Berkeley plan: help for homeless youth on Telegraph Ave. FWD

Tom Boland (
Tue, 16 Jun 1998 16:15:57 -0700 (PDT)
FWD  Contra Costa Times - East Bay News - June 16, 1998 - Page: A3


     The City Council must decide whether to fund in its entirety a popular
     but costly $550,000 plan to aid homeless youths on avenue

     By Chuck Squatriglia - Times Staff Writer

    BERKELEY -- First, the good news: After years of complaints, months of
study and countless hearings and meetings, the city has unveiled a plan for
helping the homeless youths on Telegraph Avenue.

    Now, the bad news: The $550,000 price tag is more than four times what
City Manager Jim Keene earmarked for Telegraph in his proposed budget, and
no one knows how to bankroll the proposal.

    The City Council gets to figure that out when it discusses the plan
tonight. It promises to be a lively debate, because the plan enjoys
widespread support among merchants, homeless youths and their advocates.
But financing the package will be tough because most of the city's $88
million budget is spoken for, and Keene has said adding programs will
require cutting others.

    The seven-point plan includes $105,000 to expand the city's only
homeless youth center; $85,900 to install a self-cleaning pay toilet at
Telegraph Avenue and Haste Street; and $175,000 to deploy a "health and
safety team," a roving band of counselors to mediate disputes, escort
shoppers and help homeless kids get off the street.

    It also calls for $28,000 for storage lockers and showers for homeless
youths and $156,000 to add 24-hour security at the city-owned Sather Gate
parking garage and more frequent cleaning of its public restroom.

    While no one doubts the need for those services, some council members
said endorsing the whole list will be tough. What seems more likely is the
council will pick and choose, trying to do the most good without breaking
the budget. With that in mind, the pay toilet, lockers and showers stand
the best chance of being funded, many said.

    "We need some quick, practical solutions for the problems facing
Telegraph Avenue," City Councilwoman Polly Armstrong said.

    But Councilman Kriss Worthington, who represents Telegraph, said he'll
push for the entire package and suggest financing it with the money Keene
set aside for Telegraph, revenue from the Sather Gate garage and a recent
gift of $225,000 given to the city to help the homeless.

    "We need to pressure the council to say, 'Yes, this is important, and
we need to find the money for this,'" Worthington said.

    Although the plan isn't cheap, it is popular. A bipartisan council
subcommittee worked with merchants, residents, homeless youths and their
advocates to develop the plan.

    "The stakeholders and the community have come together," said Kathy
Berger, director of the Telegraph Avenue Association, a merchants' group.
"It's driven by the cohesiveness of the community in articulating what they

    Others said the process has brought an end to the name-calling and
scapegoating that have marred previous efforts to address Telegraph's ills.
Merchants have said the homeless youths intimidate customers and make a
mess of the avenue, driving down sales. The youths often countered by
becoming adversarial and threatening. But now, for the first time, everyone
is working together.

    "People are dropping the negative rhetoric and talking about what we
can do together," said Sally Hindman, director of the Chaplaincy to the
Homeless. "That positive thrust has stayed with us, and it's really a


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