City Council will hold special meeting to discuss allocation of funds to community agencies

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Berkeley City Council and Mayor Tom Bates will discuss divvying up of a pot of money among a number of agencies primarily serving the homeless and youth in a special meeting Tuesday evening.

The special meeting, held before the City Council’s regular meeting, will discuss funds from the city’s General Fund and annual federal grants to community agencies for the next two fiscal years.

Sixty-one agencies applied for more than $10.7 million in funding, according to the meeting agenda.

More funding may be shifted toward the Berkeley Food and Housing Project, or BFHP — one of the agencies that serves the homeless — said Stefan Elgstrand, legislative assistant of Councilmember Jesse Arreguin. In the meeting agenda, city manager Christine Daniel and the Homeless Commission recommended $1,406,698 in funding for BFHP, an increase from $870,645 in the previous cycle.

Elgstrand said the BFHP is important because it operates the Housing Crisis Resolution Center, which serves as a “single point of entry” for all the services for the homeless.

According to Elgstrand, the effort toward a centralized location of services is a “work in progress” that began after the 2012 inauguration of a requirement from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Elgstrand said that the requirement mandated cities to coordinate their services for the homeless.

Services are currently scattered around the city, Elgstrand said, and this has long been a concern within the homeless community in Berkeley. This can be “confusing and difficult” for many and means that not everyone can take advantage of the services.

“By centralizing it, services will be equal to everyone,” Elgstrand said.

Sam Pullock, a homeless individual in Berkeley, agrees that the centralization of the services is a good idea. Pullock added that he’s been to different cities in Alameda County and that, compared with the other cities, Berkeley’s homeless services are decent.

Reverend Robert Kirby, another homeless man, also agreed with the centralization of services. He criticized, however, the lack of quality and the low quantity of homeless services in Berkeley and the entire country in general.

The federal grants, all issued by the department of housing, include the Community Development Block Grant, the Emergency Solutions Grant, the Community Services Block Grant and the HOME Investment Partnership Programs.

During the meeting, four city commissions — the Children, Youth and Recreation Commission; the Homeless Commission; the Housing Advisory Commission; and the Human Welfare and Community Action Commission — city staff and the public, among others, will make comments and recommendations to the council members and Bates.

No decisions will be made during this meeting, but the meeting will start a discussion process that will continue in the forthcoming weeks, according to Elgstrand.

Elgstrand added that the final budget won’t be approved until June 30.

Contact Natchapol Praditpetchara at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @natchapolp.