On Sunday, dump trucks cleaned up one of Berkeley's largest homeless encampments. But residents haven’t been displaced, yet. KALW’s Scott Carroll has more.
If you’ve driven along the highway in Berkeley, next to the bay, you’re likely familiar with the Seabreeze homeless encampment, though you may not have known it by it’s name. The tents and tarps of the Seabreeze are spread across the land between the freeway and the frontage road on both sides of University Avenue. Over 100 unhoused individuals have called the encampment along the freeway home, and for the months of the pandemic the population has been living in an ever increasing collection of discarded material and waste.
The land is under the control of the California Department of Transportation, but the City of Berkeley has long been concerned with the conditions in the camp, and the health and safety issues they present.
Early Sunday, in a planned clean up effort, the Berkeley’s Public Works Department closed the I-80 onramp to allow their crews to bring in a backhoe loader with a large lift bucket and a dump truck. The crews hauled away mounds of debris. Broken furniture, discarded clothing, and garbage were in the mix. By 3:30pm the onramp was re-open.
Although the cleanup was undoubtedly disruptive for the encampment, residents and their tents are not currently being asked to move. This fits with CDC COVID-19 guidance regarding encampments which states that, “clearing encampments can cause people to disperse throughout the community and break connections with service providers,” which could potentially increase the chance of infectious disease spread.
Berkeleyside reported in February that the city was considering upgrading the facilities to make it an official outdoor shelter, but there is no report on what the next steps will be.
In Berkeley, I’m Scott Carroll, KALW News.