Grassroots Organizing Led By Those In Need

Share the new COT Crowdrise page!

You can help expand grassroots organizing for social justice by donating on the new COT Crowdrise page – please share the link!!

Anyone working to bring dignity and services to underserved individuals or communities is by their very nature an advocate and an activist. As an activist organization, BOSS does our best to educate and engage the people we serve in making their voices heard in community decision making that affects their lives – in all of our programs and especially, through the Community Organizing Team (COT).

How COT began: In 1994 BOSS piloted a community building project by working with formerly homeless/recently housed families in their new housing. A Community Builder worked with tenants to ensure they were accessing services that they needed, sharing resources and information with each other for social and practical support, and collectively discussing and advocating for needed building improvements.  As a result of this project, formerly homeless families experienced dramatically reduced recidivism (only 2 out of 100 families fell out of housing in 3 years).

This temporary project fueled the expansion in BOSS of community building into a broader organizing initiative: the Community Organizing Team (COT). This team includes both currently & formerly homeless individuals, college students, and BOSS staff, all of whom want to be involved in system change and making their voices heard to decision makers and creators of policy. Today COT though small is one of our most courageous and important programs. It is at the core of BOSS’s dual mission: “helping homeless, poor, and disabled people achieve health and self-sufficiency, and fighting against the root causes of poverty and homelessness.

Some of its achievements over the years include (a sampling):

  • Civil rights: Successfully making California Penal Code 647j (anti sleeping ordinance) a low priority enforcement ordinance in the City of Berkeley; Helping to defeat several anti-panhandling and anti-sit/lie measures in Berkeley.
  • Resources: Protecting discount bus passes for youth, seniors & the disabled from cuts; helping to secure $15 million more for bus service relied on by low-income public transit riders; helping to pass County Measure A to create a new detox center and increase health services funding.
  • Public education: Educating hundreds of SSI residents about changes in SSI classifications and how to appeal if cut off; educating hundreds of General Assistance recipients about time limits and how to appeal; conducting census outreach, surveys, and needs assessments on the streets.
  • Coalition-building: Including current & formerly homeless individuals in community planning as members of the Urban Habitat Social Justice Caucus, Western Regional Advocacy Project, Transportation Justice Working Group, and others.

Right now in our community COT members are supporting the movement to pass a series of state civil rights bills for homeless people, starting with #righttosleep. Other issues COT is active in include affordable housing (e.g. fighting for low-income set asides in new developments) and restorative justice (e.g. ban the box initiative).

For a small investment, this project has huge impact: Please donate today, and SHARE the link!

Less than 1% of our annual budget goes to grassroots organizing: to engage more people in the movement against poverty and income disparity, we need funding to support trainings for our organizers, social justice events, and basic needs support for low income organizers (e.g. bus tickets and food).

If you share this passion for organizing to help the most vulnerable in our community, please take a moment to visit our new Crowdrise page benefiting the BOSS Community Organizing Team! And make a donation. Any size at all. As often as you like. And tell your friends!

To get involved COT, please contact Gwen Austin at or (510) 649-1930 ext. 223. Thank you!

Pictured above, l-r: Tim Smith, Gwen Austin, Carl Wright, Ronald Broach, Rebecca Strehlow. Other COT members not pictured include Michael Diehl, Marc Simon, and Melissa Albers.