Opening of a day center in Southside Berkeley

The First Presbyterian Church Day Center has a small green space, portable toilets, a breakfast area, benches and areas to charge devices. 1 credit

A day care center opened Monday at First Presbyterian Church in Berkeley, providing meals, a respite area, device charging, restrooms, lockers and outdoor space for local residents experiencing homelessness. .

Village of Love manages the site, which was previously an empty dirt pavilion wedged between buildings on church property on Haste Street. UC Berkeley and the city announced in March that they would fund the site as part of ongoing efforts to divert homeless residents from People‘s Park and provide alternative services, including accommodations at the Rodeway Inn, where many now live. many former occupants of the park.

What: day center

Where: First Presbyterian Church of Berkeley, entrance between 2423 and 2433 Haste Avenue

Hours: 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Monday to Friday

Services: Breakfast, portable toilets, charging areas for devices, accommodation navigator on site, day lockers

  • Mobile showers will be available next week

Joey Harrington, founder and executive director of Village of Love, said his main goal was to create an uplifting space for people to relax and be connected to services. He grew up in Berkeley and Oakland and was homeless for about eight years before finding a support system to get back on his feet, Harrington said at the reception center on Wednesday.

“I felt like a number, a client, which left me disconnected,” Harrington said of her experiences at traditional shelters.

Most of the time, his focus on immediate needs like food or a bathroom left him overwhelmed when he tackled bigger issues like getting benefits and housing or even getting chores done. simple like going to the DMV and getting a license.

“I had lost a lot of skills that I took for granted, and I had to relearn those things,” Harrington said. “I want it to be like Grandma’s house, so you have the love and support that makes you feel comfortable enough to say, ‘I forgot how to do this.

Laron Sanders, Site Manager at the Visitor Center, and Joey Harrington, Founder and Executive Director of Village of Love. 1 credit

Cal and the city have invested $500,000 and $250,000, respectively, to fund meals, mental health counseling, document assistance, housing navigation and other services at the welcome center for the next two years. The university agreed to fund the center as part of an $83 million settlement with the city stemming from lawsuits over increased enrollment at the university.

The transition to Rodeway Inn for People’s Park occupants began in May, and the park has undergone a major transformation over the past two weeks as dozens of tents have been cleared to make way for piles of tanbark and logs pending development by UC of a 1,100-bed student accommodation complex.

On Wednesday, Cal closed public restrooms in the park and closed the welded doors. Signs posted direct people to use the new visitor center, where a portable bathroom is available, and that overnight camping is not permitted in the park.

“We are committed to only proceed with construction of People’s Park after we have a plan in place that provides access to shelter and services for all people sleeping in the park,” the spokesperson said. Cal, Kyle Gibson, in a statement, thanking the city for its support.

“Our social worker and members of the city’s Homeless Response Team have provided multiple offers of housing and shelter options to everyone sleeping in the park, and almost all offers have been accepted,” Gibson said. “And now a new day center has opened at First Presbyterian Church, long before the park closed.”

Cal has yet to announce a date for the start of construction on the park, and activism is underway — both in court and on the ground — to prevent further development of the historic site.

Peter Radu, an assistant city manager who leads Berkeley’s efforts to end homelessness, added that the Southside neighborhood is relatively underserved with resources and he’s pleased the drop-in center is providing support in the neighborhood.

Homeless activists have long argued that the stretch of Telegraph Avenue near People’s Park has few bathrooms to serve the large population of students, visitors and others.

During the first week at the visitor center, Harrington said about 20 people visited the site daily. Village of Love is working on outreach efforts to get the word out to more people, including working with the Telegraph Avenue Business Improvement District.

On Tuesday, the Visitor Center hosted a barbecue lunch hosted by Everett and Jones, and there are plans to host movie nights and mobile showers next week.

As demand increases, Harrington said programming will change to better serve people coming to the center.

“My number one goal is to [people] to enter and develop a relationship with us, and let them know this is your space.

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