Council Approves Services for Homeless Youth, Taxi Fare Hike

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday October 30, 2008 - 09:44:00 AM

Starting in December, Berkeley’s homeless youth will be able to get off the streets every evening and spend some time looking for jobs, housing and peer support, according to a $100,000 contract approved by the Berkeley City Council Tuesday. 

Funded by the Public Commons for Everyone Initiative, which was adopted by the council almost a year ago, the program will provide supportive daytime activities for homeless 18- to 25-year-olds. 

Youth Emergency Assistance Hostel (YEAH!)—which provides seasonal shelter and other services to transition-aged youths at the Lutheran Church of the Cross at 1744 University Ave.—was selected, from the two agencies that applied to carry out the services, by a committee comprising city officials from the Mental Health Department and the City Manager’s office. 

Sharon Hawkins Leydon, YEAH’s executive director, said, “Despite the current economic climate, we plan to stay open.” The one-year pilot program includes a youth council, life skills and teaching young people how to speak, Hawkins Leydon said. 

Jane Micallef, the city’s acting housing director, said that a similar daytime service called Chaplaincy to the Homeless— funded by HUD and the city—had existed several years ago but eventually went out of business. “However, this program is going to be different from that,” she said. 

“It’s designed to provide the kinds of services transition-aged youth need, to move to the next phase of their lives,” she said, adding that the programs would be an expansion of the case management YEAH! already provides young people. 

“We will be targeting people who are homeless, but that doesn’t mean we will be turning away people who have a home.” 

The services, which will run from Dec. 1 to Nov. 31, 2009, will be open from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Parking meter fees will help provide the funds for the contract. 

The daytime program will develop social support services, links with other agencies and organizations, mental health services, substance use recovery services, crisis intervention, and social, recreational and educational activities and will provide updates and statistics to the city’s Housing Department, among other things.  

By the end of the first year, the program is expected to have provided daytime services for 50 at-risk youths and enrolled eight of them in GED programs —with three receiving GED certificates—and to have connected at least 10 clients to the Homeless Action Center. 

Other goals include obtaining transitional or permanent housing for eight clients, with at least six (75 percent) clients keeping their housing for at least six months; and reducing jail time by 20 percent. Micallef said that a number of services had been included in the Public Commons for Everyone Initiative to ensure that it worked. 

“It’s a package of measures to mitigate problematic behavior and identify its underlying causes,” she said. “An important goal of the initiative is to ensure that transition-aged youth, particularly those with alcohol or drug dependencies as well as mental health issues, have an opportunity to take part in age-appropriate services which will make them self-sufficient and independent.” 


Council Approves Cab Fare Hikes 

Taxi fare rates in the City of Berkeley will increase from Nov. 3 following an approval by the Berkeley City Council Tuesday. City officials called the increment a straightforward realignment of Berkeley rates with those of its neighboring cities. 

The move increases the maximum taxicab fare rate from $2.40 to $3 for the flag drop, from 24 cents to 26 cents per 1/10 mile and waiting time or traffic delay to $26 per hour or 26 cents for each 36 seconds. 

According to Robert Hicks, the city’s director of finance, the city’s cab fare rates haven’t increased in the last six years. 

Cab owners and drivers requested an increase in rates primarily because of high gas prices, which have increased more than 100 percent since the cab rates were last increased in 2002, the report said. 

The report said that city officials have verified that higher cab fares exist in Oakland, San Francisco, San Jose and Daly City. Berkeley’s new rates match the rate in Oakland.