Homeless Protest at Berkeley, CA Post Office FWD

Tom Boland (wgcp@earthlink.net)
Fri, 25 Sep 1998 15:22:10 -0400

FWD San Francisco Chronicle  Tuesday, September 22, 1998  Page A17


     Ken Hoover, Chronicle Staff Writer

              About two dozen homeless young people congregated in front of
the Berkeley Post Office last night to protest the loss of the site as a
place to sleep. However, although the group anticipated they would be
arrested as protesters, no police had appeared by 11:30 p.m.

              ``If I had any other place to be, I wouldn't be here,'' said
Jasmine, 19.

              She said she lives on the street with her boyfriend, Johnny,
26, and is seven months pregnant. She said 20 to 30 people have been
sleeping recently on the post office property, believing there is safety in

              Last Saturday night, she said, the police descended on the
group, wakened them, and said if they slept there again, they would be

              ``Where else are we going to go?'' she said. ``All the
shelters are full.''

              She said her boyfriend hires out as a day laborer, getting
jobs at a street corner as a yard worker. She complained about the high
rents and rental deposits and said the couple has had trouble saving money.

              Another young woman, Robin, 21, said she came from Alaska on
her way to a ranching job in New Mexico. She said she would sleep on the
steps because ``this is just something I support.''

              The steps of the post office on Allston Way have become an
increasingly popular place for homeless youths to gather.

              However, about two weeks ago, Postmaster George Banks asked
the Berkeley Police Department to clear the steps. He said he took the
action, although reluctantly, because of increasing litter and damage to
post office property.

              ``I don't feel great about it,'' Banks told BayTV. ``It's
just something I had to do.''

              He said that some of the youngsters sleeping at the post
office had dogs, who fouled the property, and that new sod planted in front
of the post office had been mashed down by the squatters.

              The young people gathered on the post office steps last night
were hard to distinguish from college students at the University of
California campus nearby. However, several middle-aged men joined the
protest, sitting on the steps and, nearing midnight, unrolling their
sleeping bags.


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