BERKELEY (KRON) — A homeless community has set up tents in a very busy area of Berkeley.
They say it’s a protest for affordable housing. The tents are in the affluent Gourmet Ghetto neighborhood.
In Berkeley, despite available shelter beds, one homeless group prefers to live in a tent community surrounded by people they trust while they look for affordable housing increasingly hard to find.
Exclusive video to KRON4 News shows Berkeley police raiding a homeless encampment two weeks ago off Ashby Avenue.
Since then, about 10 people living in tents have set up again–this time in the Gourmet Ghetto.
“I became disabled last year and my debt structure was monstrous,” homeless protester Brett Schnaper said. “And I wound up losing my rent-controlled apartment on the west side where I’ve lived for the last 20 years.”
The group posted up on the median divider off Shattuck Place and Rose Street.
The busy location is part of a strategy to draw attention to their protest.
The group is requesting a sanctuary for their tents on Berkeley city land despite available homeless shelters.
“You can end up bedding down next to a seriously mentally or neurologically impaired person. And they can come up violent,” Schnaper said.
Newly elected Berkeley city councilmember Cheryl Davila paid a visit to the camp Friday night after angry letters from the community.
“I’m hopeful for the new year that we can resolve all the issues that need to be resolved to keep…or resolve the homeless problem period,” Davila said.
A business owner across the way said the tent encampment could drive away customers but is more concerned with homeless people coming in and out using restrooms and disrupting business.
On the other hand, a woman who works in the area sympathizes with the protest in an increasingly expensive region.
“It is a form of protest, and protests aren’t about making people feel comfortable,” Camilla Kitka said.
The transient protestors say they prefer a designated tent city to a shelter because they can choose neighbors they can trust and come and go as they please while they look for permanent housing.