Alameda County funds short-term housing for portion of Berkeley homeless population

Gisselle Reyes/File

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During its regular meeting Tuesday, Berkeley City Council adopted a resolution authorizing the city to enter into a memorandum of understanding, or MOU, with Alameda County that outlines a Winter Relief Program for some of the local unhoused population.

The MOU provides a framework for how Berkeley will use the $75,000 allocated by the county to provide short-term housing for the city’s homeless population, giving them respite from the streets during the coldest, wettest months of the year. Funding is set to be administered by Berkeley’s Homeless Outreach and Treatment Team, or HOTT, and will prioritize temporary lodging for the most vulnerable, high-need applicants.

“These vouchers are used for people who are highly vulnerable, typically those with a mental or physical disability,” said city spokesperson Matthai Chakko in an email. “They’ll be evaluated by the City’s homeless outreach team. We also get referrals from other agencies.”

Chakko added that HOTT uses county-granted funds to pay for food and motel vouchers that recipients can exchange at local establishments for a room. HOTT support service staff will also assess applicant needs to help develop a more long-term housing plan, according to the City Council summary.

Winter Relief Program funding from the county is an annual effort aimed at providing homeless individuals with a place to stay indoors during the winter season. It also addresses the needs of unsheltered individuals that Berkeley, Emeryville and Albany shelters are too full to lodge, according to the summary.

“People typically are in the hotel for a maximum of 21 days,” said Chakko in the email. “Some cases may require more days, but it’s never more than 29 days.”

Last year, the program was able to provide lodging for 11 people, more than half of whom were disabled, resulting in 187 nights of “safety and serenity,” according to the summary.

While county funds are used to pay for the vouchers, Berkeley also undergoes a considerable expense in paying city staff to pick up recipients, purchase their groceries and drive them to their motels and appointments, according to Chakko.

This year, funding is over three times the amount in 2018 and is slated to keep the program actively lodging recipients through May 31, 2020.

Contact Jacob Souza at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @jsouza_dailycal.