Photograph by Nina Morasky
Berkeley has a homelessness problem. Not a problem with homeless people themselves, but with how the city deals with them. Especially in Downtown Berkeley, where homeless people make up a small but impactful population. If you look in the news, every few months you’ll see a story about a homeless person in Berkeley who has passed away from hunger or addiction.
Berkeley needs to find a solution fast, as the homeless population continues to increase. Living in the Bay Area in times of increasing rent just gives Berkeley more responsibility to ensure that all of its residents are safe, as the sky high rents are causing a drastic increase of homelessness in the Bay Area. Over time, People’s Park has become a sanctuary for the homeless in Berkeley, but soon it may be stripped from the community for UC Berkeley housing. People’s Park, is a Berkeley landmark that originated during the ’60s and is located near the UC Berkley campus on Haste and Dwight.
While on a different scale, UC Berkeley also has a housing problem. According to The Daily Californian, “UC Berkeley has housing for 22 percent of undergraduates and nine percent of graduate students.” These numbers are way lower than those of other UCs. Looking for a way to expand housing, UC Berkeley has decided to build a new housing development for students right on top of People’s Park. This would completely eliminate the space for the homeless community that has developed in People’s Park over the past fifty years. So is it morally right to sacrifice a homeless sanctuary for more UC Berkeley housing?
While UC Berkeley has the right to do whatever they want with their land, it is morally deplorable to add to the already growing homeless population in Berkeley. If UC Berkeley cannot provide another place for them to go, it is unethical to kick them out. UC Berkeley needs more housing, and that’s important, but having housing for students is nowhere near as dire a need as the housing for the homeless population of Berkeley.
One would expect that to remove such a cultural landmark, there must be a lot of UC Berkeley housing being developed. At most, the development will be adding seven hundred new beds. The university housing problem would be far from solved. With all the significant history that the park holds, it should be recognized by the city like any other historical landmark.
There is one solution to all of this. If UC Berkeley wants this land that bad, then they should encourage Berkeley to provide more housing for its vast homeless population, and not neglect them, as they’ve done in the past.