Candidates for Mayor Break Down Homeless Issues

Wendy Lee covers the City Council. E-mail her at [email protected].





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Mayoral candidates Tom Bates and Shirley Dean accepted a challenge from a homeless advocate Friday to become homeless for a weekend if elected.

Bates admitted he has never been homeless, while Dean said she was homeless at the age of eight when her family was evicted from their apartment.

The forum on homeless issues organized by the homeless support group Building Opportunity for Self-Sufficiency turned into a battle between local solutions and legislative liaisons.

Dean advocated for more church-based organizations to aid the homeless, while former Assemblymember Bates said he would use his connections in the state Legislature to "squeeze out" funding for more homeless programs.

Bates cited his friendships with Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Berkeley, Gov. Gray Davis and his wife, Assembly

candidate Loni Hancock, as a means to prompt state support for funding programs for the homeless.

But Dean advocated for solving the problems in the city first, by proposing more units for low-income families, a detoxification center and facilities for the homeless.

"It is here where the problem is-not in Washington D.C.," Dean said.

Bates credited the formation of all Berkeley homeless programs to his wife and criticized Dean for not implementing many of the programs approved by the City Council, citing a domestic violence shelter for women as an example.

"One of the biggest problems in this city is implementation," Bates said. "We always talk a good game, but the things don't happen."

But Dean defended her record on homeless issues by citing the creation of 400 low-income units Downtown during her term.

But Bates said the units required a minimum family income of $30,000 a year, which he said is too high for homeless people. He said he would push for more emergency housing and specialized programs such as HIV education.

Dean, however, said she "never turned anyone away" and offered to provide some city jobs for homeless people who attended the forum.

In addressing complaints about police harassment of the homeless, Bates blamed the high police turnover rate in Berkeley and said if he were elected, he would visit police officers during training and remind them to be "ambassadors, not cowboys" when dealing with the homeless.

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