The Berkeley Emergency Storm Shelter, a new homeless shelter, opened its doors Dec. 23 at 1925 Ninth St. and will remain open nightly until April 15.
The shelter is hosted by Dorothy Day House, a community service organization. David Stegman, executive director of the organization, said the city of Berkeley recently purchased the site that the shelter currently occupies, taking the place of Premier Cru Fine Wines.
The shelter, which is funded entirely by the city, is a room of roughly 10,000 square feet with 75 cushioned mats for guests to sleep on. It opens to the homeless community at 6:45 p.m. and closes for the day at 7 a.m. every morning. The shelter also provides dinner and breakfast for its guests.
Additional amenities at the shelter include Wi-Fi, electrical outlets, indoor portable restrooms and check-in storage bins where guests can leave their possessions overnight, according to Stegman.
“These are all nice amenities you wouldn’t get in a normal emergency homeless shelter,” Stegman said. “(The shelter) has caught the sight of a lot of people in the Bay Area as a model for a shelter that offers multiple resources.”
The shelter has housed 236 individuals so far, according to Stegman. He added that because of Berkeley’s large homeless population, the shelter turns away eight to 10 people per night.
The shelter is open continuously through April 15, which means that there are no weather stipulations for opening, Stegman said.
Homeless advocate Guy “Mike” Lee said the new shelter is “a big improvement” from last year. Lee said he is disappointed, however, with the lack of an “exit strategy” and of representation of homeless individuals in decision-making.
“There’s no effort by council to get (the homeless population) on the housing pipeline,” Lee said. “If you’re going to put people in emergency shelters, then you have to have an exit strategy.”
The employees who work at the shelter are homeless or have been homeless within the past year, according to Stegman. Additionally, the shelter is a “wet shelter,” which means guests will be permitted entrance regardless of whether they are intoxicated or under the influence, Stegman said.
According to Stegman, the shelter has invited several agencies, such as an agency that teaches individuals how to apply for transitional housing, to come to the shelter on a rotating basis between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m. He added that this puts services in a centralized location so homeless individuals do not have to search for services on their own.
“Our job is to deal with helping those that we can get off the streets and make them feel safe and secure and warm,” Stegman said. “And treat them like the real people that they are.”