Several Berkeley nonprofit homeless services partially defunded by 2017 city budget

Audrey McNamara/Senior Staff

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The finalized 2017 city budget allocated by Berkeley City Council on Tuesday partially defunded several nonprofits in the city, leaving many organizations feeling shortchanged.

The budget restructure was influenced by the city’s implementation of a coordinated intake program — an agency that consolidates a variety of different homeless services and housing options.

According to Councilmember Jesse Arreguin, the city came to the decision to implement the program several years ago so homeless clients would have to go through only one agency to access an assortment of services. As a result, the city has prioritized funding for the new hub, shifting funding away from nonprofits such as the Berkeley Drop-In Center and Youth Spirit Artworks, or YSA.

“The hub, of course, has to be funded so we can centralize the services to help more people,” said Councilmember Linda Maio at the Tuesday meeting. “And if there are revisions, fine, but this budget sounds very balanced to me. And we can’t do everything, but it sounds like a darn good process to go forward with.”

Arreguin, however, expressed concern that the change to the budget was “unnecessary” and stated that the city has enough funding to spend on long-established homeless services.

He added that decreasing services for the homeless does not represent a solution toward alleviating homelessness and, as a city, Berkeley should be “lifting people up rather than tearing services down.”

According to YSA program coordinator Marnie Hatch, the organization is currently looking to other sources for funding and is increasing its art sales in an attempt to engage the community and become more visible. Hatch added, however, that YSA is still talking to City Council about funding.

“We had about nine youths there who spoke at that City Council meeting,” Hatch said. “It was when we all found out about these cuts. It was really hard. It was very difficult for them. They had prepared so much for that meeting.”

YSA executive director Sally Hindman said members of the organization are still in shock over the council’s decision to cut its funding by $40,000. Hindman added that YSA is currently having its strongest year in terms of performance and she does not believe the council’s decision was made based on an organization’s accomplishments.

Hindman also criticized the city’s coordinated intake program, alleging that the program has only found affordable housing for nine people in six months.

“We still cannot imagine that in an environment with so much wealth — where our city is teeming with dollars from all the development — that a few thousand dollars to serve homeless youth could not be eked out of the coffers of our community,” Hindman said.

Contact Harini Shyamsundar at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @hshyamsundar.