Supporting unhoused people who frequent the park.

We have heard the voices of those who advocate for the interests of unhoused people: We will proceed with construction only after having a plan in place that will offer access to shelter and services to the 40-50 people currently sleeping in the park.

This is consistent with the campus’s current commitments and efforts. We are committed to providing better solutions for unhoused people than sleeping outdoors in unsafe and unsanitary conditions.

We are donating land at the park for the construction of new housing for unhoused people. We employ a full-time social worker whose sole focus is the needs and interests of unhoused people in the park. Through our social worker's efforts, as of December 2021:

  • 97 households have been permanently housed.
  • 3 more households are in City of Berkeley respite with support to get housed.
  • 6 more households have vouchers for housing.
  • 9 additional households are currently in process for a housing match, or are in the queue for housing matches.

Even as we work to find housing and shelter for unhoused individuals at People's Park, we strive to meet their other needs. Every day our social worker and interns are helping people in the park connect with the support and services they need.

We are committed to doing all we can for those that will accept our support.

The campus spends over a quarter million dollars a year to keep People's Park and its facilities clean, including maintaining a public restroom. We have reassigned a campus facilities and operations manager to assist unhoused individuals in the park. We placed a "sharps" needle container on the site to keep discarded needles from creating a health hazard.

Every week our social worker, facilities manager, and director of local government and community relations meet with city and civic leaders to coordinate and improve efforts to meet the needs of unhoused people in the Park and surrounding neighborhoods.

I meet regularly with emergency response teams to brainstorm about people who are high users of emergency services. One thing that's been great is first responders will get in touch when they come across people who could benefit from my help. I want to be a resource and to give the police another tool. When they see someone who needs a blanket or needs a place to go, they know they can call or text me.
Ari Neulight, UC Berkeley's social worker for People's Park

Through partnerships with the City of Berkeley and Alameda County, we are working to connect park users with shelter and services, long before construction begins.

Following construction, the new supportive housing will provide permanent housing for over 100 people, with services, enabling them to live with dignity in their community. Learn more about our plans for Supportive Housing at People's Park.

An example of the numerous projects underway in the region and in Berkeley to support the unhoused, is the Berkeley Way project that will open in 2022. Located one block from campus and about 3/4 mile from People's Park, the Berkeley Way project is a partnership between Berkeley Food & Housing Project and BRIDGE Housing that will provide permanent, shelter, and transitional housing for over 100 people, and wrap-around services for mental health, substance abuse, job training, and social activities.

Image: BRIDGE Housing

Once construction starts and the site temporarily closes, we will not leave those who regularly use the park to fend for themselves.

We have heard the voices of those who advocate for the park users' interests: We will proceed with construction only after having a plan in place that will offer access to shelter and services to the 40-50 people currently sleeping in the park. However, we do understand there will be some that choose camping and refuse options we make available to them. We will do all we can for those that will accept our support.

Consistent with our commitments, our homeless outreach coordinator and campus leadership are working with city and nonprofit leaders to develop a program that will accommodate and support the unhoused people who use the park in the daytime.

As part of a July 2021 agreement with the City of Berkeley, the campus is also providing funds for programs and infrastructure surrounding campus, including:

  • A daytime drop-in service center in the Telegraph area for the unhoused population.

  • Continuation of the campus social worker to support the unhoused that visit People’s Park and the broader Telegraph area.

  • A permanent public restroom in the Telegraph area.

Prior to the pandemic, no one slept in the park at night. Camping in the park is illegal. We have successfully enforced this camping ban for 50 years. We have temporarily suspended enforcement of that law during the pandemic due to limited alternatives for the unhoused as a result of shelters that have either closed or limited occupancy. We will eventually resume enforcing the law against camping in the park. So, abandoning plans for student housing on the site would not enable the park to become a permanent solution for anyone who is unhoused.

And, again, we believe we can and must do better than simply provide open camping space, that is unsafe and unsanitary, for those who do not have housing security.