Homeless Community Loses A Shining Light

A couple of weeks ago the Bay Area experienced tragedy across three cities with the shooting of three different individuals in a day by a single gunman. One of the victims, 43 year old Calvin Kelley (who was shot at People’s Park), was an important part of the BOSS family.

BOSS joins the community in sending our deepest sympathy to the four children he leaves behind and other loved ones who will miss him greatly.

Photo credit (above): At April 29th memorial for Calvin Kelley at People’s Park | Photographer Ted Friedman, photo from Berkeleyside.com

Ricky Collier has worked at MASC for 17 years. Originally from Oakland, Ricky spent some time on the streets himself, and is a passionate and caring advocate for people experiencing homelessness, poverty, and crisis.

“He was like a little brother to me,” Ricky says about Calvin.

The BOSS program Ricky works in, the BOSS Multi-Agency Service Center or MASC, provides showers, laundry, and safe respite of the streets for persons experiencing homelessness. Open 7 days a week from 8 am to 12 noon, the MASC is located in the basement of the City of Berkeley Veterans Memorial Building. With walls painted bright turquoise by UC Berkeley volunteers, the space is a no-frills environment, with a handful of tables, chairs, a tiny computer lab, and bookshelves. Along with showers, laundry and a new City-funded locker program, the MASC gives people on the street somewhere safe and dry to go during the day.

Calvin Kelley was a daily fixture here, helping other people who were experiencing homelessness, just like him.

“Calvin would meet me in the parking lot every day at 6:45,” says Ricky. “He would help Robert [MASC Program Coordinator] and I set up, and help in other ways – giving away shoes and clothing. I saw him give the shoes off his feet when someone needed them.”

Kelley was born in San Leandro but grew up in Oakland. He had been coming to the MASC for years, and always pitched in to help. After spending time at the MASC each day, Calvin would go across the street to civic park or up to People’s Park, to play chess or cards with friends. He had just helped out Ricky at MASC when he headed up to People’s Park. Two hours later, Ricky got a call saying what had happened.

“Of all the people to get shot, it just made zero sense that it was him – he was a peacemaker. He would step in to settle folks down if there was any conflict at MASC,” Ricky says.

Ricky has an empty chair next to the desk where he signs people in to use the shower at MASC. It’s the chair Calvin Kelley used to sit in when he would help Ricky out, and Ricky is keeping it empty. The two would sit there and talk every day – they knew each other’s kids and families.

Ricky Collier and the empty chair where Calvin used to sit

“I was closer to him than I am to some of my own family members,” Ricky says. “Even though I know he’s gone, I keep expecting him to walk around the corner, or be there to meet me at set up time.” ♦️ 

To support BOSS programs that provide shelter, food, and respite to people on the street, donate here or contact Gwen to organize a collection of toiletries, socks, sleeping bags, or other needed items.