The cities of Berkeley and Oakland teamed up Monday to host a one-stop service fair called Project Homeless Connect.
Targeted at the transient adult homeless population, the event coincided with the opening of the Berkeley-Oakland-Alameda County 100-bed winter shelter at the Oakland Army Base.
With rain falling, 500 homeless people turned up at the Howie Harp Center in Oakland for hot meals, haircuts, laundry services and other forms of assistance.
Philip Mangano, executive director of the Federal United States Interagency Council on Homelessness, and Oakland City Councilmember Nancy Nadel praised the Bay Area for taking the lead in collaborating among cities, counties and the federal government on projects.
Modeled on a similar project in San Francisco, Homeless Connect brought together 42 human service providers who provided medical and dental services, sign-ups for General Assistance, Medi-Cal and food stamps, jobs and job training, referrals to shelters, transitional housing and drug and alcohol programs and informational legal services among others.
“Since most of the homeless population is transient between Berkeley and Oakland, the City of Berkeley proposed to the City of Oakland that we collaborate on this together,” said Julie Sinai, senior aide to Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates, who worked on the project with Jane Metcalfe and Andrew Wicker of Berkeley’s Homeless Commission.
“We worked closely with Oakland to bring together city and county government, UC Berkeley, social, mental, educational and health services under one roof,” Sinai said. “Service providers and mobile homeless outreach vans helped tremendously to connect the homeless with this program.”
Dana Perez St. Denis, spokesperson for the Oakland Department of Human Services, said, “Five hundred men and women got access to eye-glasses, foot-care, massages, showers, drug and alcohol counseling and many other services. We signed sixty people up for lifelong medical. We also gave out warm coats, sleeping bags, tents and hygiene kits which will help people to stay warm. The hot items of the day were the meals and the clothes but it was the massages which made them feel really cared for.”
The Oakland Army base building is being prepared for use and will be opened as a winter shelter for the homeless on Nov. 20. People staying at the winter shelter will be treated to a sit-down Thanksgiving Dinner at the Marriott Convention Center.
St. Denis added that the project provided opportunities for the homeless to get into transitional housing which laid the foundation for either returning home or finding permanent placements.
Oakland conducted two similar projects in the past which helped more than 500 homeless people.
Berkeley held its first Youth Connect program in April which attracted over 50 of the city’s transient homeless youth. The city will be hosting its second Youth Connect program on Dec. 4 in collaboration with the Youth Emergency Assistance Hostel (YEAH!) situated in the premises of the Lutheran Church on 1744 University Ave.
YEAH!’s doors will be opening to the homeless youth for winter shelter on Nov. 20.
Metcalfe told the Planet that young people often avoided adult shelters.
Started by four Berkeley women in the fall of 2002, YEAH! provides seasonal shelter to Berkeley’s homeless youth, along with hot showers, peanut butter sandwiches, and cough syrups.