Mary Rees

How hard is it for homeless people to get and retain housing? The City of Albany and some local volunteers are seeing firsthand just how difficult it can be.

From the fall of 2013 through the spring of 2014, KALW’s “Crosscurrents” covered Albany’s official efforts to move people and campsites off the Albany Bulb, a former landfill in the East Bay. In return, the City promised to provide help to residents of the Bulb in finding apartments.

Michele Chelone

All week long, we've been playing this sound, and asking you to guess what exactly it is and where exactly in the Bay Area we recorded it.

Trish Richman

There are roughly 6,400 homeless people in San Francisco. According to Laura Guzman, Director of the Mission Neighborhood Resource Center, one of the biggest challenges they face is finding public restrooms.

“I remember when we opened, the conversation was all about poop on the street,” says Guzman.  “We used to talk about ‘poop and needles,’ we call it. But it’s critical that the community understands – if there is no bathroom access, people are going to poop on the streets.”

Nowadays the conversation isn’t about just keeping the sidewalks clean, but how to provide more showers for those without homes. Now one of the cleanest forms of transportation is about to hit the streets.

Photo courtesy of flickr user fletcher oakes

A vibrant mural announces Happy Lot Farm and Garden to visitors and anyone passing by. A greenhouse stands in the middle of the lot, and an improvised chicken coop occupies one corner. The trees and raspberry beds that head farmer Andromeda Brooks and her volunteers planted here a few years ago are now bearing fruit. And anyone who chips in gets to take home some of the harvest.

Brooks started Happy Lot almost three years ago, as a community project to improve the neighborhood’s morale.

Shooting ranges are one of the few places you can go to shoot guns legally here in the Bay Area. KALW’s Mary Rees went to the Richmond Rod and Gun Club to meet some of the regulars.

JERRY REILLY: Perceptions of people who like guns are not correct. Gunowners are like your next door neighbors, your friends.

Click the player above to here the full story.

Full disclosure: one of the men you heard from in that piece, Michael Angell, is the father of KALW reporter Isabel Angell.

By setca_bbtk, in Flickr Creative Commons

Mary Rees

Once or twice a month in the East Bay, violinists and bass-players, flautists and trumpeters -- gather to play orchestra music. But instead of a concert hall, they meet in warehouses or museums. No one’s wearing a tie or gown, and the group hasn’t rehearsed. They play a few pieces together and swill free beer between sets.

Margarita Loinas moved to the United States from the Dominican Republic when she was nineteen. Growing up, she felt a connection to nature much like the one her granddaughter  Alma has with  Mount Tam.   Alma, an aspiring Supreme Court justice, sat down with her grandmother in a Storycorps booth in San Francisco, to talk about life, and their relationship.

Mary Rees

Last fall we reported on the impromptu community that grew up on a spit of land in the East Bay known as the Albany Bulb. Homeless people put up tents and wooden sheds all over a grassy former landfill with gorgeous views of the Bay.

Bulb campers said that even though they didn’t have conventional houses, they did have a group of people that took care of one another, shared meals, and hauled water together.

Andrei Dorofeev / "Arguments and Facts - America"


As the conflict rages on between Russia and Ukrainian nationalists, thousands of miles away in San Francisco, people are following closely. There are an estimated 3,800 Ukrainians here. But the city is also home to more than 17,000 people who identify as Russian. So, what do they think about what’s going on back home?

Flickr user Public Citizen


Trade representatives from twelve countries have been discussing the Trans-Pacific Partnership for four years. They’re discussing removing tariffs, protecting the environment, and stopping the piracy of copyrighted  material - all in the name of freer international trade.

Not much is known about what’s in this agreement, but based on what’s been leaked, here’s what we think we know about a couple of key components that will affect Californians: cows and computers.

On the farm

Photo by Mary Rees.

On the west side of the city of Albany, there’s a peninsula jutting into San Francisco Bay. It’s beautiful there, right on the water, with hiking trails and beaches looking directly out toward the Golden Gate Bridge. On that piece of land, there’s a broad hilly mound covered in brush, grass, trees, scattered concrete slabs, and rebar that’s come to be known as the Albany Bulb.

Photo by Mary Rees.

San Francisco is the city of the Summer of Love – a place famous for peace rallies and liberal politics. So, a newcomer to the Bay Area may well feel confused at the number of forts and military bunkers clustered around the Golden Gate.

Until recently, large parcels of land in San Francisco and northward, in the Marin Headlands, belonged to the army — which was charged with protecting what was then the west coast’s most important port.

Courtesy of Flickr user jdnx // Daniel Ramirez

Roger Boyvey lives in a three-story house he built himself. It contains a complete kitchen, a view room, computer room, living room, master bedroom, guest bedroom, bathrooms adorned with stained glass, and a cat named Leo. In his neighborhood, there are just thirteen other houses like his. In this installment of our series of place profiles, Mary Rees visits Boyvey at his home at the Berkeley Marina.

Mary Rees

Last fall, I went  to Fifth and King Streets in  San Francisco, just under the on-ramp to I-280. A group of tents inhabited the space then. The ground around the tents was swept, and bicycles stood in neat lines. Residents, such as Jessica Prater, knew one another and felt safe there.

Photo by Jim Forest on Flikr

If you really want to know how our local economy is doing, look no further than the nearest homeless shelter. Former Supervisor Bevan Dufty oversees homelessness in the city, and he says these days, San Francisco’s roughly 1,150 beds are nearly full each night. Advocates say there’s been a sharp increase in homeless seniors, especially women. It was rare to see this population on the streets a few decades ago, but now service providers say it seems to be the norm.

Mary Rees

As California sloshes through its rainy season, homeless people around the Bay Area are looking for places to stay dry. In San Francisco, the spaces under freeways are popular, and groups of homeless people sometimes band together for their mutual protection. Still, as you might expect, living on the streets isn’t safe or easy.

Under CC license from Flickr user MoBikeFed

There's  a place in the urban East Bay where you might have to look twice to spot the school bus. That’s because it’s a special kind of bus: kids get off to climb trees and pick strawberries along the way; the drivers don’t need a special license; and -- most importantly -- it runs on sneaker feet, not wheels.

It’s a Saturday morning at a formerly vacant lot in Richmond. The sun warms the ground. Rows of fruit trees bend in the breeze. A raised bed made of cinder blocks harbors vegetable plants. Andromeda Brooks carefully plucks weeds from her raspberry patch, offering the young plants encouragement. This is Happy Lot Farm and Garden. 

Less than a year ago, this 14,000-square-foot lot, zoned for low-income housing, lay empty, except for the litter.

“Nothing has really been done on the lot for well over ten years,” says Brooks.

(SF Gate) // Investigators found DNA evidence linking Antolin Garcia-Torres to the disappearance of a 15-year-old Morgan Hill girl. At a news conference, today, Santa Clara Sheriff Laurie Smith said the source of the DNA was not blood. The girl, Sierra LaMar, was last seen on March 16…

Photo courtesy of Flickr user kathyinozarks

On a May evening, the Pinole Seals Swim Club hits the water for their first night of practice in the season that almost wasn’t. This is a popular pool that Pinole resident Kiki Kaski says hundreds of people use every year.

“All the camps in the area send their kids to this pool, the YMCA, Special Olympics uses this pool,” says Kaski. “You go there and you get this feeling like, ‘It’s summer!’ And it feels good.”


(San Francisco Chronicle) // The San Francisco teachers union will vote this week on whether to strike in protest of salary and benefits cuts proposed by the San Francisco Unified School District. District officials say they'll have to find $80 million dollars over the next two years, but the union claims that money is available within the existing budget...

The Oakland police department has announced it will reduce the number of officers in the city’s most violent blocks, following complaints from residents of the Oakland hills and North Oakland that burglaries have increased in their neighborhoods, according to an article in the San Francisco Chronicle. Six months ago the 100 blocks identified as the most dangerous saw an influx of officers, under Mayor Jean Quan’s plan to increase police presence and the availability of social services there…

Republican presidential contender Rick Santorum bowed out of the race today, leaving the GOP field clear for Mitt Romney. Romney’s success in the primaries has far outpaced the remaining candidates, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Texas Republican Ron Paul...

What's in a name? After a controversy over competing tax initiatives on the November ballot, Governor Jerry Brown has renamed his tax plan after one of the competing plans. The Governor’s tax is now called the “Millionaires’ Tax,” the name of the now-defunct plan proposed by the California Federation of teachers. But it begins taxing individual income at $250,000...