UC Berkeley Commits to Supportive Housing Project in People's Park

The university will work with the city and local nonprofits to provide 42 units of housing and supportive services to unhoused people living in Berkeley's iconic People's Park.

2 minute read

March 11, 2022, 7:00 AM PST

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

Teresa Watanabe reports on a historic agreement between the University of California, Berkeley, the city, and nonprofit partners to provide temporary housing and social services to unhoused people in People's Park. The park has been the focus of controversy as the university struggles to provide housing for a growing student body (more on that legal fight here). As part of the plan to redevelop the park, "About 60% of the 2.8-acre park will remain open green space, and a memorial to its storied history will be erected."

Unlike previous Berkeley mayors who were hesitant to change the iconic park, Arreguín supported the campus’ desire to develop the land. And Christ, despite struggling with a major campus budget deficit, committed funds to hire a social worker for the park and housing and services for unsheltered people, even though addressing homelessness is not generally seen as a university responsibility.

According to Watanabe, "The city and campus have hammered out a deal to lease 42 rooms for 18 months at the Rodeway Inn for those living in the park." Residents will receive a private room, linens and toiletries, meals, healthcare and counseling, and other supportive services. "The city will cover the costs of the lease and nonprofit services for 12 months, using a $4.7-million state grant earmarked to help people living in encampments find safe and stable housing. UC Berkeley has committed $2.2 million to cover the last six months."

The article describes the park's tumultuous history as an iconic site for political protests and free speech actions. Today, opinion remains divided on the future of the park. "When the project was first announced in 2018, some of the unhoused people in the park welcomed it while others objected, saying it would obliterate the space’s rich history and destroy the community bonds forged over communal feedings, gardening and cultural events." City and university officials hope the project will help create a more livable city for all residents. "This partnership will put a roof over the heads of those living in People’s Park, instead of simply pushing them from one neighborhood to another," said Berkeley mayor Jesse Arreguín.

Wednesday, March 9, 2022 in Los Angeles Times

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