“A day’s pretty good,” said Wintrell, sitting in front of Dollar Tree, wearing a hoodie. “I get to meet new people, and people help me out, and I get to help them out.”
"It can be lonely on the streets when everybody just walks right by."
Wintrell has seen a lot over the years. “Living on the streets, I’ve learned there are a lot of nice people to get to know, and there are also a lot of mean people always trying to take your stuff. They took my sleeping bag. You know, I sleep outside, so it makes it harder for me,” he said. Wintrell became homeless after being evicted.
“It can be really hard,” he said, “but now it’s not as hard as it was before because I’ve learned to save everything up, and I like to think about getting an apartment.”
Wintrell grew up in Berkeley. He was born at Alta Bates Hospital and graduated from Berkeley High School in 1969. “It felt nice, back then. I used to play a lot of sports, and I was pretty good. Well, after Berkeley High, I went to Laney College. And I enjoyed that, I worked really hard. I didn’t really have any plans.”
Wintrell offered advice to current high school students: “Try to get a job, and have a plan for the future. Even jobs like a waiter, or a janitor, they can help you get on your feet, and you don’t even need much school.”
Despite his situation, Wintrell has hope every day. “Throughout the day,” he said, “I think about trying to have enough money to keep myself up. The three first letters of my name — W-I-N — I try to do that everyday. I try to go out and win as much as I can. I try to survive. It makes me feel good to meet new people. You know? It can be lonely on the streets when everybody just walks right by.”
- Ayla Reading
Though many people come to the Berkeley Bowl for its produce, it’s likely they won’t get in and out without running into Tony Jones, a 62-year-old homeless man who sells Street Spirit, a local newspaper, right outside of the store. Born in December of 1955, Jones grew up right across the street from the store. He attended Longfellow, Willard, and then Berkeley High School (BHS). After graduating from BHS, he went to Alameda Junior College and earned a degree in business. He also spent six years as a medic in the army.
Growing up, his family was constantly struggling to get by because his mother had a disability. After obtaining his degree, Jones got a job at Bank of America. His mother was having trouble paying for their family’s house, so Jones decided to steal money from his job. “I knew I was wrong, but I did what I had to do to help my mom,” said Jones. He was caught and sent to jail, and in his trial he confessed to the judge. Jones was sent to prison for 27 years. In 1994, his mother passed away, but Jones couldn’t afford to pay the cost to get out of prison so he could attend her funeral.
Since being released, Jones has tried many times to get a job, but nobody will hire him because of his record. Jones gets on by selling Street Spirit and doing small labor jobs.
Jones’ goal each day is to make $22.30, which is the price of spending the night in the YMCA men’s shelter, which is the only men’s shelter open in Berkeley. Being homeless is hard on him. “It’s not easy out here, I wouldn’t wish this on nobody, but I just try and stay positive because being negative is not gonna do no good,” he said.
– Hannah Freedman
When first glancing at 26-year-old Izzy, one would probably assume he is simply one of Berkeley’s thousands of homeless people roaming the streets. But in reality, Izzy is an extremely complex person who grapples with displacement and the current government, the same issues most Berkeley residents are facing. He moved at just five years old from France to Las Vegas, Nevada where he grew up. Izzy describes himself as an activist, “I try to bring awareness to different issues in this country that need attention, I travel the country and speak with people who want to spread the message.”
"[I am] no different from you.”
Across the Bay Area, especially in Berkeley, local institutions of government have struggled to find a solution to poverty, displacement, and homelessness. In addition, the media has contributed to the growing stigma and ostracism of the homeless. “The media have been called the fourth branch of government, and they are solely responsible for the way the homeless are treated in not only this city, but across America. It’s not good,” said Izzy.
The treatment of the homeless community by the Berkeley Police Department (BPD) is controversial. He added, “The police, that’s a whole other issue. In this city, they are overpaid and undertrained. They all lack critical thinking skills, and they purposefully hire police with low IQs.” While these qualifications might not be accurate in BPD’s hiring process, Izzy holds an outlook on the police that is widely shared throughout the homeless community.
So often, we jump to conclusions about the homeless, but Izzy wants to send a message out and help people understand that he is “no different from you.”
– Lucy Yama
Stacy Hill, a 52-year-old man riding a unicycle and juggling within South Berkeley’s Here There Encampment, does not feel homeless. “Real homeless people experience something different,” Hill said. He explained how living in various encampments for two decades has provided him with an adequate sense of “home,” despite the lack of an actual building. “I’ve lived in better places than most people have lived in their whole life,” Hill said. This is because of the vibrant community that exists within these camps.
Hill was born in Florida, but moved to Berkeley as a child and attended Washington Elementary School. His family later moved to San Francisco, where he attended high school. After graduating, he rented an apartment which is where he said the trouble started. “We got to this camp by being taxed,” Hill explained. Initially, rent for Hill’s apartment was affordable, only twenty dollars a month, but as the cost dramatically increased, Hill began to feel that he was being taxed. “What they call ‘rent’ is actually tax,” Hill said. “What I did was object to paying.” He believes rent is unjustly taken by the government, like taxes.
When he refused to pay, Hill moved into the Here There Encampment in Berkeley several years ago and quickly became a natural leader around camp. “I take care of this camp, our needs is my responsibility,” Hill explained. “I try to make sure there is a strong sense of community and that we all work together.”
Hill’s advice to students is to stay in school, and to learn how to juggle, which, as he said it “is something that nobody can take away from you, no matter what.”
– Isabella Ingersoll