Harassing person--does anyone do anything?

There's been a person who appears to be homeless hanging out on Euclid Ave for several years. He likes to camp nearby and walks near our house. The problem is that he yells and swears at us. We've always crossed the street to avoid him, but he does hang out in front of small restaurants. We'd even change our plans to avoid him. Recently, I was going for an evening walk and had to go in the same direction as him to get home. I was on the opposite side of the street and started running--hoping he'd think I was just a runner, but he started running after me. Yelling insults. Of course I couldn't go home, so I turned on a side street and said I'd call the police because he was harassing me. It's always just verbal--muttering loud insults, etc. I'm sick of it. Does anyone call Berkeley police about verbal harassment from homeless people? Is it a city, so you're suppose to live with it? I'd feel foolish calling, but then I'm so tired of feeling stressed everytime I see him. Thanks!

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This does sound really stressful, but this person is clearly mentally ill.  Depending on the BPD's relationship with him, it might also put him in danger to call them to intervene.  They might have some useful information on who else you could call, though.  Perhaps a homeless shelter or mental health intervention?


I’m sure it’s stressful and even scary at times. While I don’t know the person you wrote about, it sounds like he has serious mental health issues and has limited control over his behavior or even his perception of reality. Although his insults are upsetting, they are most certainly not personal. Unfortunately, there aren’t a lot of good options for people with serious mental health problems in our society, which is why he’s on the street and probably without treatment, and why you and your neighbors must deal with the fear and frustration generated by his insults.  I’m not trying to minimize your experience, but it might be easier to tolerate if you think of him as someone our healthcare system (and likely other societal institutions) has failed. To see him as someone who is struggling and whose verbal aggression is not directed at you but at something that exists only in his altered perception.  I know that is easier said than done, because the verbal aggression can be really upsetting, but it may allow you to weather it more easily. Take care.

The city of Berkeley has a Mobile Crisis Team that will come out and do wellness checks on individuals to connect them to services and medical care. They won’t respond immediately, but if this is a person who has regular places where they hang out they may be able to go check in. Better to call them than the police if you’re not in immediate danger. https://www.cityofberkeley.info/Health_Human_Services/Mental_Health/Mobile_Crisis_Team_(MCT).aspx

Authorities need to know about your  being harassed in your neighborhood near your home by someone who does not belong there. Years ago I reported an encampment at Willard Park. It was mostly young men drinking all day. It was absolutely inappropriate for a homeless men encampment to be nearby a middle school. The police had no idea they were there until I reached out on the non-emergency landline number for the Berkeley Police Department. Enough is enough. Don’t tolerate it. It could escalate. 

I know the person to whom are referring. I mean, I know who you're talking about; I don't know him personally. I live nearby and I regularly get the same treatment--insults, sometimes yelled, sometimes muttered. Most of the time, I just pay it no mind. Yes, I will go out of my way to avoid being the target of his anger -- mostly I just cross the street, sometimes I just avoid going down that street -- but generally my approach is just to not let it get under my skin. I'm not sure what good it would do to call the police, and given our country's long history of problematic relations between the police and marginalized communities, I would urge caution about to involve the police unless it is absolutely necessary, like in the case of actual violence. I guess I just regard dealing with that guy as part of living in a complicated urban environment.

Yes, you can call the Berkeley police non-emergency number to complain about verbal harassment. I'm also a big believer in communicating with my city councilmember about problems like this. Anytime you have an issue with something in your neighborhood or in general with the city of Berkeley, send an email to your councilmember! google "berkeley city council email addresses"  It's good to let them know what their constituents are grappling with, and they can often be very helpful in cutting through the bureaucracy of city departments including the police. Get on their mailing list, give them regular feedback, and if they are helpful to you, donate $25 or whatever you can afford to their campaign next time they are running for office. It is very helpful also to get together with neighbors and complain as a group. Is there a neighborhood organization or mailing list you could join? You are probably not alone in your frustration with this, and if more than one person is complaining, more attention will be paid.  

Good luck, this sounds awful.