Time and time again, Berkeley’s elected officials—and wannabe politicians running for office—promise that they will solve the “homeless problem” as if these individuals are not their constituents, or even human beings.

For far too long we have sat and listened to individuals use homeless people as a stepping stone to gain popularity in their chosen elected position. But homeless people are human beings, who had families, jobs, paid taxes, and lived through horrific events that left us living on the streets, often by ourselves. 

Instead of looking at the fuller picture, politicians refer to homeless people simply as numbers. But they do not talk about the numbers that impact us on a day to day basis, like how many people are stuck on a three to five-year waiting list for housing in Berkeley. 

Instead of looking at the fuller picture, politicians refer to homeless people simply as numbers.

(If you want housing quicker than that you must move to East Oakland. I’ve spoken to many women and men that feel safer living on the streets of Berkeley then they do an apartment in East Oakland.) 

For the most part, homeless people are not judged by their own actions or experiences, but by those of the maybe 10 to 15 percent who are mentally incapable of taking care of themselves. I can assure you that the remainder of the homeless population is made up of people you would never even know are homeless.

But this does not stop the politicians who cast a blanket statement over all homeless people, and refer to the homeless as running up the taxes in the way of EMT fees, crime rates, and loss of business. 

If they really cared for the homeless people they talk so much about, there are many people’s stories they could be telling instead. Like an individual I know who lives on the street in order to support his former wife and son. Or the homeless college professor who fluently speaks five languages. Or the many people that I speak with everyday who have had successful businesses, served honorably in the military, and raised happy families. 

However none of this is given consideration, why, because the homeless population has been dehumanized to political talking points. We are used as a method of earning votes from non-homeless people, and then quickly forgotten.

Timothy Busby is a homeless writer who lives in Berkeley. He writes from his past five years of experiences while living on the streets from New Orleans to Berkeley, and many cities in between.