Demand City of Berkeley to Support Basic Needs of our Vulnerable Community Members

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Heather Freinkel
Heather Freinkel signed this petition

The City of Berkeley’s inadequate response to the COVID-19 pandemic in regards to individuals experiencing homelessness has been extremely disappointing. Individuals experiencing homelessness can no longer rely on public libraries and college campuses for basic needs, such as drinking water, restroom access, and food. Because of their heightened vulnerability to COVID-19 and other illnesses, robust measures must be implemented by the City of Berkeley to address their acute needs and mitigate transmission among residents who are unhoused. 

As San Diego’s 2016 hepatitis A outbreak made evident, inadequate access to sanitary resources fosters conditions for greater spread of disease, especially among people who are unhoused or housing insecure. In order to preserve the health of the entire community and guide us out of this crisis, we demand the City of Berkeley to implement the following measures to keep its most vulnerable groups safe and healthy. 


POTABLE WATER

Provide 24/7 access to potable water for individuals experiencing homelessness by authorizing water tanks and a truck for delivery.

UN standards describe the need for 15 liters of potable water per person per day, allowing for laundry (1). As consistent access to potable water is critical to minimizing infection risk, the City of Berkeley must implement large-scale measures like water tanks instead of sporadically providing one 8oz water bottle per person.


FOOD

Ensure that grocery/meal bags and hot meals provide substantive nutrition and sustain individuals experiencing homelessness. 

The City of Berkeley must do more than providing snacks (chips, granola bars) and few canned goods to respond to the alarming lack of nutritious food made available to individuals experiencing homelessness, especially during this pandemic. 


SANITATION (HANDWASHING STATIONS, RESTROOMS, SHOWERS)

  1. Increase accessibility of handwashing stations, public bathrooms, and porta potties 
    • Increase the number of these facilities, ensuring that they are strategically placed in an easily accessible location, and ensuring that they remain open 24 hours a day.
  2. Follow proper sanitation and maintenance guidelines for handwashing stations, public bathrooms, and porta potties. 
    • Restock and disinfect these facilities at least three times a day and create a clear line of communication that outreach workers and individuals experiencing homelessness can use to report the need for maintenance of these facilities.

Key medical and public health leaders from the UC Berkeley School of Public Health report the need for these sanitation measures to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 among unsheltered residents (2). Furthermore, UN standards suggest securing at least 450 grams of soap per person per month (1). The City of Berkeley must address the need for more accessible, properly maintained sanitation facilities more quickly. 


SHELTER 

  1. Provide tents to all individuals experiencing homelessness who require one to safely shelter-in-place or self-isolate.
  2. Halt all tent confiscations, sidewalk sweeps, encampment evictions, and the ticketing/impounding of vehicles being used as shelters through enacting and adhering to a written moratorium


The recent report by the UC Berkeley School of Public Health recommends providing tents to maintain isolation for those whom hotel sites are not an option (2). Furthermore, the CDC and CDPH recommend that unless individual housing units, such as hotel rooms and single-occupancy units, are available, communities should not clear encampments and displace individuals (2,3). A written moratorium would grant people the peace of mind to practice public health standards without the fear of losing their belongings to sweeps. 

 

OUTREACH TO ALL

Ensure that individuals experiencing housing insecurity in RV parks, vehicles, and abandoned buildings also have access to potable water, food, and basic sanitary measures. 

People living in RVs, vehicles or abandoned buildings encompass 30% of all people experiencing homelessness in the City of Berkeley as of 2019 (5). The City of Berkeley must keep in mind their needs when providing resources for individuals experiencing homelessness.


FUNDING

Provide financial support to organizations that have been providing immediate, comprehensive relief to individuals experiencing homelessness in lieu of City action, including organizations associated with the Berkeley Outreach Coalition  (Berkeley Free Clinic, Suitcase Clinic, Where do We Go? Berkeley, Consider the Homeless, Berkeley NEED, Lifelong Medical).

The Berkeley Outreach Coalition has been providing food, water, supplies, and sanitation infrastructure to individuals experiencing homelessness in Berkeley since the start of this pandemic (view our chart here). The City of Berkeley must provide appropriate funding to these organizations so that they can continue to provide immediate relief for individuals experiencing homelessness until the city implements the demands listed above.  

 

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1. The UN Refugee Agency. WASH in camps - UNHCR | Emergency Handbook. https://emergency.unhcr.org/entry/39929/wash-in-camps

2.  Auerswald, Coco et al. For the Good of Us All. publichealth.berkeley.edu/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/For-the-Good-of-Us-All-Report.pdf 

3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Interim Guidance on People Experiencing Unsheltered Homeless during COVID-19. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/homelessshelters/unsheltered-homelessness.html 

4.  California Department of Public Health. Recommended Strategic Approaches for COVID-19 Response for Individuals Experiencing Homelessness. California Department of Public Health.  https://www.cdph.ca.gov/Programs/CID/DCDC/CDPH%20Document%20Library/COVID-19/Protocols-Homeless-Pop.pdf

5. EveryOne Home. City of Berkeley Homeless Count and Survey 2019. https://everyonehome.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/2019HIRDReport_Berkeley_2019-Final.pdf