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Protesters demand warming shelters in all Berkeley districts as storms continue

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Protesters alleged many unhoused residents of the city have been unable to find shelter.


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JANUARY 11, 2023

Protesters gathered outside Berkeley’s old city hall building on Sunday to urge the city to open more emergency warming shelters for unhoused residents as intense winter rains and an atmospheric river continue to sweep the city.

Protester Aidan Hill, former vice chair of the Berkeley Homeless Commission, alleged many unhoused residents of the city have been unable to find shelter, despite the efforts made by volunteer shelters to provide housing accommodations. Hill noted that the Berkeley City Council is in recess and has not responded to protesters as of press time.

“Knowing that they’re on recess when California declared this a state of emergency, and even right now, you can hear the thunder — it’s very visceral,” Hill said. “Why are you in this position of power if you’re going to take your vacation during an emergency?”

During the Dec. 31 storm, vehicles were forced to move or be towed and destroyed at the city’s Grayson Street parking lot, where journalist Yesica Prado said her neighbors were living at the time. Prado called on the city to identify places where people can relocate and open more accessible shelters for unhoused residents. She wrote in a Twitter thread that many residents in the lot had nowhere else to go and were not provided an alternative place to stay

Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguín said the city has been faced with “limited resources and staffing” and hopes to receive more support from state and federal resources.

Volunteer organization Dorothy Day House has operated warming shelters nearly every day this winter, opening its doors when temperatures dip below 45 degrees or in cases of extreme weather, according to Executive Director Robbi Montoya. Montoya noted that centers have recently extended their hours to accommodate current extreme weather conditions.

“Anybody who’s living outside, whether it’s raining or not, is in danger of the elements,” Montoya said.

Montoya noted the city has significantly helped her organization to serve more of the unhoused population. She added that the city initiated a new warming center and activated the Dorothy Day House’s Berkeley Emergency Storm Shelter, or BESS, this winter.

City spokesperson Matthai Chakko stated the finance committee recommended up to $120,000 in Measure P funds, which aim to aid homeless services in Berkeley, be allocated to overnight weather shelters to activate the shelter for at least 45 days, in a December city memo. He said the North Berkeley Senior Center Shelter has been running for 32 nights since its opening Dec. 3.

Councilmember Sophie Hahn said her office is “hard at work to find a solution to expand capacity and provide additional services” for Berkeley’s unhoused population.

Hill said protesters insist that city council come back from recess, establish a state of emergency and activate storm shelters in each of the city’s eight districts.

Contact Ella Carter-Klauschie at 


JANUARY 12, 2023