“Homeless Youth: A Bright and Shining Light” by Mike Lee (thestreetspirit.org)

All you have to do is walk down Shattuck Avenue in Berkeley to discover we have a serious challenge called homelessness. It is unacceptable that simple cost-effective solutions which are in place to confront this conundrum have to struggle for funding. It is especially disturbing that the obvious is overlooked.

COMMENTARY BY MIKE LEE

Kriss Worthington announced recently in an email to the community that “Item 35 to adopt a resolution declaring a homeless crisis was unanimously approved by the City Council.”

Worthington added, “This simple common sense measure was only delayed twice from Dec. 15 and Jan. 12 before last night’s successful adoption.” He goes on to gently remind the reader that this is but one small step and the next battle is over the Homeless Task Force Tier One recommendations on February 9th.

Passage of the crisis resolution is largely symbolic because, unlike other cities, it does not carry a financial commitment. In a macabre, Abbott-and-Costello-like skit, there lacks any type of plan or intent to even decide what the next step is. Not only is the majority of the council (led by Capitelli and Arreguin) befuddled by who’s on first, they can’t even find it!

It is especially disturbing to me that the obvious is overlooked. All you have to do is walk down Shattuck to discover we have a serious challenge called homelessness. It is unacceptable to me that simple cost-effective solutions which are in place to confront this conundrum have to struggle for funding.

On February 9, the City Council will be presented with a request to fund an “indoor space for homeless youth during El Nino” (as stated in a Worthington email).

The proposal is being presented primarily by Youth Spirit Artworks (YSA) in partnership with YEAH (Youth Engagement, Advocacy and Housing). Along with their impeccable record, YSA brings with them a matching grant commitment.

“YSA has received a new matching grant that will make it possible for all gifts to Youth Spirit to be matched dollar for dollar up to $25,000! The gift is focused on building our collaboration with YEAH shelter providing jobs training for homeless youth indoors during El Nino. We have opened our doors from 8:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. daily, for a total of up to 40 additional hours to keep youth safe. We are working hard to create 24/7 empowering and positive indoor space for youth this winter.”

Once funding is in place, the end result is homeless youth will be provided with shelter 24/7. At night they stay at the YEAH shelter. During the day they can program at YSA. This is exactly the wrap-around solution which has proven an effective method in lending a hand up and not a hand out to homeless youth — one of which I support wholeheartedly.

Longtime homeless activist Mike Lee was a key organizer of the Liberty City occupation at Old City Hall in Berkeley. Lydia Gans photo

The amount requested is a miniscule $15,000. To me this is a no-brainer. For the City gets 100% service for 50% of the cost. What a deal! Hell, give them the whole $25,000 and ask them to bring another bargain like this one. This proposal is good for the city, it’s good for the community and it’s good for homeless youth.

The nay-sayers will wail “but we don’t have any money!” Let’s see, there are 100,000-plus residents of Berkeley. If each one gave a quarter, that’s $25,000.

Hey Arreguin, isn’t this your district? Stop beating your chest about all the good things you’ve done and get your marching boots are on. Get on the street corner with a bucket, go door to door, sell cookies, wash cars. The community doesn’t care what you do, but go get this money because homeless youth can’t wait.

It’s nice the powers that be finally decided to recognize the obvious. What is really shameful is that the community had to keep on harping about this very point.

At this point, the question begging to be answered is this: Who is in charge of the City? According to professional politicians, it’s them, because they and only they know what’s good for us. To me, it is the community who, at the end of the day, pay all of the bills and are the true experts on what’s best for them.

Mike Lee is a homelessness activist who describes himself as “the third mayoral candidate with a new vision for a new future: a campaign of solutions and not promises.”

Note from Mike Zint:

The city delayed until after the worst weather ended. Liberty City was the only response to freezing temperatures this rainy season. And it was done by us with community support. The homeless response was instant, effective, and successful. Yet the city destroyed it, and threw all confiscated gear away. In California, law says hold possessions for 90 days. It hasn’t been 90 days yet.

Fence sitting by politicians is the same as not doing their jobs. They are there to say yes or no, not maybe. Maybe is a delay while important issues need to be resolved. It is a way to not alienate political support from the developers, while keeping you’re constituents happy.

Not one politician will ever represent the poor. The proof is everywhere, sleeping on cardboard, in front of an abandoned building, instead of inside it. No tents, no tiny homes, no discussion about any of it. But let’s pass quality of life laws instead.

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