Homelessness is a humanitarian crisis that will not improve without innovative approaches.
As California housing prices continue to rise while wages stagnate, the number of people living on our streets has grown. Over the past 8 years, Berkeley has seen an increase of 43 percent in its homeless population, and currently has the highest per capita rate of homelessness in Alameda County. Alarmingly, more than a third of people who become homeless for the first time remain unhoused for one year or more, illustrating how difficult it is in our current economic climate to find a way out.
Homelessness is a complex social problem impacting everyone in our community. While it cannot be solved overnight, we can get more people off the streets and into housing.
Pathways is an ambitious plan that gives the homeless immediate respite from the elements while connecting them to supportive services and permanent housing.
Based on national best practices, it includes a low-barrier 24/7 shelter, transitional housing for longer stays, rapid rehousing for the newly homeless, and a Homeward Bound program that reunites people with their families.
The objective of Pathways is straightforward: develop innovative ways to provide short-term shelter and ultimately permanent housing for our growing homeless population. This will relieve the pressure on city streets, parks, business districts and neighborhoods that are disproportionally impacted by the concentration of homeless, and provide a real chance for the homeless to move their lives forward.
Phase I: The STAIR Center
To start, the City of Berkeley is investing $1.9 Million of General Fund revenues to launch a low-barrier shelter open 24 hours a day and with services such as mental health, substance addiction and job training on site. An outreach team will visit encampments throughout Berkeley to connect the homeless to the facility, which will allow people to bring pets and live with partners and/or groups. Meals, storage and services will also be provided on-site. Case managers will work with STAIR residents to qualify for housing, and align rapid rehousing resources to secure housing. The facility is scheduled to open in February 2018.
The Mayor and City Council have committed to raising $250,000 in private contributions to provide the resources needed for rehousing people following their stay at the STAIR center. Regionally, rapid re-housing efforts have been proven successful in providing housing to 60 percent of the targeted population within five months.
Phase II: Bridge Living Community
For those who are not prepared to be permanently housed after their five-month stay in the STAIR facility, Bridge Living Community will provide 25 tiny homes on the same plot of land as Pathways. Bridge Living will also be available for people who are transitioning into permanent housing.
Once the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development approves a $996,375 grant, as expected, and $325,000 in matching funds is secured, Phase II of the project will be ready to open, estimated for the second half of 2018. The Berkeley City Council is currently approaching community partners who would be willing to provide the local funding match so that this important complementary housing option can also be made available to our unhoused citizens.
While the City of Berkeley has made its largest investment yet to address our homeless crisis, there is much more to do.
A tax-deductible fund managed by the City’s administration has been established to receive philanthropic donations specifically designated for PATHWAYS. This is the quickest, least expensive, and most effective way to begin housing more of Berkeley’s homeless population.