Berkeley City Council votes to reallocate funds to 4 homeless shelter programs

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In response to a shortage in bed space, Berkeley City Council passed three resolutions Tuesday, reallocating $103,500 from a closed shelter that used to serve the city’s homeless to four other local shelters.

The closure of the Oakland Army Base Temporary Winter Shelter in spring caused Berkeley to lose 50 beds, according to Councilmember Kriss Worthington. In the long run, the city of Oakland and the Port of Oakland are working with their development partners California Capital & Investment Group and Prologis will transform part of the base into a trade and logistics center, according to a press release.

The four local shelter programs will use the money to increase capacity during the winter. The Berkeley Food and Housing Project, a local nonprofit organization, will add 12 cots to its men’s shelter and seven cots to its women’s shelter and will allocate its estimated $65,305 portion to pay for extra staffing and other shelter costs, said Director Terrie Light.

Additionally, Building Opportunities for Self-Sufficiency, a nonprofit that provides homeless shelters and services, will increase its capacity by 10 beds and will use the estimated $24,300 in additional funding to cover the associated costs, according to Robert Barrer, the nonprofit’s director of housing programs.

Representatives from each of the four shelters said they are sometimes forced to turn people away when the shelters have no vacancy.

J.C. Orton, shelter coordinator for Berkeley Emergency Storm Shelter at Dorothy Day House, said that on average, the shelter served 44 people per night last year and was at or exceeding its capacity of 50 people more than half of the time.

He added that the emergency shelter, which operates only on rainy and very cold nights, will use the estimated $13,895 it will receive in city funding to increase its capacity to 65 and to increase its nights of operation from 40 nights to 45 nights between early December and mid-April.

Despite the increase in funding for local shelters, Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates said, these efforts are not enough to address the growing need. Bates added that recruiting extra supervision, finding a new location and obtaining insurance can pose challenges for creating a new shelter.

To enact a long-term solution, the City Council voted unanimously in mid-September to build Berkeley’s largest affordable housing project to date, which will incorporate an emergency shelter, at the site of the Berkeley Way parking lot.

“It would be a dramatic benefit,” Worthington said. “It will be easier for the homeless people to get what they need and easier for the service provider to work more closely (with the homeless) if they are in one location.”

Contact Michelaina Johnson at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @MichelainaJohns.

A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that the East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy will transform part of the Oakland Army Base into a warehouse and distribution center. In fact, the city of Oakland and the Port of Oakland are working with their development partners California Capital & Investment Group and Prologis to transform the base into a trade and logistics center.