The City of Berkeley will spend an additional $2.4 million this year to shelter the homeless, creating a total of 320 bed spaces, the largest amount of shelter beds the city has ever made available, Mayor Jesse Arreguín announced last week.
The move will create space for nearly one-third of all unsheltered people in Berkeley and is part of the $4.5 million in excess funding available as a result of staff vacancies and higher than projected revenues. Of these funds, $1.9 million will be spent on the STAIR Center, a year-round homeless shelter and tiny home village in West Berkeley that will provide beds for up to 50 people.
Another $300,000 will be used to expand the Winter Shelter Program to 130 people, doubling last year’s capacity, and $170,000 to help Berkeley Food and Housing Project close its funding gap for its men’s and women’s shelters.
“The city has never had 320 shelter beds, so this is a huge step forward to addressing the homeless crisis,” Arreguín said.
“These funds ensure that our Pathways project, the short-term and long-term year-round shelters, are on their way to being built. I am proud to live in a city whose residents and council are compassionate and prioritize taking care of the less fortunate,” he said.
The city council also agreed to spend $50,000 on a pilot program to help the homeless store items securely downtown, and $100,000 to fund cleanup of illegal dumping near homeless encampments, the result of residents dropping off unwanted items in the area.
The funds come from $8 million in Unassigned Excess Equity. Three-and-a-half million dollars of the revenue will be placed in the city’s reserves, which can be used in a natural disaster such as an earthquake, or during leaner years when tax revenues are down.
The remaining $4.5 million will be used to increase shelter beds for the homeless, pedestrian safety, youth programs, senior services and expediting land use planning decisions.
Other spending includes $49,000 to fund the Berkeley Youth Alternatives After-School Center, which provides services to poverty-level and low- income youth during after school and summer month, and nearly $50,000 for a mental health program at Berkeley High School.