STAIR Navigation Center takes in 45 homeless people, finds permanent housing for 5

Leonie Leonida /Staff

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Within two weeks of opening, the Pathways STAIR Navigation Center, Berkeley’s newest homeless shelter, has been completely filled and has found permanent housing for five people.

The center has been effective in providing not only shelter but also necessary treatment options for those in the homeless community who may struggle with mental or physical health issues.

“The STAIR Center, located in West Berkeley, offers not only a place to stay, a daily meal and showers, but access to case management, addiction treatment, employment programs and assistance with securing permanent housing,” said Mayor Jesse Arreguín in a press release.

Pathways has been able to allow homeless people not to only to stay for elongated periods of time — usually about six months — but also to bring their belongings and loved ones along. This creates an environment where they can recover from the struggles they faced on the street using the services provided at the center along with a feeling “of safety and stability,” according to Berkeley City Councilmember Sophie Hahn.

“It’s very important to us that the navigation center be a very welcoming and soothing place where people can begin to recover from the very harsh life on the streets,” Hahn said.

Hahn said she believes that the center will be able to support more than 45 people per year, even though that is the full capacity of the center. According to Hahn, not everyone may stay the full six months — throughout the year, the shelter could take in more people off the streets and provide them with permanent housing. She believes that it could serve up to 100 homeless people in a year.

Elaine de Coligny, executive director of EveryOne Home, said she believes that making permanent housing a priority through this program will benefit the homeless community tremendously.

There are, however, those who believe Pathways does not properly solve the issue of homelessness in Berkeley. Homeless advocate Guy “Mike” Lee referred to the project as a “con game.”

Lee addressed the fact that all the services provided by Pathways have already been provided by other projects funded by the city of Berkeley, other than the service of doing laundry for the homeless. According to Lee, this program seems to have become a large duplicate of the other projects.

Lee added that Pathways has spent $2.3 million on this program, or approximately $54,000 per client per year. Lee stated that the city is spending about $4,000 per month on each of the 45 clients, who represent only about 5 percent of the 989 homeless Berkeley residents, when all these services already exist.

According to Lee, what upsets him most is that this program does not allow homeless UC Berkeley students to qualify.

“Homeless Cal students do not qualify for that … because of age, time on the streets (or) ability to pay rent,” Lee said. “They don’t care about Cal students. That’s what really makes me angry because this program is not applicable to everybody.”

Contact Anisa Kundu at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @anisa_kundu.