    RV! All spots included a fire pit and table/chairs. There is no shade for days like we had during Labor weekend! We were just done the street from bike trails that lead to the state… read more

  • 700 Palmetto Ave
    Pacifica, CA 94044

    Phone number(888) 841-5636

    Marie L.

    would never stay here again, we woke up to our car keyed and someone trying to flatter our tires, our rv site was tore up, and our wheel stoppers removed from our tires and put on… read more

  • 4000 Cabrillo Hwy N
    Half Moon Bay, CA 94019

    Phone number(650) 712-9277

    Loretta S.

    from Sam’s Chowder House. So we walked there for lunch and dinner, which was great as there is never parking available at Sam’s Chowder; but it’s a great place to eat. Thanks again,… read more

  • 2140 Redwood Hwy
    Greenbrae, CA 94904

    Phone number(415) 461-5199

    Doris c.

    the dogs. How awful that these animals are locked in a camper that they are unfamiliar with. Worse part about this is I really like using this site. I have been here many times and… read more

  • 1080 San Miguel Rd
    Concord, CA 94518

    Phone number(925) 685-7048

    Dan N.

    I stayed here for right at a month because I had a short job down the road. This place is really nice. Lots and lots of mature beautiful trees. Reminds me of San Diego. Plenty of RV… read more

  • Trailer Villa

    7. Trailer Villa

    2.5 star rating

    8 reviews

    3401 E Bayshore Rd
    Redwood City, CA 94063

    Phone number(650) 366-7880

    Brian M.

    This is about the most convenient rv park and public dump station in the Bay area. Now that the rvpark in Pacifica closed it’s public dump station it’s one of about two local… read more

  • 339 Parker Ave
    Rodeo, CA 94572

    Phone number(510) 900-5920

    Stan L.

    This is a great place to stay. Just very difficult because it’s always full. Everything you need is right around the area. Restaurants, post office, grocery shopping. read more

  • 3356 Snug Harbor Dr
    Walnut Grove, CA 95690

    Phone number(916) 775-1455

    Phil B.

    traveled with other RV’s and this also included 1 pitbull (again, great dog). Shame on you Snug Harbor, obviously we (or any of our friends and family) won’t be returning anytime… read more

Homeless Zombie Apocalypse?

As the number of homeless and homeless camps explodes in West Coast cities, the trope of the “Zombie Apocalypse” is apparently entering the minds of many, as they gape at the seemingly intractable problem on many city streets.

While calling all homeless people “zombies” is  mean-spirited and cruel, as well as a potentially damaging  dismissal of struggling and vulnerable individuals, nevertheless, I think it’s important that we explore ordinary people’s response to a truly disturbing situation, and explore why people are led to think “Zombie Apocalypse” in conjunction with the explosion of numbers (and locations) of homeless camps in our cities.  Just as we should not be dismissing all the homeless as “zombies”, likewise, we should not be dismissing the legitimate fears and disturbance that ordinary people have to the spread of squalid homeless camps across their cities, and their tendency to glimpse there, something frighteningly “zombie-apocalypse-like” unfolding in their city.

In this Op-Ed about “faux compassion”, the author, concerned about the consequences of exploding numbers of homeless camps in California cities, says

It seems today like we have somehow traded the California paradise we remember for something more akin to a zombie apocalypse movie.

In this article, people debate about a group that apparently took a mean spirited and mocking approach to the homeless


One commenter on that story agrees that some areas of Orange County are looking like a “Zombie Apocalypse” zone…

Zombie Apocalypse in comments (2)

Another blogger uses the term “homeless zombie apocalypse” to refer to what is happening in Orange County, California, with the multiplication of homeless camps in that area.

To see some of that Orange County situation for yourself, take a look at this video that someone made, of the Santa Ana Riverbed bicycle trail in Anaheim, prior to the removal of the massive, mile-and-a-half-long homeless camp in that area:


The narrator in the video said, “the amount of tents and homeless people that you see in this video is just disgusting.”

Further up the California coast, homeless zombie apocalypse can readily be found in San Francisco.  A conservative news website posts an article about the “zombie apocalypse” scene in San Francisco’s Civic Center BART station — and unfortunately, as many of us know who ride BART, that characterization is fairly accurate:


Shopping cart zombie black background

(That website asks you to enter your email in order to see the article– you can enter an email that you use less often so you don’t get bombarded with spam)

The author posts this news video which clearly demonstrates the disturbing problem:


Zombies in town

Similarly, on a Trip Advisor page related to Market Street in San Francisco, someone referred to that same area near the Civic Center BART station, using the term “zombie apocalypse.”

Elsewhere in San Francisco, residents of South of Market neighborhoods, often artists and very “progressive” type people, are finding themselves shocked by the increasingly appalling scene on their streets. They regularly find human feces, rats and hypodermic needles on the streets, see homeless vagrants breaking in to cars, and one resident recently found a suitcase full of human poop. At that point, he wrote letters to the city and to the media. Of one young performer who lives in the area, the article says:

She said it’s scary walking by herself or riding the bus late at night after work, so she has to pay for car service. She can’t wear shoes inside anymore because the bottoms became so disgusting from walking on her sidewalk. She has struggled to sleep at night because of the tortuous sounds of screaming and fighting wafting up from the street below.

In the middle of the night not long ago, a man rolled around in the middle of the street “acting like a wild beast — just screaming,” she said. She called 911. She often refrains from calling police if black men are involved, not confident officers would treat them fairly.

The article’s author visited the area, and said of what she saw:

On one of my visits to Isis Street in early April, the sidewalks at the end of the block underneath the freeway were teeming with homeless people. One woman leaned against a wall with drug paraphernalia spread around her. She alternately cried, gave huge clownish smiles and screamed profanities.

A man with a pile of belongings and a dog nestled in an open suitcase stood nearby. He said his name is just Roni and he’s been homeless for eight years. He said he’s addicted to meth. His teeth seemed to be disintegrating.

In recent weeks, residents have been absolutely astonished that at least in their area, most of the time now, the mayor has made good on a commitment to get the tents out of San Francisco. This just goes to show that we dont’ have to sit passively and helplessly by and watch the homeless zombie apocalypse unfold around us. We can take action to prevent this disintegration of neighborhoods and spread of deeply disturbing behavior.

Someone created a FaceBook page for a business/location called “Zombie Apocalypse Homeless Camp” in the Clearlake, California area.  This is a rural area which has been disturbingly effected by methheads.

A YouTube video about a prank “Homeless Zombie” in an elevator:


A short film etitled “Homeless Zombie Attacks” :


A South Park parody, “Night of the Living Homeless”

A humorous movie called “Homeless Zombie Apocalypse” (episode one and more episodes slated to come) which features “Homeless Shopping Cart Zombies” and several other toy characters:


Homeless Zombie Apocalypse with Shopping Cart Zombie HZA title

There is a book by John Vervaeke and two other authors, which takes a look at the use of the Zombie archetype in Western Culture, which sheds light on the use of this trope


In chapter 3 of their book, on page 13, they discuss “the four symbols of the zombie metaphor”. Intriguingly, in the discussion of the first “symbol”, the authors give these qualities of zombies:

(1) Zombies don’t talk (the zombie’s most marked pathology is that it lacks intelligibility).
We see this in those with serious mental illness on our streets, those who arguably most closely approximate the zombie, as they often say things which are unintelligible or truly crazy.

(2) Zombies are communal.
We see this communalism in the large homeless camps, which also reasonably appear to us as more frightening and disturbing than the individual tents.

(3)Zombies are homeless
That the authors have found this to be an essential symbol of zombies, helps us understand why the connection between the homeless and zombies comes up quickly for many observers.

(4) Zombies eat brains.
The author says that “a zombie never stops eating, but never grows or changes. In its insatiability, the zombie has put its face to the disorder of addiction.”
And it’s easy for many observers to make the link between the depravity that results from serious substance abuse (particularly when its results are exposed in public palces)and the zombie.

Cartoon zombie

(5) Zombies are ugly.
We dont’ see many attractive things in homeless people or homeless camps. Not always, but often, the camps are literally full of garbage, feces, and debris, and many of their residents are unwashed and wearing rags.

(6) The Zombie is vacant: it lacks an interior life
When some of the homeless are interviewed, and their storiesor statements appear on the news, one of the things many observers will note is that while clearly many people are homeless due to outside forces over which they have no control, in others, there appears to be a vacancy where common sense should be. Observers can note that some people have ended up homeless, and likely remain homeless, due to bad decisions, lack of common sense, and/or a lack of interior life and inability to reflect on their own behavior and its effect on others. And so we see people who’ve made a living in crime and who are involved in drug abuse, wondering why they have trouble finding housing. We see people who will state they can’t afford housing in a certain area, end up in the streets, apparently unable to use their resources to either move to a place where they can afford to live, or get roommates to help pay their rent.  This apparent lack of ability to make any forward motion, but instead allowing themselves to disintegrate on the streets, can lead observers to glimpse this aspect of the zombie archetype.

Further on in the book, the authors similarly state in the “Fourth symbol of the Zombie” that the zombie is bankrupt and lacks insight.  Again, with many, but certainly not all of the homeless (particularly those effected by mental illness or substance abuse) we see these people doing the same inane, self-destructive and useless things that cannot get them anywhere, but deeper into a hole, or down the toilet.  They seem spectacularly unable (and/or unwilling) to do anything to improve their condition, and in many instances seem content to simply rot away.  Some of this, however, we must understand as the consequence of depression and despair — the same thing can happen to anyone, homeless or not, if they fall into deep depression. It can be a black hole that swallows them up.

I would add another aspect to the “symbolism” of the zombie, which is the lawless, out of control situation that we see in many homeless camps, and which for instance is summed up well in an article called Left Coast Lawlessness. It’s this lawless and highly disordered environment in which the homeless are living, which differentiates them in their self-destructive behaviors, and apparent lack of insight, from the affliction of despair and depression among the housed, who at least have an external framework of security and order in which they live.

In order to attenuate the disturbance caused to many by the explosion of homeless camps, as well as the potential for demonizing of the homeless, I think it is important both for city, state and national governments to come up with real, effective plans to shelter and house the homeless, the destitute, the disabled, and to require (not simply request) that those with serious mental illness or substance abuse are housed in treatment centers, and not allowed to roam our urban centers and continually frighten and disturb, or endanger, passers by. There have been a number of attacks on ordinary people by crazy homeless individuals, and these things just need to stop. Cities cannot allow disturbed people to roam the streets and harm others.

Zombie Land Drive

For instance, this month on June 20 a homeless man attacked a person in downtown Berkeley with a rock, accusing him of an “illegal Asian takeover.”

A Berkeley woman named Dawn Carraway, who has serious mental illness, has repeatedly assaulted residents in downtown Berkeley, apparently with impunity. She keeps being released to do the same thing again and again.

In Seattle, in June 2018, a homeless man attacked tourists. The man who was attacked says the homeless man tried to put a rope on him and strangle him.

In NYC, elderly women were attacked by a homeless man.

In Portland Oregon, a man was stabbed 17 times after asking a homeless man to leave.

In Ventura, CA, a homeless man entered a restaurant and fatally stabbed someone, and this occurred AFTER police received a report of this man acting erratically, and decided not to intervene.

Vagrant Free Ventura

A homeless man attacked people in Dallas, earlier this year.

A homeless man attacked people with a hatchet, after being offered food, in 2017.

A homeless man in LA attacked a good samaritan who was trying to help him.

Cops were bitten by a homeless man in Salt Lake City.

A police officer was attacked by a homeless man in San Francisco.

A homeless man is accused of raping a woman in a Seattle bathroom.

A Sacramento man was bitten by a dog owned by a homeless man, after the homeless man encouraged the dog to attack him.

A homeless man attacked a woman sitting in her car at a red light in Woodland Hills CA.

A homeless man in Fayetteville attacked a woman on a trail, and tried to rape her.

A police officer was attacked by a homeless man in VEntura, this month.

A homeless man attacked a police officer who was trying to help him in Berkeley in JUne 2018.

A homeless man attacked a photographer walking his dog on June 27 2018 in downtown LA.

A homeless man sexually assaulted a woman on a trail, and went to another city and engaged in felony theft.

Even a homeless man with no arms apparently committed a violent crime, stabbing someone with scissors he held with his feet.

On July 22 2018, a homeless man apparently murdered a woman on a BART platform in Oakland, and continued riding the train for 24 hrs after the murder until apprehended by police.

In August 2018, another homeless man stabbed passengers on a BART train, at the same time as no fewer than NINE Police officers were on duty at that very station…demonstrating that violent crimes can even occur right under the nose of the police.

I could go on and on with these stories of how some homeless individuals, often with serious mental or drug addiction issues, are causing serious danger to the rest of the population.
And as my other article on this subject indicates, there have been many crimes, some violent, fires and drug use at homeless camps. And again, the number of homeless people with serious mental illness or substance abuse issues is ten times as high as the percentage of people with those issues in the population at large.

However, in all fairness it must also be said, that homeless individuals are not only the perpetrators of assaults and crimes on others, but are often the victims of such crimes.  This is not an either/or situation, but a both/and situation.  Simply put, allowing homeless/street people with serious mental illness to wander at random on the streets,  endangers both these people themselves, as well as ordinary persons who might unwittingly trigger one of these disturbed individuals to attack or assault them.

For instance, in San Francisco recently, a man was arrested for a violent attack on a homeless man lying on the sidewalk.  In Oakland, a jogger impulsively started throwing out the belongings of a homeless man, who was camping in a very prominent, indeed scenic location at Lake Merritt — a park which we ought to note has been called “The Jewel of the City.”  Yet, of these crimes perpetrated upon the homeless, we should note that they would be minimized if we could stop allowing our streets to be turned into outdoor insane asylums and our parks to be allowed to be turned into slums.  The alleged perps in both these crimes expressed frustration that the city was not doing more to deal with an out of control homeless issue.
And we could better protect homeless individuals, by creating places for them to be, other than lying on the sidewalk, where they are much more vulnerable to random attacks, than when they have shelters to stay in.
By failing to create places for these people to be, and by allowing our streets and parks to be turned into slums and garbage strewn camps, our cities endanger many of us and unwittingly contribute to the characterization of the homeless as zombies, and to the spread of camps as a homeless zombie apocalypse.

Video describing the zombie apocalyptic situation in San Francisco:


When cities stop allowing our streets to be outdoor insane asylums, we will be protecting those with drug or mental health issues, and protecting the rest of the population, and the incidence of “zombie sightings” on the streets will correspondingly diminish.
Zombie sighting news report


Berkeley to Open Pathways Homeless Services, Change Building Code to address Homeless Crisis

The Mayor and City Councilmembers of the City of Berkeley are continuing with the plan to make homelessness their top priority.

The city’s new “Pathways Project”, located in the area of 2nd street where there had formerly been a large homeless camp, is slated to open June 23rd 2018.  Mayor Arreguin has stated that he expects Berkeley to be able to end homelessness in the city within 5 years.

Pathways marks the first step in our plan to shelter all of Berkeley’s homeless residents within 5 years. Together we can help the least fortunate in our community get shelter and permanent housing, and put their lives back on track.

This letter details the steps taken to implement the Pathways Project:

Pathways Implementation Summary

Pathways Project

Pathways can shelter only 50 homeless, but the city plans to process them and place them in housing within 6 months, and then be able to take another 50 homeless after that.

Many are critical of this project, arguing that it’s a huge waste of money. From the Berkeleyside article, it seems that the project cost somewhere in the range of $400,000 to $781,000 to build, but the operating costs will be much higher — the city will be paying $2.4 million for 13 months of contract with a group who will provide service workers for the center. It’s not clear how the city will have funds to continue to pay for this project after the first 13 months. But it’s clear to many that that $2.4 million could actually have been spent to house every single of the some 1000 homeless persons currently in the city.

Still, I think there will always be a need to have a center where the homeless can be sheltered, with service workers on site, to process people and place them into housing. The HUB was supposed to achieve this, but it didn’t offer shelter, so it wasn’t ideal in that sense. I can see the value of the stability provided when the homeless are able to obtain services right where they are receiving shelter, and I think it’s particularly valuable that they could stay at the site 24/7, so it’s unlike the standard homeless shelters which require those staying there to leave during the day. Allowing people to stay and relax I think can assist with the stress of being homeless.

On Tuesday June 12, the city passed some emergency amendments to the California Building Code, which will allow them to address the homeless crisis

Berkeley Emergency Amendments to CBC for Emergency Housing

THese emergency amendments only apply to land or facilities that the City of Berkeley owns or rents. They do not apply to private property, or properties owned by other public entities/agencies, such as BART or the federal or state government.

The provisions and standards set forth in this appendix shall be applicable to emergency housing established pursuant to the declaration of a shelter crisis under Government Code section 8698 et seq. and located in new or existing buildings, structures, or facilities owned, operated, erected, or constructed by, for or on behalf of the City of Berkeley on land owned or leased by the City of Berkeley.

It would seem that a main intent of this emergency amendment, would be so that the city could create emergency housing for the homeless, on its own land or land that it rents, (similar to the Tuff-Shed structures that Oakland is using) , without risk of being sued over habitability issues by those it housed there.
Note that emergency sleeping cabins are still required to have heat and electrical power, one GFCI outlet, smoke alarms, ventilation, and at least one light fixture.

Note too that while the city expands its ability to house the homeless in hard sided structures, it limits its own ability to house them in tents, as the amendment passed declares that individuals shall not be housed in tents for more than 7 days, unless raised wooden floors can be put under the tents.

Homeless Tents in hawaii NOPE

Also the tents will not be able to be used during winter or other cold times of the year when the temperature goes below 50 degrees. The tents will also not be able to be used for more than 6 months out of the year.

The emergency housing area will have to be kept in clean condition — eg, not like the third world slum of a homeless camp that were nearby when Pathways was being built.

The grounds within emergency housing sites shall be kept clean and free from accumulation of debris, filth, garbage and deleterious matter. Emergency housing and emergency housing facilities shall not be occupied if a substandard condition exists, as determined by the Authority Having Jurisdiction.

Sprinkler systems are required in the emergency housing.

Although it remains to be seen if the City can actually process the homeless and place them in housing (somewhere — mostly they will have to be housed outside Berkeley), one of the reasons I’m happy to see the Pathways Project get started is because the city at least is acting on a plan, and is sincerely aiming to eliminate homelessness from the city. What is being tried is something new, and this is better than continuing to try things that have a proven record of not working. Whether this new project can work, whether it’s far too expensive and cannot continue to be funded — all these things remain to be seen. In terms of the City Council’s end goal, I am in agreement — we must get people off the streets and sidewalks of the city. It may be that several “new” things have to be tried before the city is able to make inroads into this end goal. If there are mistakes made, I hope the city is able to learn from its mistakes, and make changes in order to continue to improve this project and any additional projects.

Regardless of our views and ideas about homelessness, I think most all of us are in agreement that we’d like to see an end to people living on streets and sidewalks all over the city.

More plans…

The city plans to put measures on the ballot in November 2018 to generate more money for homeless services. This is how these measures were described in a FaceBook post on the FRCFTH Facebook group:

The Berkeley City Council is Trying to Dupe Berkeley Voters to Tax Themselves Millions of Dollars Under The Guise of Helping The Homeless

Berkeley has 1300 people who are homeless. Tthe City Council is proposing putting on the November ballot the “Homeless Services Measure”.It is expected to garner 6.4 to 8.4 million dollars per year for “homeless services”.

This measure provides for a 2 ½% real property transfer tax for residential property sold over 1 million dollars. For properties sold under 1 million, the real property transfer tax will stay at 1 1/2%. Contrary to what the voters of Berkeley might think, this money is not intended to build housing for the homeless. No.it is not. It is for “homeless services”.

Most voters would assume “homeless services” would provide housing for the homeless but that is not how the Berkeley City Council sees this. Rather this money will go to keeping shelters open, mental health services, alcohol and drug counseling, job training for the homeless. Laudable but it still does not build necessary housing.

On June 12, 2018, the Berkeley City Council decided to put a $130 million general obligation bond on the November ballot that would go “to finance affordable housing to extremely low, low and moderate income households for seniors, people with disabilities and working families such as teachers”. Allegedly this money would be subject to citizen oversight and regular audits.

However, the Council indicated only a small portion of this money, maybe 20%, (IF THEY FEEL GENEROUS) will go to building housing for the homeless.

While the Berkeley City Council has the power to earmark all this money or perhaps a larger percentage, say 50% to build housing for its 1300 homeless, they indicated last night at their City Council meeting they will not do that.

In addition, Berkeley will receive several million dollars from the State of California which the Governor and the State Legislature stated is supposed to be used “.. to construct permanent affordable and homeless housing and improve homeless services…”

What the Berkeley Gray Panthers foresee happening in Berkeley is what happened in Seattle. The people of the City of Seattle recently found they had spent $200 million last year that was supposed to go to building housing for the homeless. This amounted to $17,000 per homeless man, woman and child in the city and yet the homeless problem got WORSE because none of the homeless people on the street ever got housed. The money was given out in an open bid process (similar to California’s) to too many profit and non-profits and other established programs to help the homeless. NOT A PENNY WAS SPENT ON BUILDING ACTUAL HOUSING FOR THE HOMELESS. Everyone had their hand out. This included salaries that only benefited a specific program allegedly providing homeless services.


If the homeless were actually housed in permanent housing, they could stabilize and the City would not need social workers and programs directors. This would make a lot more sense than the way this is set up now.

The voters in Berkeley are generous people and have great empathy for the homeless. This is shown in a community poll where over 60% of the voters indicated they are willing to tax themselves in order to provide funds for housing for the homeless. But the City Council, in a scheme that is tantamount to fraud, under the guise of helping the homeless, will not build that housing for its 1300 homeless residents as mandated by the Governor, the state legislature and the voters.

What Berkeley needs is an over-all plan for its 1300 homeless people we have in town, not given to one or two builders or one Council member’s favorite non-profit, but overseen by one individual who knows where the housing for the homeless will be built and where tiny homes and villages which the homeless can afford will be allowed. Then we need a Citizen Oversight and Audit Committee to make sure the money goes to the building of housing for the homeless who are only charged 1/3 of their income for rent, no matter how low that income is.

This Berkeleyside article shows some numbers on the funds that are spent not only on homeless services, but on problems caused by the homeless.


As stated in this article


there is Berkeley Police Chief Andrew Greenwood’s statement that, from 2012 through 2017, 28% of the 14,363 arrestees in Berkeley were listed as homeless. That would suggest that the homeless, at less than 1% of our polulation, are responsible for a considerable anount of crime.

Pray to the Madonna, Who Cannot Refuse your Request

Of Mary the Mother of God, it has been said by St. Bernard that:

” it was never, never heard at any time or in any place that Mary refused to hear the prayers of her children on earth.”

Also, Pope Benedict has said that ” Jesus “cannot refuse his mother what she asks”

What in the world does this have to do with homelessness???!!

Come along with me while I engage in a bit of what in modern times is sometimes referred to as “deconstruction” but what Carl Jung and Joseph Campbell understood as myth-making.

In our times, and particularly in liberal areas of the country like Berkeley or the San Francisco Bay Area, there are not many “mainstream” Christians, and not many “devout Catholics” praying to Mary the Mother of God. Liberals tend to be more secular, less religious, or, if they are religious they are not “mainstream.” They are often Buddhist, or involved in meditation or mindfulness, or yoga, something appropriately inoffensive and non-Western culturally based, eg, not a spiritual practice based in their own shameful white European tradition (which as the PC police tell us, is rotten to the core, full of oppression and colonialism and genocide).

Hence, we polite secular liberal folks do not often refer to “God”, much less to Mother Mary. But this doesn’t mean we’ve lost all religion out here, that there is no more prayer, that there is no longer any sense of a beneficent deity out there, a god or goddess who is available to pray to and who can and should give us everything we need.

Indeed, what I will argue here is that the concept or rather the archetype of “God”, or “Goddess”, at least as symbolically experienced (if at an unconscious or semi-conscious level) is very much alive and well in liberal progressive areas. And this archetype, as I see it, definitely effect the homeless situation.

Absent a direct and clear relationship with the “God” of western religion/s in our liberal Bay Area culture, we’ve subconsciously re-created religion, prayer, worship, religious dogma etc, in a variety of ways in “secular” culture.

One of the first obvious replacements for dogmatic Christian religion, has been dogmatic Political correctness or “multiculturalism” or Identity Politics — call it whatever you will. I argue that Identity Politics, with its inherent dualism, its assertions about who is “good” and who is “sinful”, and its pathway of redemption, its negative view of human nature positing an “original sin” that is associated with being born in any type of privileged group (eg, whether white, or wealthy, or housed, or able-bodied), its requirement of being “born again” by renouncing white privilege (or the privilege of being “housed”, in terms of the homeless”,), as well as its legions of “compassion police”, its savior complex, is not only a religion, but is a fundamentalist religion, in essence not that different from fundamentalist Christianity.

Well, you may say, I see that Identity Politics has ethics, and it may have fundamentalism and a requirement to be “born again”, but does it have a God? A deity?

We can explore this question by looking in the direction to which Identity Politics, all the politics concerned with who is oppressed and who’s oppressing, with who has stuff and who doesn’t, will be found gazing in anticipation of justice and revolution. The fundamentalist religion of Identity Politics, which essentially makes saints and heroes out of the marginalized, and the downtrodden, essentially creates as a “deity” or God, the perfect community or city, which fully embraces its fundamentalist dogma and presents the greatest opportunity for setting up a social structure expressing its dogmatic tenets.

Hence, for the fundamentalist religion of Identity Politics, the cities with the most “liberal-progressive” politics, which are perceived as most oriented to rooting out racism, or protecting tenants, or developing more affordable housing, or taking care of the homeless, can in fact become deified. Such cities/communities, or systems, can become veritable gods. To be clear, such deification is not happening on a conscious level — it is an unconscious process — but the degree of hope, expectation, and indeed duty to provide for all needs, to mete out justice, to care for the poor and downtrodden, to right all wrongs, which are placed upon the city/community, show that this city (and/or the City Leaders, eg Mayor and City Council) is now a stand-in for the Madonna who Cannot Refuse your Prayer.

Jesse and Sophie as Mother Mary and Jesus

In essence, for those who are adherents of Identity Politics and its West-Coast Denomination, the Church of “Compassion for the Homeless”, the city itself has become the Madonna, and this can explain the enormous expectations placed on the city to solve not only the problems of its own residents, but those who come from afar, wanting some of the grace of the Madonna to fall upon them as well.

It’s clear that the divine light of the city of Berkeley, the beacon of hope to all in need, is shining far, as we have “devout adherents” of the message of this gospel who are undertaking pilgrimages from afar, from other states, to travel here in their broken down, dingy RVs and vans, hoping to pray at the feet of the altar to Mother Mary here in town, she who is deemed unable to refuse their request to live on the streets in vehicles here for the rest of their lives, or to magically produce beautiful apartments for anyone who asks, to be able to live in for free for the rest of their lives. These devout pilgrims with their prayer beads dont’ travel to Boise Idaho, or Phoenix AZ, St Louis, or even Walnut Creek or Pleasanton in our own area. No, they come to the site of the home of Mother Mary, Berkeley or Oakland or San Francisco.

We have read articles indicating that homeless are in fact coming here from other cities — this Berkeleyside article intriguingly uses a religious phrase and perhaps unwittingly refers to the homeless man as a modern day pilgrim.

In this article, reporters interview a woman who came from Placerville to live on the streets in Berkeley.

In this article, a woman with a criminal background from Orinda and Moraga appears to have ended up homeless in Berkeley — she too is a pilgrim, another traveler that Mother Mary who cannot say no, will also give her what she wants. Which is apparently to live on the streets and be free to harass pedestrians and pull off their clothing. From all appearances, the deity that is the current administration in Berkeley, is likely to give her what she wants, as there appears to be little preventing nuisance “frequent fliers” ( repeat offenders) from continually marauding the streets of downtown Berkeley and harassing or even assaulting people. They just cycle quickly through a system that appears reluctant to dole out consequences to these “poor people”, and show up again ready to bash the next passer by.

Part of the reason for writing this article, is because I think it’s important for city leaders and cities to understand the psychological projections being placed upon them, the enormous expectations being placed upon them, particularly in a country like ours where the federal government is broken and is not caring for people the way it should. As a result of this, there’s an absolutely outsized dependency on those cities which have the greatest reputations for tolerance and compassionate giving to the poor, as well as the worst records for enforcing laws against nuisance behavior.

If we dont’ want an endless stream of “devout pilgrims” flocking here in their RVs and with tents and sleeping bags under their arms, we need to consider how to get out from under these projects, and how not to be perceived as Mother Mary who cannot say no. Rvs head to promised land

Strategies to Combat the Nuisance Caused by Homeless Camps and Campers

When people consider the homeless problem, primarily their focus is on how to house or shelter the homeless.  However, particularly when the “solutions” given for homelessness are overly idealistic, and involve, for instance, building housing in the city for every single homeless person — something which could take decades, if it ever could even happen — the result is that “unworkable” solutions to homelessness lead to ever more serious problems for neighborhoods and ordinary citizens, when the failure of city, state and federal governments to take care of this problem results in the government essentially appropriating the sidewalks and streets of YOUR neighborhood, in order to house the homeless.

My position is this: there should NEVER be any homeless camps or campers on residential sidewalks and streets.  Perhaps these campers need to be allowed to stay on sidewalks and streets in commercial or industrial zones until such time as sufficient shelters/housing or sanctioned campgrounds can be set up for them, but there is no reason whatsoever, why any city needs to allow camping in residential areas of cities.  Which means, in any part of the city or on any city street within an “R” zone on the zoning map of a city. For instance, this map shows the zones in the city of Berkeley:

Berkeley Zoning Map

These pictures show the zones:BErkeley zoning map page 1 zoom (2)Berkeley zoning map page 2 zoom (2)Berkeley zoning map page 3 zoom (2)Berkeley Zoning map shot (4)

These images show that the overwhelmingly large area of the city sidewalks and streets are residential.  Still, there is plenty of space in industrial and commerical areas for people to sleep on sidewalks as well as temporarily live in vehicles.

I would suggest that all those concerned about this issue, argue this point to their city leaders.

Meanwhile…what can be done when camps/campers ARE camping in residential areas, or in any other site that is causing serious negative impact on adjacent parks, businesses, or properties?

Sometimes, if area residents respond fast enough, police will remove a camper if someone has just started to set up their tent or squat in a particular place.  There is benefit in acting IMMEDIATELY when you see a problem first develop.  Don’t wait, reasoning that “well, it’s only one person.”  Once that person has squatted there for 3 months or had 5 to 10 others join them and the camp grows bigger, it can be much harder to get the camp removed.  Acting early is the best approach.  I’ve heard reports of 3 different situations where someone began trying to set up their bedroom on a sidewalk in a residential area — twice in Berkeley, once in Oakland — and neighbors who called police stated that police removed them the same day, within a matter of 2 or 3 hours.

Know the laws in your area.  Unfortunately, it has proved the case, with both Berkeley and Oakland, that city leaders appear to be instructing police specifically to NOT enforce laws that are on the books.  This can be seen most clearly in the case of people living in vehicles on property at the Berkeley Marina, where they are continually in violation of at least 5 different laws, and have been for over a year, with impunity — the city has allowed them to continue to violate city laws and cause serious nuisance for Marina users and residents, as well as park-goers and Marina businesses, for this whole time.

However, in some cases the city may be more obligated than in others to enforce city laws.  For instance in Berkeley, there are laws that were passed by ballot measure, which prohibit the city from using parks for any purpose other than the recreational purposes for which those parks were intended.  This means that it’s illegal for people to camp in public parks at night.  This is why we dont’ see large numbers of tents all over the public parks in Berkeley, which would most certainly be happening if Berkeley parks did not have the good fortune to be protected by this law.

So if you see someone camping or sleeping in a Berkeley city park at night, you can call police and they will be removed.  People can sleep there during the day, but not at night.

Though every city has laws prohibiting people from living in vehicles on public streets, as a result of a lawsuit in Los Angeles, where the city was prohibited from totally banning all sleeping in vehicles on public streets, many cities such as Berkeley and Oakland have now unfortunately used this ruling to justify an extremely irresponsible overpermissive approach, such that there are essentially NO legal restrictions on living in vehicles anywhere in the city (except for the Berkeley Marina, where ironically this vehicle dwelling is occurring in largest numbers).  As a result, the only reliable way to deal with problem vehicle dwellers, is now to use parking restrictions to combat the issue.  This means using either the 72 hr parking rule (vehicles cannot park more than 72 hrs in one spot) or 2 hr parking limits or other parking limitations.

You do not have to wait until a vehicle has been parked in one spot for 72 hrs, in order to call it in to police.  Upon receipt of your call, the parking enforcement dept will simply go and mark the vehicle and give the vehicle 72 hrs from the time it’s marked, to be in that spot.  So you could call a vehicle in to be marked for 72 hr parking, two minutes after you see it park in a certain spot.
The best number to call in Berkeley to get the 72 hr enforcement done, is 510-981-5890.  (weekday business hours only) That is the direct line for parking enforcement.  If you call the BPD non emergency number, it can take longer, because they then have to forward the info to their parking enforcement detail.
Also, if you live in an area with 2 hr parking limits, and you see a camper vehicle or RV park in a 2 hr zone, you can call the same phone number 510-981-5890 (during weekday business hours only) and ask the city to enforce 2 hr residential permit parking in that specific area.  Tell them the street name and the area you want enforced, eg, 1600 block of Parker street, or what have you.
For Oakland, the best way to report vehicles parked over 72 hrs is not by phone but by email.  Send an email to abandonedauto@oaklandnet.com
Be forewarned though, that in Oakland, there is such an enormous problem with abandoned vehicles, that it can take the city well over a month (30 days) to enforce the 72 hr parking law…which means that for all intents and purposes the city cannot enforce this law in a meaningful way.

For the 72 hr parking law, note that cities will generally put a notice on the vehicle when they mark it, letting the owner know that it’s been marked and has only 72 hrs to stay in the same spot.  Parking enforcement is not obligated to put this notice on the car (which in Oakland they do by pasting a sheet on the windshield, while in Berkeley they only slip a red colored form under the windshield wiper).  The notice is a “courtesy notice” only, and I’ve been told by the police that they dont’ always put this notice on vehicles.  The reason they don’t need to put the notice on your car, is the same reason police don’t put a 2 hr notice on all cars when they park in a 2 hr zone.  Namely, you are supposed to know what laws apply to where you are parked, and the 72 hr limit on parking in one spot, applies on all public streets, everywhere in the state of California (and beyond).

The city’s approach to the “homeless” (though I disagree that people living in vehicles are homeless –they have homes, their cars are their homes, sometimes quite elaborate ones) is formed by oversight by the “compassion police”, so the city treads very lightly, actually too lightly, on any circumstances which may be associated with homelessness, regardless how much nuisance is involved.
The city would actually do better to NOT put the 72 hr notice on vehicles that residents call in because people are living in them in their area, because not giving them notice would facilitate getting them cited and towed.  Which is what should happen when people continually violate parking laws and cause nuisance.

But since the city puts the notice on the vehicles,  you might notice that since the notice is a loose piece of paper, which could fly away in the wind, the notice really just might “fly away” in the wind.  It might fly away, or any random passerby might remove it, perhaps for bedtime reading.   I think it’s more effective to get these vehicles cited and towed when the notice just happens to “fly away” or be plucked off the vehicle windshield, for random bedtime reading by passers-by.

To get the city to enforce 2 hr parking zones in Oakland, call 510-238-3099. THe city can enforce the 2 hr law much better than the 72 hr law, perhaps because for violations of the 2 hr law they are able to cite and obtain fines from residents capable of paying the fines. For the abandoned cars, the city ends up on the losing side, paying to tow vehicles that the owners never claim.

You can find a list of helpful phone numbers for Oakland City departments here:

Oakland Phone numbers

Sometimes it is sufficient to discourage the long term vehicle dwellers, if you simply repeatedly call Parking enforcement to get them marked for 72 hr parking.

If there is garbage piling up around the vehicle, or other associated nuisance, you can report the vehicle/situation on the 311 website for either Berkeley or Oakland.

The more nuisance or problems associated with a homeless camp or vehicle, the more likely the city is to act on the issue.  Keeping a record of problems, and/or reporting them on the SeeClickFix site, can help document the history of problems associated with any camp or vehicle.

Both Oakland and Berkeley have laws on the books that prohibit RVS or other “oversized” vehicles from parking on ANY city street overnight, but it’s an open question as to whether or to what extent these cities are willing to enforce their own laws on this.  Residents could certainly try calling in to police, though you might have to do so in the middle of the night based on the way the law is written.
In Berkeley, the prohibition is on parking RVs or large vehicles on city streets from 2am to 5am, Berkeley Municipal Code section 14.40.120.  In Oakland, in the R-1 residential districts, no vehicle over 27 ft in length may be parked at any time as shown here

And this document shows Oakland blight ordinances, which include a prohibition on RV parking on public streets.

Another possible approach to use with vehicle dwellers, applies to vehicles with out of state plates.

I discovered that it’s illegal for people to keep out of state license plates when they reside in a new state. They are required to get new registration in the state where they are living (or squatting, as the case may be).

One can report so called “cheaters” who dont’ get the in state registration as required, here:


I dont’ think the CHP walks on eggshells around the “homeless” as do Berkeley Police, so this may be a better way to go with problematic vehicle dwellers with out of state plates.

OTher approaches to take involve making complaints with the Berkeley or Oakland City Council, or the City Manager’s office.  However, it’s my experience that such complaints do not tend to result in immediate action.  The city keeps tally of the number of complaints on any given situation, and may, after several months, act if there are enough complaints.  But the city may just as often refuse to act in spite of a veritable mountain of complaints.  I called in to complain about one particular situation and was told (anecdotally) that “thousands” of people had complained about this, yet nothing had been done.

Anti-Loitering/Anti-Camping Architecture

With the rise in nuisance caused to cities by the explosion of homeless camps, there has arisen a new need — that of designing cities, sidewalks, streets, parks and parklets so as to discourage, deter or totally prohibit loitering or camping in these public places.  When Berkeley requested feedback on some new plans for development in part of the city, I was quick to point out that it is pointless to create “parklets” for the public now, because any parklet (large area on a sidewalk) will most definitely be quickly appropriated by vagrants, transients, bums and homeless persons, and used for perennial loitering and/or camping.  There is one such space I often pass by.   THere’s a bench, on a wide space in the sidewalk along a commercial corridor in Berkeley, and there is a group of 3 to 4 bums who have inhabited that bench 24/7 for the last few months. As far as they are concerned, the bench is their private property — their bedroom and living room — and it’s completely unusable by the general public.  I called the police about this and was told that the police are “not allowed” to ask them to move.  I called the city and was told that “we will send this comment to City Council” which essentially means nothing will be done.

So why bother creating any new park, parklet, or indeed putting a bench anywhere in public space, since any such structure will just attract nuisance, and never be available to be actually used by the “general public” meaning, ordinary non-bum residents? Bums are also part of the “public” but they are not the “general” public, they are a specific part of the public which in terms of discussing use of public areas, is best termed “winos/bums/vagrants” since that is what they are, and they do not use public areas in a “general” way like others.  They specifically tend to loiter and appropriate public spaces, which the “general” public does not do. Note too that “ordinary people” who become homeless due to some terrible misfortune, do not tend to end up sitting on a park bench drinking alcohol all day long, day after day for 3 months and longer.  This behavior is not identical to “homelessness” — it is better classed as wino-ness or bum-ness.

We have to start getting smart and if cities wont’ take proactive measures to deter or prohibit problematic loitering by bums, then please, don’t create new spaces for bums to hang out.  And don’t build sidewalks wide enough to accomodate tents.  Make narrow sidewalks everywhere, only wide enough for pedestrians, so that tents can’t be set up in these places.

These are examples of anti-camping architecture.  There are others too…the sky’s the limit as far as how imagination can be employed to protect neighborhoods from nuisance caused by “bum-ming” or camping on sidewalks.  Bums on sidewalk

What if the city does nothing about serious nuisance? 

What can be done if there is a big problem with a homeless camp and/or campers in your neighborhood, and the city refuses to do anything about it?  This is happening in several areas, more so in Oakland than in Berkeley, and it is a very serious problem.  Cities have laws for a reason, and the reason is not only to protect citizens, but to keep public order.  Laws exist in order to keep situations from descending into (or escalating into) such a scenario of lawlessness, that people’s quality of life, if not their very safety, becomes seriously threatened, and violent confrontations become more possible.  But what we see with the homeless situation in many West Coast cities, is that cities are tolerating an escalation of lawlessness, as more and more illegal camps are set up, including in residential neighborhoods, and more and more people live in vehicles all over the city, including on residential streets and right in front of other’s homes.

The politics of progressive/liberal cities in particular, unfortunately contribute to the escalation of lawlessness.  Liberals can become highly misguided as “compassion police”.  I have seen countless discussions about homelessness and homeless camps in Bay Area cities, where anyone who takes any position other than allowing the homeless to camp wherever they want, is accused of “lacking in compassion” and/or “hating the homeless” and of course this is the ultimate criticism of any progressive person, to imply that they are a compassionless “hater” who simply basks in their own privilege.  It implies that they are simply Donald Trump in disguise.  The hypocrisy to this “compassion” argument, of course, is that by politically requiring anyone to be compassionate, you never get real compassion, because compassion, like any other emotion, cannot be legislated, it can’t be compelled or forced.

As well, the progressive’s “compassion” seems to be twisted in that you can apparently only be “compassionate” for the marginalized, the downtrodden and those at the bottom of society — including criminals.  But apparently, being compassionate to one’s own neighbors, such that one would not want them or their children to experience serious nuisance, is not allowed.

By contrast, I believe in real compassion, which issues out of one’s spiritual depth, and not from political obligations or tiresome virtue signalling.  When you have real compassion, you’re actually less vulnerable to the “compassion police” in that you dont’ feel compelled to “be compassionate” to demonstrate how politically correct you are — because deep down you just trust your own heart and know that you want the best for all people.  So, I believe that those who feel most compelled to “demonstrate” their compassion, constantly showing how correct they are, are probably the people who in reality have the least compassion.
Sometimes, as well, by having “too much compassion” (it’s not really a case of too much compassion, it’s a case of a deep seated dysfunctional need to advocate for those perceived to be “downtrodden”) for one group of people and none for another, some are really demonstrating their contempt for ordinary residents and citizens.

This argument has gotten to the point of sheer insanity, where it’s being used to justify the mindless  over-permissive tolerance of any homeless camp/camper situation whatsoever, no matter how much nuisance is involved, or how much real danger or crime or garbage.  This approach is also highly ironic, because in the view of most who have common sense, allowing poor people or those with serious mental illness to live on the streets, is certainly not compassionate.

I have seen people shamed for complaining that they can’t take their toddler to the local park, because there are bums in the park engaging in threatening or scary behavior.  I have seen such people scolded for trying to protect their children, as if children were not entittled to be protected and it was simply a shameful variety of privilege to want to have safe playgrounds for children.  Unfortunately, a large number of so-called liberal-progressives have given up using logic or facts to make any arguments, and all they do now is engage in ad hominem attacks.  Apparently there is no longer a need to actually argue with someone if you can just use one sentence to totally dismiss them as a racist or hater.  LIberalism 5 easy steps

There is something that has been creeping into our minds, those of us who’ve observed our city’s disgusting indifference to serious nuisance in our neighborhoods  — or, quite possibly, the city’s conscious intent to abuse our neighborhoods, using them to “store” homeless people, abandoning its own responsibility to care for them and foisting them on neighborhoods, where, city leaders reason, the “nice progressives” will not have the spine to stand up to such abuse.

What’s been creeping into our minds is the somewhat scary idea that, if the city steadfastly refuses to enforce its own laws and protect our neighborhoods, then we may end up, forced by the city’s abject delinquency, to protect our neighborhoods ourselves.  We may need to create groups of residents who go and confront people camping in our neighborhoods, or loitering in our parks, and tell them to leave.  Or who demand that they leave.  We all strenuously work to avoid such confrontation, since we understand the risks and dangers there.  We try every other means available to us first, and often for weeks or months, even a year, to get the city to act to protect our neighborhoods.  But if the city refuses to take responsibility for these serious problems, then we may end up having to solve the problems ourselves.

This is not only theoretical, as I have heard and read several reports of neighbors starting to talk about working to solve these problems themselves. What would that look like? I don’t know, as I don’t think it’s ever happened here.  It would definitely be newsworthy, should such situations occur.  People are incredibly patient, though that patience eventually wears thin.  Cities need to step up and act before  confrontations occur, which though they could be dangerous for everyone involved, may start to be necessary as the level of nuisance in some neighborhoods becomes too severe.

To give an example of how neighbors could act for themselves when police or the city refuse to act, is this story of what happened in Calgary, Canada.  In this particular case, everyone was safe and the neighbor’s efforts were successful. Residents of a local homeless camp had stolen things from area residents, and so the residents, after seeing their stolen items locked up,  just went and broke the locks that the thieves had put on, and got their own things back.

The residents said they took matters into their own hands out of frustration with what they claim is inaction on the part of Calgary police.

So the residents got back their stolen things, as shown here:  . Stolen belongings found in homeless camp

Stolen belongings found in homeless camp 2
There are I believe, rather few places in residential neighborhoods (as opposed to commercial or industrial or other out-of-the-way areas) where the nuisance caused by homeless camps has grown severe, and the city has totally failed to do anything about it.  But in the places where that occurs, wherever it is in the nation, it seems to me that it would make a very important and newsworthy point if a group of concerned citizens stepped up and confronted the campers themselves and demanded that they leave.  To demonstrate that it’s really the whole neighborhood which is concerned, it would ideally be a large group of people, not just one or two.  This type of action, whether it be regarded as a “protest” or as an actual effort to abate a nuisance, just might make a point which a city is unable to hear any other way.

One point the group could make, is that it really isn’t safe for neighbors to have to confront homeless persons/camps and try to solve problems on their own.  It’s wrong for any city to put neighbors and residents into such a position by repeated failure/refusal to attend to an ongoing serious nuisance.  When police refuse to take action and residents end up feeling like they can only solve issues by forming into an “Angry Mob”, that is not a safe situation for anyone.


I have read and overheard some area residents, who are fuming angry about some squalid homeless camps, particularly if those camps are in city parks or very close to houses, and have heard some talk about “taking matters into our own hands.” One of those did, and the San Francisco Chronicle reports that a Lake Merritt jogger allegedly “dismantled a homeless camp” (however, from the news story, it is not clear that it was a “camp” — rather it looks like it was a dispersed pile of garbage) and threw the stuff into the trash.

More here: https://twitter.com/ShelleDione/status/1005291054386446336

And here: http://sanfrancisco.cbslocal.com/2018/06/09/lake-merritt-neighborhood-swept-up-in-new-controversy/

Discussion about this here:


See the video about it here:


Although I don’t think it’s fair to remove a homeless camp contents without first giving notice to the camper, much less throw someone’s belongings into the lake, there remains the fact that allowing anyone to set up a garbage strewn camp at a very prominent location in this city park, is highly problematic.
JOgger moves crap (2)

In fact, that location is not only prominent, it has been used for a long time for wedding photographs.

Lake Merritt wedding photo 1

Lake Merritt Wedding Photo 2 cropped

Lake Merritt Wedding photo 3 cropped

Lake MErritt Wedding 4 cropped

The onlookers berate the jogger with obscenities. It seems that the jogger who did this, may be a man with a criminal record, based on information from the FB discussion of this issue. However, his impulsive actions, inappropriate though they are, do symbolically represent the frustration of many individuals with the nuisance caused by homeless camps.

Henry William Sintay jogger who tossed homeless camp



A day or two after the incident, he apparently grabbed/stole someone’s phone as that person was filming him, and was arrested later on:


Dumping someone’s belongings in the lake or trash isn’t a way to solve this problem. But it also doesn’t help at all with the problem to just defend people’s right to live in garbage piles in city parks.

As the Facebook post about this issue says, saying “I’ve a loving person” while you walk by one disgusting mess of a camp after another, is pointless. Something has to be done other than tolerate the transformation of our public parks and jewels of the city into garbage strewn slums and lawless zones or outdoor insane asylums, filled with drug addicts and the seriously mentally ill.

There are many more appropriate places where homeless people can camp. The city ought to be insisting that city parks are off limits to camping, homeless or otherwise. To allow homeless camps to be set up in what the city of Oakland itself calls the “Jewel of Oakland” is very irresponsible and negligent of the city.

Lake Merritt Jewel of Oakland (2)

However, rather than impulsive clean-ups and destruction of someone’s belongings, if the city’s failure to act to abate nuisance becomes so serious that it amounts to negligence, I think a better strategy, would be a team of neighbors getting together and working as a team to abate the nuisance in their area by helping the homeless move to a more suitable site. They could, as a community, request that homeless persons to move out or stop camping in a certain place. And if the campers didn’t move, neighbors could work together to dismantle the camp, and help the homeless person by driving them and their things elsewhere and help them set up camp in a more suitable location…such as on the lawn at city hall, or on the sidewalk in front of a City Council member’s home. They could also compensate them for the inconvenience of having to move, for instance by providing them a bag of groceries and food, and other supplies.

Cities CAN draw the line and prohibit large nuisance situations, as San Francisco is finally stepping up to do, after years of passive tolerance of large tent camps and years of repeatedly offering the same shelters and services to the same people who had no interest in shelters or service but just wanted to live in tents on the street.  Finally, SF is stepping up and saying NO to this nonsense, and other cities should imitate this approach. Kindness and compassion should only go so far before cities draw the line and prohibit nuisance behavior.

We’re excited about the progress, but of course we can’t rest on our laurels,” the mayor said. “There is going to be a continued, dogged effort to make sure these tent encampments don’t come back.”

Translated to the street, that has meant stepped-up patrols by police, street cleaners and outreach counselors to make sure settlements don’t resprout in their traditional spots — places such as Fifth Street under I-80 and along Division Street in the Mission. In many places, metal police barriers now line sidewalks that used to be covered in tarps and heaping shopping carts.

“We’re not trying to criminalize people, but we are being very clear about letting them know it’s not healthy, not OK to just live in a tent on the street,” Kositsky said. “I would never endorse something that’s just mean. We really are about trying to give people better lives.”

a place to reflect on stories, concerns, condundrums, enigmas and potential solutions for homelessness