Return to opening menu.


November 28, 1995
To Members of the Berkeley City Council:

We as members of Berkeley churches and religious organizations believe it is our responsibility as people of faith to make our voices heard with and for our homeless sisters and brothers. The City's lease with the University for People's Park expires in March, 1996. A People's Park Use Committee composed of representatives from the City and University of California has generated a plan that we would amend in three important areas. We are grateful for the good work of individuals and groups involved in the concensual planning process and also believe the plan falls short of key ingredients which will make it effective.

First, the plan needs to be amended to include support for continued social services at the park, particularly for the existing food programs and free clothes box.

We support all efforts by charitable and religious organizations to extend a helping hand to homeless and marginalized people at the Park by providing food and other resources and believe that such work should be affirmed--not limited by the City and University.

A letter written in September 1995 signed by Chancellor Chang-Lin Tien of UC and Mayor Shirley Dean of Berkeley revealed drastic changes being proposed regarding current social services offered in the Park for the homeless and poor.

The letter indicated that both the free clothes box at the Park and food services there would be reevaluated and probably eliminated or changed.
As concerned people of faith we strongly support these services at the Park. We worry that there may be an attempt to move the homeless from the Park altogether. We feel that at a time when social services for these persons are being cut from federal, state, and county budgets the poor amongst us must remain visible.

We support a concerted effort to remove crime and drug use from the Park. We support the Park's diversity and affirm its historical significance as a site where Berkeley's tradition of warm-hearted acceptance of different opinions and life styles can be maintained.

At least six faith-based groups currently provide meals at the Park, in addition to Food Not Bombs.
The largest distributors are Food Not Bombs, which offers lunch to about one hundred people six days a week, and Dorothy Day Catholic Worker House, which has provided breakfast to about one hundred every day. Dorothy Day Catholic Worker is about to leave the Park and will serve at the University Lutheran Church, as well as the Men's Shelter.
We believe it is important for some food services to remain in the Park. Eating together builds community among people whose lives are often fragmented. The meals also integrate the larger community. Food Not Bombs estimates that only seventy percent of their clients are homeless.

We acknowledge problems surrounding the free clothes box and also feel it is a valuable service that can be continued with modifications. We do not believe that efforts by the City and University to revamp the program will work without the full ownership and involvement of the existing Park community. We support development of a separate consensual planning process for the Park's free clothes box which involves as key parties members of the homeless community and those using the Park.

Second, the plan needs to be amended to exclude components changing People's Park from a community gathering place into a University athletic facility.
The community consulted by the Use Committee overwhelmingly supported use of the space as a park rather than as an athletic field. We affirm the concerns of the Landmarks Commission and environmental groups that such changes would threaten the social and physical integrity of this important cultural and historic site.

The history of the Park demonstrates long-standing good will as well as dissension. We believe the Park could be a site that generates services and jobs for the homeless as well as being a comfortable and convenient open space for the whole community.
Third, we believe the University should donate the land at People's Park to the City of Berkeley to be run by the community. Nearly 3 million dollars of taxpayer's money have been spent in the last five years alone in the University's ongoing battle with community residents over People's Park. We believe the City of Berkeley should have permanent control of the Park and that the City should create a board of stewards for the site that includes significant representation from Park users. With amendments in these three key areas we believe the Use Plan for People's Park will effectively work to make the Park a hospitable environment for all people.



Dr. David Shields
Interim Director, Westminster House
Presbyterian Campus Ministries
University of California, Berkeley

Rev. Allan Bell
Episcopal Chaplain to the University of California-Berkeley

Dr. Dan Matt, Faculty Member
Center for Jewish Studies
Graduate Theological Union

Father Bill O'Donnell, Asst. Priest
St. Joseph the Worker Church

Sister Bernie Galvin, cdp
Director, Religious Witness with Homeless People

Trinity United Methodist Church
Social Concerns Committee
Berkeley Friends Meeting
Peace and Social Order Committee

Dr. David Biale, Director
Center for Jewish Studies
Graduate Theological Union

Alan Senauke
National Coordinator
Buddhist Peace Fellowship

Maylie Scott, Priest
Berkeley Zen Center

Rev. Lee Williamson
Peace with Justice Coordinator
California Nevada Conference
United Methodist Church

Sister Clare Ronzani, snd
Faculty Member, Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley

Ed Dunn, ofm
Justice and Peace Coordinator
Franciscan Friars-Santa Barbara Province

Michael Harank, Founder
Bethany House Catholic Worker

Dorothy Day House
Catholic Worker

Mel Weitsman
Abbot, Berkeley Zen Center

Terry Messman
Homeless Organizing Project of
the American Friends Service Committee

Rabbi Burt Jacobson
Kehilla Community Synagogue

Joanna Macy, Faculty Member
Starr King School for the Ministry

Berkeley Fellowship of Unitarian Universalists
Social Action Committee

Jurgen Schwing, Member
First Congregational Church of Berkeley

Dr. Clare Fischer, Faculty Member
Starr King School for the Ministry

Dr. Bob Lassalle-Klein, Faculty Member
Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley

Dr. Fred Rosenbaum

Dr. Lynn Rhodes, Faculty Member
Pacific School of Religion

Pam Gilbert-Snyder
Social Ministry Chair
University Lutheran Chapel

Father Richard Chilson, Priest
Newman Center-Holy Spirit Chapel

Lonnie Vohs, Member
First Mennonite Church of San Francisco
San Francisco Theological Seminary, Staff

David Buer, ofm
Religious Witness with Homeless People
Steering Committee
Bay Area Church of Christ

Rev. Pat deJong, Pastor
First Congregational Church of Berkeley

Rev. Dr. George Cummings
Pastor, Church by the Side of the Road
Faculty Member, American Baptist Seminary of the West

Susan Felix, Member
The Aquarian Minyan

Rebecca Parker, President
Starr King School for the Ministry

Rev. Richard Rollefson, Pastor
Shepherd of the Hills Lutheran Church

Dr. Jack Kornfield, Buddhist Teacher
Spirit Rock Center

Rev. Odette Lockwood-Stewart, Director
Wesley Foundation-Methodist Campus Ministry

Dr. Joseph Driskoll
Faculty Member, Pacific School of Religion
Asst. Dean, Disciples Seminary Foundation

Return to opening menu.