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Forty-two people living in People’s Park will receive temporary housing this spring at a hotel through a partnership between the University of California at Berkeley, the city of Berkeley and some nonprofits, the groups announced recently.
The temporary housing at the Rodeway Inn will be available for 18 months and every effort will be made to get each person into permanent housing before the 18 months is up, Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguin said.
Built into the budget for the plan are moving expenses, among other things that could be a financial barrier to permanent housing, said Peter Radu, assistant to the Berkeley city manager.
“This is our responsibility, too,” said Carol Christ, chancellor of UC Berkeley, which owns People’s Park and plans to build student housing there. “To address the tragedy of homelessness.”
The plan for student housing at the park has faced some opposition, but the university is moving ahead anyway. The plan includes developing about 40 percent of land at the park, leaving 60 percent as open space. Remembering the park’s history is also part of the university’s plans.
UC Berkeley is in a court battle over housing its students. Save Berkeley’s Neighborhoods, a group of residents, filed suit over the problems the city is facing because the university allegedly lacks enough housing for students. The suit is before the California Court of Appeal.
Currently, 55 people are unhoused at People’s Park, said Ari Neulight, UC Berkeley’s outreach coordinator for the park.
While that’s more than the 42 available at the Rodeway Inn, some of the 55 are close to having housing already and other pathways to housing will be available to park residents.
A place to drop in
Concurrent with housing People’s Park residents at the Rodeway Inn is a plan to open a daytime drop-in center at the First Presbyterian Church of Berkeley. The Sacred Rest Daytime Drop-In Center will be open Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The center will offer unhoused people in the Telegraph Avenue area meals, mental health counseling, navigation to housing, and among other services, shelter referrals. It is anticipated to open by this summer.
“We are ready,” said Joey Harrison, executive director and founder of The Village of Love, which will be providing the services at the drop-in center. “My team is ready to go.”
Berkeley leaders called the partnership announced March 9 a historic one.
“Nothing like this has happened before,” said Berkeley City Councilman Rigel Robinson of the partnership between the community and the university to help the homeless.
The project is being made financially possible in part through a $4.7 million grant from California’s Encampment Resolution Funding Program, which funds projects to help people in homeless encampments. The university is pitching in $2.2 million.
The $4.7 million will cover the city’s responsibility for the lease at the hotel for 12 months and for services provided by Abode Services. The $2.2 million will cover the project’s expenses for the remaining 18 months of the lease.
Abode Services will be providing daily meals, access to health care, transportation support and workers to help the residents find permanent housing.
Each person who moves in at the Rodeway Inn will get a remodeled private room, kitchenette and bathroom, clean linens and toiletries, access to laundry facilities and housekeeping services.
The housing the university is building at People’s Park will include 1,100 spots for students as well as 100 units of permanent supportive housing for low-income and formerly homeless residents.