BERKELEY -- Jorge's campsite is at the end of the row, slightly separated from the others. Or at least as separated as space will allow. He is cleaning out his makeshift tent with a broom, sitting in the opening and holding up the sheet so a visitor can see inside. There's not a whole lot of room in there, but Jorge says it's enough to make do.
He has a collection of nutcrackers and an old red wagon -- the kind children used to dream of on Christmas Eve. He has adapted an old stroller into a trailer for his bicycle.
Jorge says he spent four and a half years living on the Albany Bulb. That ended when Albany began a campaign to remove the homeless population living on the property through a combination of housing assistance and enforcement of the city's anti-camping ordinance.
Since then, Jorge has been one of about 20 people camped out under the Gilman Street overpass in Berkeley. A row of tents, both domed and makeshift, line both sides of the street, just a block from the entrance to the stables at Golden Gate Fields and the Tom Bates Regional Sports Complex.
Between and among the tents, there's a whole lot of other stuff. A bag full of bread. A barbecue. A moped. A mostly-intact set of shelves. Lots and lots of bike parts.
On July 15, Jorge and the other campers will apparently be on the move again.
Berkeley officials posted notices on the cement pillars of the overpass on July 2 that if the campsites are still there on that date, they will be removed.
The city filed a Notice of Public Nuisance on June 10 and held a hearing on June 20.
The notice claimed the camp was a public health hazard due to human and animal waste present as well as a rodent infestation. Campers submitted photographs at the hearing that they claimed showed the camp has been cleaned up and is no longer a public health hazard.
"I can see making us clean this up," says Bill Sermon, one of the campers. "But we've killed the rats. We've got a rat count over here. We've killed hundreds of rats. We recycle stuff that otherwise would go to the landfill."
The letter, signed by city Manager of Environmental Health Manuel M. Ramirez, says, "I am overruling the objections because the camp activity and accumulations are contributing to rodent harborage and creating a public nuisance."
The letter says that city public works crews have removed large amounts of garbage from the camp on multiple occasions. It also states that "the open-air storage of food will continue to attract rodents."
"As of this date, the property has not been cleaned up," the letter continues. "The accumulation of food waste, trash, debris, personal belongings and animal waste must be removed completely and disposed of properly. If the nuisance is not completely corrected by July 15, 2014, without further notice, the City will abate the nuisance by removing all property."
Sermon says he wasn't camping at the Bulb, but that many of the people now living beneath the overpass had been. He says the problem for the homeless population is that they survive by collecting recycling or finding "trash" and reselling it.
"This is how we make a living," Sermon says. "All of this stuff -- this is their trash, what they throw away. A lot of it is really good stuff that we resell and make a living doing it. I can't do that and stay in a shelter because they won't let me take my aluminum cans and plastic bottles in a shelter, number one.
"Number two, we have a certain amount of freedom here. Instead of trying to live on $7 a day the general assistance will give me, I can make an extra $10. Or like $20 a day which is a reasonable amount of money. I can live on $20 a day."
Jorge says he misses life on the Bulb.
"We had our own homes," he says. "We knew all the people who walked their dogs. We'd go out and play guitar. I played horn, I played harmonica, I played ukulele, keyboards. We had a band up there in the amphitheater. Four or five instruments."
Neither Sermon nor Jorge knows where they will go when the camp is cleared. Both noted that it seems they are just being moved from place to place.
"If they could just give us one part of the town to camp in, it would really save the city a lot of money," Sermon says. "Because shelters are expensive. There's not enough room for all of these people in the shelters, let's face it. And what about the people who have dogs? Or people like me who recycle for a living? We really don't have another choice."