The Pathways navigation center, a homeless shelter run by the city of Berkeley, will open its doors to 50 homeless people June 23.
Located on Second and Cedar streets, the center, which is the first phase of the Pathways Project, will provide 50 beds for Berkeley’s homeless population in shared trailer housing, as well as supportive services such as counseling, transitional housing and job assistance, according to Karina Ioffe, spokesperson for Mayor Jesse Arreguín.
Ioffe said there are about 1,000 homeless people in Berkeley, with only 300 having shelter on any given night. Instead of offering short-term assistance to the homeless — temporary food and beds — Ioffe said the best way to address such a situation is to offer “wraparound services to get them back on their feet.”
“Fifty (people) in the beginning. (The) goal is that (those) 50 will stay there for some time,” Ioffe said. “They will hopefully be placed, not all in Berkeley, but in the region, in some other sort of affordable housing. … The goal is to expand to 75 to 100 (people).”
Ioffe added that other shelters are usually seasonal and are closed in the warmer months; others, such as the Berkeley Food and Housing Project Men’s Overnight Shelter, close during the day. In contrast, residents at Pathway can stay for up to six months with their personal belongings, pets and even their partners.
Members of the community, including seniors and students, helped deliver final touches to the center over the weekend.
“It was great to see people from different walks of life come out and help on this project,” Ioffe said. “It’s what being a community is really about — lending a hand to create the center, to get the center opened. It was really inspiring.”
Volunteers painted all the trailers’ side walls and helped landscape by placing AstroTurf down, as well as planting bamboo trees and an edible garden for people living at Pathways to garden and grow their own vegetables.
Some are skeptical of the program’s effectiveness, however, and of how to evaluate its efficacy. Barbara Brust, founder and director of the nonprofit organization Consider the Homeless!, said she believed the Pathways center would not succeed. She highlighted how the Pathways Project relocates homeless individuals to other cities and how the Pathways center will open just seven days before the Berkeley Emergency Storm Shelter, or BESS, closes June 30.
While the Pathways center will ensure housing for 50 people for up to six months, BESS has housed 90 people every night since December 2017. Previously, The Daily Californian reported that the Pathways Project cost more than $1.8 million — the city council voted March 27 to allocate about $2.4 million from the general fund to the project.
“I don’t think (Pathways is) gonna work,” Brust said. “It’s a piece of the puzzle that we have spent an exorbitant amount of money on.”