Berkeley City Council restores funds for community’s homeless, children, youth services

Julie Zhang/Staff

The City Council restored funds to a number of South Berkeley nonprofits and homeless services Tuesday after proposed cuts drew criticism from many members of the public at this council meeting and the one prior.

The council approved certain parts of the city budget for the next two years, including approximately $3 million for homeless services and $1.5 million for children and youth programs. The budget dominated the discussion, and a number of other items were delayed to future meetings.

Berkeley’s drop-in services received $82,642 that were originally planned to be cut. The funding will now go to three agencies — the Berkeley Drop-In Center, Building Opportunities for Self-Sufficiency, and the Women’s Daytime Drop-In Center — to continue their current services. The city will also open the Housing Crisis Resolution Center, a new integrated service to improve efficiency in housing the homeless.

“It’s time to recognize the value of these organizations that serve people in our community,” said Councilmember Max Anderson. Both Anderson and Councilmember Kriss Worthington said the recent economic recovery will allow the city to give more to these services and agencies.

Youth Spirit Artworks — a nonprofit arts and job training program for homeless and low-income youth — remained at its current funding level of $83,777, with $33,777 approved and $50,000 referred to the next meeting. $50,000 also went to Healthy Black Families, which works on early childhood care and education.

The council will further discuss the budget at its next meeting and is expected to adopt the Biennial Budget for fiscal years 2016 and 2017 on June 30.

At the second public hearing for the proposed budget May 26, community members, many from South Berkeley, protested against the large cuts in nonprofits based in the area. The Berkeley Drop-In Center’s funding was cut and Youth Spirit Artworks received no funding in the city’s preliminary proposal.

The council decided Tuesday to re-allocate $82,642 from the Housing Crisis Resolution Center to the existing drop-in services. Mayor Tom Bates said he would try to find additional funds to fill the hole in the Housing Crisis Resolution Center’s budget.

“The council prioritized funding for existing programs before we fund new programs,” said Councilmember Jesse Arreguin. He said he was happy that Bates could fill in the cuts for existing programs, and said Berkeley’s drop-in centers are an “incredible resource” for homeless in the community to get basic emergency services.

Councilmember Lori Droste was concerned that new programs such as BANANAS’ Child Care Support Services and the Community Alliance for Learning would not receive sufficient funding.

“It is a sad reality,” Droste said. “We are taking money away from some agencies, and let that not be ignored.”

Youth Spirit Artworks could expand its programs in visual arts, cooking, resume building and job training, said Carena Ridgeway, a student at the organization and a senior at Berkeley High School.

“We are extremely excited that we have the opportunity to show Berkeley what we can do,” Ridgeway said.

The council is expected to continue the public hearing on short-term rentals — which was cut short partway through public comment — at the next meeting, and postpone until a future meeting an item to support alternatives to court-mandated mental health services.

Contact Yuka Koshino at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @YukaKoshino.