EBGP co-chair Betsy Morris statement at Enough is Enough press conference

Statement from Betsy Morris, Convenor of Berkeley East Bay Gray Panthers, elected with a new board in 2016.  

Gray Panthers of Berkeley-East Bay started in 1975, as part of a national network of chapters that fought for Social Security and brought Medi-care and Medic-Aide greatly reducing the national numbers of seniors in dire poverty decades ago.

Berkeley Gray Panthers created the first street clinic for older adults modeled after Black Panther Clinics. Over Sixty Clinic on Sacramento honor us as founders and mentors.  We advocated long and hard for senior affordable housing in Berkeley through the 1990s.  Many long-time members lived and still live in Redwood Gardens, Harriet Tubman Terrace, and Strawberry Creek Lodge.  So, Gray Panthers stand on the broad shoulders of many short but powerful women and men.

You might think that we the past 7 years through phone calls, visits, and research we have found a new scourge of rising rents, displacement, and discrimination, driving seniors, disabled and not, into their vehicles if they are lucky, and onto the streets.  While tens and hundreds of millions from federal, state, and local funds have gone to agencies serving the homelessness, and for senior services, we have found out first-hand the large gaping holes across what we thought was a safety net here in Berkeley. 

I personally answer GP phone calls, and seniors or family members are still calling us hoping we have safe accessible shelter beds, a safe place to park, or access to permanent housing, some sort of immediate house share rentals or permanent housing they can afford.  

Sometimes we can send them to legal services, but mainly for the last year we warn them about those gaps, limited hours of public services, cutbacks in this or that nonprofit.

The main people we have learned from, are the people with first-hand experience with these services, and we’ve been inspired by the self-help and mutual care camps.

I’d be glad to discuss any of the below paths. 

Thank  you 

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With the Center for Independent Living, Gray Panthers call for greater transparency from, service agencies and contractors, recognizing that the reasons for months and years of obstruction or delay should be used to educate the public.

We call for specific ADA adaptations where possible, but also, urgent expansion of shelters capable of warmly and safely accommodating people with disabilities, health disorders, women, and families of all ages.

We call for a change in worldview – the unhoused and homeless are our neighbors, economic refugees from an implacable real estate industry protected from displacement.

We call for Berkeley, the Continuum of Care, and HUD, to support an independent office of transparency, accountability, evaluation, and strategic planning with repreesentatives from the community with lived experience.

And we demand that multiple publicly owned state and local sites  be leased to self-help camps, vehicle residents, and cooperative housing and their choice of qualified allies to do what cities and off-site private contractors have not – to provide more choices.

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