Double Helping Hands program provides meals for Berkeley homeless community

John Caner/Courtesy

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The Dorothy Day House Berkeley Community Resource Center and the Downtown Berkeley Association, or DBA, partnered with local restaurants to create the Double Helping Hands, or DHH, program to provide to-go meals to Berkeley’s homeless community.

According to DBA CEO John Caner, the idea for the program came after he saw a story about the city of Cambridge, Massachusetts providing funding for restaurants to give meals to homeless individuals. There are currently four restaurants partnered with DHH — JazzCaffè and ACT Catering, Revival Bar and Kitchen, La Note and Cornerstone Berkeley — providing 80 gourmet meals daily at the discounted cost of $10 per meal.

“We’re all in this together,” Caner said. “The nice thing about the Double Helping Hands is that we were able to get it started within a week, quickly, in a really streamline and hyperlocal basis, but then it’s something that could be replicated or expanded to other communities.”

According to Caner, a total of $11,000 for the program has been raised from donations and DBA funds to kick-start the program and cover a total of 12 days of lunches. The program is fundraising to continue serving the community beyond the next two weeks and until the end of the shelter-in-place order.

DHH has already been contacted by 10 other restaurants that want to participate in the program, which will be possible with additional funding, Caner said.

“There’s definitely been such an outreach from the community and city government and local government to just try to help prop us up right now,” said Dorothée Mitrani, owner of La Note. “It feels hopeful that we’re not going to be left to the wayside here.” 

The program opened to the community Tuesday with meals served by JazzCaffè and ACT Catering. Revival Bar and Kitchen provided Wednesday’s lunch, with La Note set to provide meals Thursday and Cornerstone Berkeley supplying Friday’s meals.

Kristine Seinsch, owner of JazzCaffè and ACT Catering, said it was hard dealing with the reality of having to lay off 25 people and that she wanted to work with DHH to help those in need. Seinsch added that she is working with other organizations to deliver food to hospitals and is also delivering food to the UC Berkeley COVID-19 lab.

“These are the people who are on the street, these are the people who used to be in our facilities for a day program, and because of the virus, no one can come in,” said Dorothy Day House Executive Director David Stegman. “The idea was just to do two things: help the homeless community and help support restaurants that are really hurting now because of the whole situation.”

Contact Mela Seyoum at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @melaseyoum.