Berkeley City Council to determine future of temporary homeless shelter

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Rachael Garner/File

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Berkeley City Council will consider two competing proposals for the future of the Berkeley Emergency Storm Shelter at the council’s regular meeting Tuesday night to determine whether additional storage units will be added to the temporary winter shelter.

The shelter, which is housed within the Premier Cru buildings on University Avenue, was first approved for a three-month period by City Council in January. Now, the council will vote to determine how the property will be used after funding expires April 15.

“At this point, the item on our agenda is just related to adding storage lockers, and that’s the recommendation from the Homeless Commission,” said Councilmember Kriss Worthington. “There’s another agenda item in the coming weeks as to how the space will be used in the future.”

The first proposal recommends that additional storage lockers be added to the facility for the use of homeless individuals. The second proposal directly opposes the first proposal and states that there is not sufficient funding to provide storage.

“At the end of the three-month period coming up in April, it’s possible that there will be no homeless services at all,” Worthington said of the Premier Cru facility.

Longtime Berkeley resident and homeless advocate Guy “Mike” Lee said homeless community members want a year-round shelter, but he does not anticipate such a plan will materialize in the near future.

“I don’t think this is the year that we’re going to get a year-round shelter,” Lee said. “I don’t see the council doing it. They might (extend) it another three months.”

The shelter currently operates at nighttime, from 6:45 p.m. to 7 a.m., providing meals and overnight housing. In addition to these current services, Worthington said he hopes to secure additional funding for the shelter by renting the building out to local nonprofit organizations during the daytime — a situation he would consider a “win-win” for both City Council and the homeless community.

According to Lee, however, the city could potentially increase permanent housing options with the same funds allocated towards temporary shelters like the Berkeley Emergency Storm Shelter.

“(City Council) could solve homelessness within a year, but instead they build shelters,” Lee added.

When the shelter — which is especially popular among the elderly and disabled — closes, current occupants would return to living in tents and on the streets, putting them at an especially high risk for injury and illness.

“We have the money to solve homelessness; we just don’t have the political will,” Lee said.

Contact Miyako Iwata at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @dailycalmiyako.

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