Say ‘NO’ to Sit & LIE in Berkeley!

Tiny - Posted on 24 October 2012

By Vivian Thorp/PNN (Berkeley Resident)


As a formerly houseless single mama, raising three children in a capitalist society that tends to see being houselessness in AmeriKKKa as a crime, I can’t even begin to imagine what it would have been like for me twelve years ago when I was living in several different homeless shelters that kicked us out all day, getting ‘cited’ for being out in a ‘public space’ with nowhere to go, and on the second so-called violation citation, risking the chance of being arrested and put in jail!  This is why in the City Berkeley, Measure S, a law that prohibits sitting and/or laying on the sidewalk in certain public areas of Berkeley, which is a direct violation of civil rights, which is being currently proposed on the voting ballot should not pass.  

This is still a very frightening thought even now, though I am in a much better place in my life today.  I cannot even imagine that the community who I now serve at my job as an Advocate where I work with houseless families and folks, that such a violation of basic human rights is currently being proposed in the so-called ultra liberal City of Berkeley by Berkeley’s current mayor Tom Bates, who is spearheading the proposal of Measure S, the Anti-Sit n’ Lie campaign, which primarily targets poor, disabled and houseless youth communities in Berkeley.

This is truly a ‘war on the poor’, a social atrocity on every level of presumptive racial, class and mental health incrimination upon a very vulnerable community.  Instead, why isn’t there a measure proposal being implemented to allocate City funding for year-round drop-in centers with direct access to mental health services for houseless communities, especially for young and mid-aged adults?  Why has an alternative proposal not been considered, instead criminalizing poor houseless communities, most who have untreated and/or self-medicated mental disabilities and settling for a fragmented social help system in Berkeley who don’t really work in tandem together and have limitations to what services they can render to poor communities in Berkeley, which causes many people to fall through the cracks and not have access to getting the basic support systems they need?

Some nonprofits, like the one I now work for, do only certain types of services, however what needs to happen, is not profiling and criminalizing poor communities for simply having ‘nowhere to go’ during the day, as there are already civil sidewalk ‘blocking’ laws and ‘sleeping on the sidewalk’ laws already in place in Berkeley.  And, any time I see a houseless person ‘sleeping’ on the sidewalk, the police are always there, harassing them anyways…so why would Berkeley need another pointless ‘law’ that would only end up failing and costing unnecessary money for the city, after it’s been evident that San Francisco’s anti-sit and lie law has failed.  Where are people to go? …Jail? Where was I to go during the day when I had no money to spend in the stores?  Why do we need a costly and discriminating law that’s being backed by utopian gentrifying upper middle-class Berkeley commercial property owners and elite business owners and residents?  

Why should the affluent yuppies in Berkeley’s ‘Gourmet Ghetto’ (personally, I find this name insulting), be able to park their privileged asses on the grassy median (which is already illegal by law, but not being enforced in privileged communities) and their kids be able to sell lemonade on the sidewalks of public street corners, when poor houseless communities, who have nowhere to go are cited and incarcerated for being a ‘criminal of poverty’, because some yuppie doesn’t like they way they look???

For all of you who live in Berkeley, vote “NO” on Measure ‘S’, as it violates the UN Declaration of Human Rights and all basic ‘human rights’, as it only punishes poor houseless communities.


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