For about six weeks one summer, Karizma Harper and her mom lived among the homeless in Berkeley’s People’s Park. Although she was 8 or 9 years old at the time, it wasn’t as scary or bad as you’d think, she recalled.
It was only later that she realized she wasn’t living in a safe and secure environment as a child, said Karizma, now 14 and a student at Korematsu Middle School. She remembers crying when the police took away her mom, who struggles with mental illness, and she got sent to transitional housing by Child Protective Services. At the time, she didn’t know where she would end up or if she’d ever see her younger sister, Jayla Cato, who was living with their mother’s friend. So much was uncertain.