I first met William Barclay Caldeira—known to many as 300—at a special meeting of the Berkeley City Council about the closure of the city’s then-largest homeless shelter. He attended the meeting with a shopping cart full of possessions and a lot to say: he loudly opposed the city’s decision, and he had statistics to back up his concerns. It was clear to me that he was a paragon of knowledge about Berkeley homelessness, and as the new editor of Street Spirit I was frankly in awe. Less than a year later, 300 tragically passed away after a long battle to defend his home from eviction.
“The Eviction Machine” seeks to uplift 300, a beautiful and complicated person and lifelong resident of Berkeley. His struggle to maintain his housing shows a piece of what it is to be poor in the Bay Area, and how exactly one can fall to the street after fighting to maintain housing. In this, it also serves to illuminate the larger issues of poverty and inequality that 300 embodied in his own unique way.
Although I didn’t get to know 300 intimately before his passing, in the years since I have come to understand him through those who knew him best. One such person is Vinay Pai, whose friendship with 300 is captured in this narrative.
The story represents the writer’s point of view. It chronicles the experiences they shared during years of developing a close friendship, and working closely together to battle the eviction that would ultimately end 300’s life. While most facts were independently verified, not everything in the story could be fact-checked. Many primary source materials can be found in the redacted copy of 300’s “Special Motion” to the Alameda County Superior Court, made available by Street Spirit. Pages 243 to 264 of this document contain 300’s testimony in his own words.
I hope “The Eviction Machine” can act as a window into what it feels like to engage with the systems that are intended to support people in need, but all too often fall short.
Alastair Boone is the Director of Street Spirit.