Berkeley Homeless Hopscotch

by Steed Dropout
Oct. 25, 2016


Photo by Ted Friedman.

The last time Berkeley supported an intentional homeless community thirty years ago—the experiment in city-tolerance ended in murder.

The failed community, “Rainbow Village,” a campground of vans and cars, where Cesar Chavez State Park is now located in the Berkeley Marina, may have murdered subsequent Berkeley encampments.

That’s what homeless activist, Michael Diehl, told Berkeley City Council, recently, adding that it was time to get over Rainbow village.

Diehl, once a salaried homeless advocate for a Berkeley support service, is now homeless himself, and residing in a tent amidst other homeless protestors. Diehl told me he had, during his homeless outreach gig, housed a score of homeless.

Diehl had succeeded where others have failed; now the system he supported has failed him.

Since Rainbow Village rained on its own parade, in 1985, there have been a series of what homeless activists call “intentional homeless communities,” which Berkeley’s City Manager’s office, Berkeley police, and the Berkeley’s Parks and Waterfront Division diverts around town, in an endless game of hop-scotch.


Photo by Ted Friedman.

In the street game of hopscotch, players skip from chalked square to chalked square like blithe spirits.

The latest sidewalk tent community— including chalked walks—started out at the HUB, a homeless services center, where campers used their sidewalk tents to protest what they claim has failed to live up to deliver.

Moved from the homeless center protest, protesters then erected a colorful tent community on a nearby city median which city officials congratulated for its self-policing (no drugs, outstanding warrants, drunks, or “wing-nuts), but evicted anyway.

According to city officials, some neighbors had complained, and then there’s that Rainbow Village jinx.

The demonstrators landed across the street on a sidewalk parallel to Any Mountain’s (closed) parking lot. Later that night, they were moved, once more, to Shattuck/Ward.

Photo by Ted Friedman.

A homeless tent city protest last year on the grounds of Berkeley’s Old City Hall led to several arrests before the encampment was cleared. But this year, protesters seem to want to cooperate with the city without ending their protest.


Occupy (city of) Berkeley, which began in 2011 as a cozy collection of Berkeley Wall Street protesters at Bank of America plaza, across from downtown Bart, moved to Civic Center Park, across from old city hall, where it was invaded by toughs from Oakland; and after alleged rapes, violence, and sanitary concerns, then was busted in a series of police sweeps, which outraged protesters.

Although high-profile homeless campers, the tent-city homeless protesters mirror the hopscotching life-styles of most of Berkeley’s homeless- on-the-streets, whose dwellings are often no more than cardboard mattresses on the move.

Wispy homeless protest-leader, Mike Zint, who says he now weighs ninety-five pounds and expects “to die on the streets,” could be the next Rainbow-Village-related death.

Photo by Ted Friedman.

Meanwhile Berkeley officials cast about for a fix, hoping that hopscotching the homeless will buy time against dire straits.

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