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City Manager's Office
Press Contact: Mary Kay Clunies-Ross, Public Information Officer, (510) 981-7008

City-community agency partnerships have led to coordinated services and more supportive housing

Berkeley, California (Wednesday, July 08, 2009) - The number of chronically homeless residents in Berkeley fell 48 percent since 2003, according to a count and survey of homeless done by Alameda County’s EveryOne Home program. That count showed that the number of people living on Berkeley streets has fallen 17 percent.

“The County’s count in 2003 gave us important insight about the nature of homelessness in Berkeley, and the obstacles that homeless residents faced,” said Acting Housing and Community Services Director Jane Micallef. “That data allowed us to work with community agencies to better orient our services toward the problem of chronic homelessness. We’re glad to see the approach is working.”

The  2003 count and survey revealed that two-thirds of Berkeley’s homeless population was chronically homeless adults, defined by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development as “an unaccompanied disabled individual who has been continuously homeless for over one year.” This population was 20 percent of the homeless people in Alameda County, and is 10 percent of the homeless population nationally.

A few statistics comparing 2003 to 2009:

  • The number of chronically homeless people in Berkeley decreased from 529 to 276 (48 percent);
  • Berkeley’s share of the countywide chronically homeless population decreased from 41 percent to 27 percent;
  • People residing on the streets, in shelters or in transitional housing programs decreased from 821 to 680 (17 percent);
  • Significant decreases in the number of homeless adults with no dependent children were somewhat offset by an increase in the number of literally homeless adults with dependent children, from 94 to 125 adults and children.

The Approach
Informed by the 2003 count, the City and community based organizations have worked together over the past five years to focus on ending chronic homelessness. For many years, the national response to homelessness focused on the individual crisis of being homeless, and providing a compassionate response to the most immediate needs.  While retaining this important function, Berkeley has invested more deeply in programs that emphasize ending homelessness through permanent housing. Strategies include:

• Creating new supportive housing opportunities for chronically homeless adults by combining the resources of Public Commons for Everyone Initiative’s Square One Program; new federal funding for permanent housing subsidies, awarded to the City through a competitive process; and new federal and state funding for permanent housing subsidies combined with intensive mental health services.

• Re-orienting supportive services, emergency shelter, and transitional housing programs to emphasize a move to permanent housing through agencies such as Building Opportunities for Self Sufficiency and The Berkeley Food and Housing Project, as well as the City’s own mental health and aging services

• Increasing funding for programs that help people access income and benefits. For example, City funding more than tripled for services that help disabled adults access Supplemental Security Income (SSI) for housing support and medical and mental health treatment. 

• Investing in community agency programs that help chronically homeless adults stay housed.

The Challenge
By definition, people who were chronically homeless have at least one disability and long histories of homelessness, and typically have extremely low incomes.  Permanently ending their homeless often requires supportive services over a long period of time. It’s not a quick fix, and keeping the gains of the last 5 years will require sustained efforts.

And though there has been significant improvement in chronic homelessness, the recession has driven up “hidden homelessness” countywide. In the 2009 count, the number of people living temporarily with a friend or relative, in a motel, or facing eviction within seven days in Alameda County had increased by more than two and half times, and had increased to 41 percent of the County’s total homeless population.

Berkeley’s hidden homeless went from 14 to 144, a ten-fold increase. Although at 17 percent, it is a comparatively small piece of Berkeley’s homeless residents, the City released a Request for Proposals for a stimulus-funded Housing Resource Center to assist this population.

For more information about the EveryOne Home survey results, visit www.everyonehome.org.


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