Berkeley City Council votes to move forward with plan for temporary outdoor homeless shelter

BERKELEY, Calif. (KGO) -- Berkeley City Council members voted late Tuesday night to move ahead with a proposal to erect a temporary outdoor homeless shelter within city limits. $615,000 was approved for the proposal which moves onto the city manager for recommendations.

"Our goal is to get people into permanent housing by next year but within the next month, we want to get people off the streets and keep them from dying of exposure," said Berkeley City Council member Kate Harrison.

Homeless for 20 years, Kerrie Crawford says she'd at least consider a proposed "tent-based" emergency shelter in Berkeley.

"Yeah, yeah, I would do that," said Crawford, who is currently living with her dog 'Mischief' in one of a cluster of tents amid considerable garbage, just off the I-80 freeway at University Avenue.

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"We try to keep it like contained-ish," said Crawford, as she surveyed the piles of discarded clothing and debris. "But some of us have a mess of problems, but we're just trying to survive, trying to live. They don't give us much to work with here."

The proposed new shelter would be in a storage yard underneath the University Avenue overpass, just down the road at Second Street, where about 75 people could stay for up to 180 days.

"There'd be a staff-person there 24-7," said Berkeley City Councilmember Kate Harrison, who says the tent-based shelter would be managed by a local non-profit.

"This would be an organized system of us paying for trash pickup, toilets, showers, handwashing stations, as well as a set of behavioral rules that will help us work with the community," explained Harrison.

The city has conducted an online survey to gauge residents' feelings about the proposed shelter. 53 percent approve, while 43 percent disapprove.

However, Caltrans spokesman Bart Ney told ABC7 News, it would be a violation of its policies to have anyone living underneath its structure.

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Those who work and own businesses near the site also worry about potential impacts on them.

And then there's the question of whether people like Crawford will really move there.

"It's hard to be liked contained," said Crawford. "So what kind of situation is it going to be? Is it going to be like roommates in the tents, or you going to get your own little tents? Cause I can't do a bunch of roommates. I've got like social anxiety, so I can't do a bunch of people like that."

Caltrans Statement from Bart Ney:

"For safety purposes, Caltrans does not allow shelters to be directly under freeway structures. Per the statute, Streets and Highways Code section 1-04.30 "Any improvements of a temporary nature in which people live, eat, recreate, receive services or otherwise occupy shall not be underneath a transportation structure, and shall not be within 20 horizontal feet from the farthest edge of a transportation structure." Storage of materials is potentially allowed under transportation structures but services are not allowed where people would be spending time."

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