Berkeley's #WhereDoWeGo Movement Stays Fast
I 80 at University in Berkeley, CA is one of the busiest stretches of highway in the country: Five lanes of traffic each way, full up or worse twenty four seven.
Nestled around this complex intersection, some hidden in the brush, some in underpasses to the freeway and its adjoining structures, a few in tents within the cloverleaves, some off side roads, resides a community of homeless individuals.
Some have been there for years, as best I can tell. Some are more recent, having been forced out of other locations in and around Berkeley. Whatever their origin, this is where they are now, with literally nowhere left for them to go but into the Bay. Berkeley's shelters and navigation centers are full (as are all others in the Bay Area).
Every underpass in adjacent Oakland seems to be more than full — literally crammed with tents and RVS — Oakland's population of homeless having doubled or tripled in the last two years.
As the unhoused population - and the trash that no government agency would pick up - increased over these last months, the inevitable outcry became louder and louder. It seemed inevitable that, like many of the unhoused communities before them which have become too visible, they too would be rousted, ousted, dispossessed of there belongings and disposed of.
But then something happened.
Andrea Henson decided to so something about it. She’s an unofficial aide to and self-describedf homeless-advocate-soulmate of, Osha Neumann, a civil rights attorney at the East Bay Community Law Center, someone who has been trying to help the local homeless population in many ways for many years now.
The homeless people she had come to know at I-80 were caught between CALTRANS / CHP (State of California Transportation / California Police) and the Berkeley Police. CALTRANS was coming every week to "clean" and CHP was assisting by forcing them to move off the State land they occupied, while Berkeley Police were forbidding them from — even temporarily - taking up space on city-owned sidewalks nearby. People in wheelchairs, people with disabilities, elderly, all with literally no place to go and in danger of losing everything.
Andrea had been helping the Berkeley homeless community with Osha and others for a long time, but here the proverbial straw snapped. Continued harassment had turned into far too much harassment, torture to some of its recipients.
In late August 2019 and early September she conceived of and implemented the WhereDoWeGoBerkeley (#WhereDoWeGoBerk, @WhereDoWeGoBerkeley) campaign. She organized the homeless community. She led a march to a townhall put on by one of the City Councilors in whose district these homeless resided.