Tuesday, November 16, 2004

You absolutely cannot make this stuff up

BERKELEY: Carts stay cool as city takes heat on storage policy / When the homeless lose or abandon stuff, it gets frozen:
Berkeley tolerates its homeless people, and takes good care of their stuff when they abandon it in shopping carts.

Not only does the city pack carts and other belongings into a huge container in case folks want it back -- it also deep-freezes them for as long as 90 days.

About a year ago, Berkeley bought a 40-foot-long, 8-foot-wide refrigerated container for $8,200 after public works officials complained about vermin infesting carts stored at the city's outdoor corporation yard.

The city signed a five-year, $61,500 lease with Caltrans for land under the University Avenue overpass at Interstate 80 to put the container on, and ran power to the unit.
San Francisco and UC Berkeley also store homeless people's belongings as a result of lawsuits filed by homeless advocates, but they don't freeze them.
Critics say Berkeley's freezer program is an example of good intentions run amok. The city, which faces a $7.5 million deficit, should treat abandoned shopping carts as stolen property instead of worrying so much about the contents, they say.
More than you want to know about the whole subject by following the link. I realize that applying logic to this might lead to madness, but I'm curious - has anyone ever dropped by to pick up their stuff? The article doesn't provide any statistics but does have an anecdote:
A homeless man who lost his cart holding blankets and new shoes a month ago, when he left it to go to Oakland to face charges of public intoxication, said Monday that he did not know about the storage program.

But George Williams, 60, said it would have been a lot of trouble to find the right city officials and get to West Berkeley to retrieve his stuff.

"I never followed up,'' said Williams, who was pushing a different cart full of blankets, some food and a bottle of vodka.