Berkeley’s first 24-hour sheltered space for the unhoused community is opening July 1 in West Berkeley, operated by Dorothy Day House in partnership with Rebuilding Together East Bay-North and the city of Berkeley.
The space, called Horizon Transitional Village, or HTV, will offer shower and laundry services, food, clothes, lockers and additional storage, according to Dorothy Day House, or DDH, executive director Robbi Montoya. There will also be a job readiness program, computer lab training, individual support for permanent housing access and community activities such as mural painting, barbecues and movies, Montoya added.
Montoya noted that DDH is currently working on referrals for the unhoused in encampments to come to the warehouse space on Grayson Street.
The main space will fit people in 40 to 50 individual tents, Where Do We Go? Berkeley secretary Yesica Prado said. According to Prado, who toured the facility several weeks ago, each individual will receive a 10-by-10 square-foot cubicle for their three-person sized tent, a chair and a drawer.
However, Prado said she wishes the tents were substituted with beds.
“For the amount of money that’s being spent, it’s still not really enough,” Prado said. “We really can’t call that a shelter if people are sleeping in tents.”
Prado said she is also concerned about everyone getting along in the communal space. She noted that the “echo room,” named for its echoing acoustics, is meant as a prehousing transitional space and will also separate people in personal conflicts with others.
Anthony Carrasco, who serves on the city’s Homeless Services Panel of Experts, said he toured HTV last week. He was impressed with DDH’s positive and realistic message, and he is optimistic to see humane comprehensive service but wishes the facility accommodated unhoused parents with children, he added.
Andrea Henson, Where Do We Go? Berkeley founder and an attorney-at-law who represents the unhoused, said the design of HTV is thoughtful and maintains privacy and autonomy. She added that pending and possible evictions of encampments increase the need for more facilities such as HTV.
“You take someone out of an environment that is dangerous and full of chaos, and it takes some time to decompress from that,” Henson said. “I hope that’s what Grayson will give people … the opportunity to be connected with organizations that focus on housing access points.”
Dorothy Day House is also working on creating a program to allow parking for 30 to 40 RVs, Montoya said. The contract for HTV’s current location will end Sept. 2022.
Montoya added that HTV meets people’s needs depending on where they are at in their journeys toward housing stability.
“We’ve put a lot of effort and thought into taking bits and pieces from different things that I’ve seen throughout my 40 years of working in social services, ” Montoya said. “We’re putting them all together under one roof.”