The Homeless Action Center, or HAC, celebrated the opening of its “Almost Home” safe haven house at an event Thursday.
The transitional project, which may be operational as early as late October, will house seven people for up to four months, assisting them as they find permanent housing, according to HAC Development Director Jonathon Marley. HAC has primarily focused on providing benefits and legal advocacy to unhoused and disabled people since it was founded in 1990, Marley noted.
“There’s a lot of folks out there who are homeless, and a lot of them are also disabled,” Marley said. “We have outreach teams to go out into the community, to encampments, out on the streets … and they check in with folks to see if they have public benefits.”
According to Marley, the average person HAC intakes makes only $260 a month, which is significantly below the poverty line. HAC then helps them file an application for general assistance welfare to raise their income to $336 a month, Marley noted.
HAC also helps people apply for food stamps, Medi-Cal and supplemental security income, or SSI, if they have a disability. “Almost Home” fits into HAC’s goals of helping people find permanent housing, Marley added.
“This is a collaboration that we have with a local land trust, who owns the house, and we signed a 15 year agreement with the land trust to manage the house,” Marley said. “We’re still in the process of renovating, and within the next couple of months, we will receive eligible residents from Alameda County.”
Alameda County Social Services Agency is one of the organizations that helps decide who is eligible for the safe haven housing through operating a Coordinated Entry System assessment.
Spots in the house will be prioritized for those who are clients of HAC or Bay Area Legal Aid, in the final stages of their SSI case.
“It makes sense to have people in stable housing during those last couple of months, because there are a lot of court appearances and documents that need to be signed,” Marley said. “We want to be able to easily locate them … and have a successful ending to their SSI case so that we can then get them into permanent housing.”
“Almost Home” will house people alongside the house manager, Brad Merrill, whose roles include giving clients rides to appointments, resolving conflicts and overseeing resident behavior.
Though seven spaces is small compared to the hundreds of unhoused people in Berkeley, Marley said that “Almost Home” is still an important piece to fit in with organizations that operate shelters. However, they still want to see more action from the state.
“We’ve seen a lot of development, but a lot of that is for middle or upper middle income people — very little of it is being set aside for low income people,” Marley said. “We need more housing built, and we need more supportive services.”