On a recent Tuesday afternoon, Carmen Francois was on a mission.
“We’re supposed to say hi to 60 people in 60 minutes,” she said.
Francois, one of Berkeley’s downtown “ambassadors,” didn’t have any trouble meeting the quota. She ducked into businesses and greeted employees by name, asking if they had any safety issues. She waved to police officers and directed tourists. She hugged homeless panhandlers, asking if they had gotten in touch with the Berkeley Mental Health Center counselor she had recommended the previous week. She pointed others toward the nearest public shower.
For the last three years, Francois has been walking up and down Shattuck Avenue interacting with those who spend their days sitting on blankets or leaning against walls, part of a larger effort to make downtown a more amenable area. But her stomping grounds have now become the center of a new debate: whether or not Berkeley should adopt a measure that makes it illegal to sit on the sidewalk in a commercial district between 7 am and 10 pm.
Read more at Berkeleyside.com.