Homelessness is a complex social problem caused by a faulty social safety net, lack of housing that is affordable, low wages, insufficient drug treatment programs and many other factors. An estimated 1,000 people, or 1 percent of the city’s entire population, are homeless.
Since Mayor Arreguin took office in December 2016, the city has taken bold steps to address the homeless crisis. Within weeks of taking office, the Mayor worked with the City Manager and City Council to activate the Emergency Operations Center. The city was able to immediately double the number of shelter beds and warming centers available, providing life-saving shelter to hundreds of homeless individuals. The City kept this shelter in operation until June 2017.
In 2018, the city opened its first permanent Berkeley Emergency Storm Shelter (BESS) in the newly renovated basement of the Veterans’ Memorial building. The venue has space for 65 people, offering showers, laundry and storage services for people staying there as well as walk-ins. We also opened an inclement weather shelter in the lobby of Old City Hall for up to 40 guests in December 2018.
Another critical step taken by the city has been the opening the STAIR Navigation Center, modeled on best practices around the country and first such center in the East Bay. Our goal is to eventually switch all homeless shelters to a navigation center model.
The passage of Measure P on the November 2018 ballot will provide significant new resources to expand Navigation Centers, shelter beds, mental health services, outreach, employment programs and housing subsidies for the homeless.
To understand the scope of the homeless crisis in Alameda County, read the latest Point in Time Homeless Count conducted in 2017.
Central to the Mayor's plan for combating homelessness is The Pathways Project, which includes both short and long term measures to help shelter our growing homeless population, and restore Berkeley’s streets, parks and neighborhoods to their intended use.
In June 2018, the city opened its first navigation center in West Berkeley, which will allow the homeless to bring their partners, pets, and personal belongings with them. The center is much more than a shelter. Here, the unsheltered get a caseworker who can help them address substance abuse, mental health issues, assist with job searches and eventually connect the homeless to permanent housing or reunify them with their families. As of January 2019, the STAIR Center has helped place 45 people into permanent housing, largely through the use of subsidies while they work to receive Social Security or another type of ongoing assistance.
1,000 Person Plan
Over the past year, the mayor's office has been working on the 1,000 Person Plan, a reference to the number of people who are currently unsheltered in our community. The goal is to work with our regional partners to build 8,500 deeply affordable units throughout Alameda County by 2023. In between now and then, we plan to leverage Measure A1 (paid for by all county residents) and state funds to build more tiny home villages, micro units and other transitional housing until permanent affordable housing is built.
The goal of the 1,000 Person Plan is to create enough shelter and housing that is affordable to address the needs of our unsheltered population and prevent new people in our community from becoming homeless. We know that no city alone can “solve” homelessness. But working together with other Alameda County cities, we can significantly lower the homeless population and make sure that fewer people have to sleep on the streets.
IF YOU OR SOMEONE YOU KNOW IS IN NEED OF EMERGENCY ASSISTANCE, PLEASE PHONE 211. YOU CAN ALSO DOWNLOAD OUR HOMELESS RESOURCE GUIDE FOR A LISTING OF FOOD PANTRIES, SHELTERS AND OTHER RESOURCES IN BERKELEY
The Homeless Outreach and Treatment Team
In June 2017, the city launched the Homeless Outreach and Treatment Team to target the two-pronged problem of mental health and homelessness.
This program, staffed by trained outreach workers, will contact homeless people with serious mental health issues and help them access crucial services with the hope of transitioning to permanent housing.
Clients will be selected based on a number of factors such as living with mental illness, suffering from addiction, frequent use of emergency rooms and problematic street behavior. The team will work together with The HUB, the city’s coordinated point of entry for housing and homeless services.
Moving forward, our aim is to double the number of people who will receive permanent affordable housing and prevent more people from becoming homeless by increasing funding for anti-displacement and eviction defense. This will be done through State of California HEAP and Measure P funds. We are also looking to expand “on the street” medical care to those living in encampments through a contract with Lifelong Medical, a nonprofit medical provider.
The Berkeley Way Project
In June 2017, Council unanimously approved prioritizing the Berkeley Way project led by BRIDGE Housing and Berkeley Food and Housing Project in downtown Berkeley. Thanks to the passage of Measures O & P, this project is expected to break ground late 2019 and be completed by 2022. The development will consist of 142 permanent affordable housing units, along with emergency shelter and transitional housing for homeless veterans. Berkeley Way marks the largest investment into housing the homeless and the working poor the city has ever made.
Working in partnership with other cities in the region…
we are looking for a suitable location for an RV park that has bathrooms, shower and laundry facilities. We also plan to increase the number of Port-a-Potties and hand washing stations around encampments and have regularly scheduled garbage collection at encampments and other areas where dumping occurs.
Homelessness is a statewide problem, but working together with other cities and the state government, we can bring in people from the elements and help them find housing that is dignified and safe.