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Berkeley storms prompt volunteering and emergency services

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The unhoused community has been disproportionately affected by Berkeley's ongoing storms.


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JANUARY 20, 2023

As storms continued in Berkeley the past weeks, disproportionately affecting the unhoused community, volunteers played a significant role in emergency shelters.

During harsh weather, the Berkeley community came together to operate a 24-hour emergency warming shelter in People’s Park, which started a few days into the storm after construction equipment was removed. 

Volunteer Enrique Marisol noted that people across the city accessed food and resources from the center.

“The most important thing to add is that we had to build this center not just because we wanted to, but [because] there was a dire need for the people,” Marisol said.

They added that other resource and senior centers remained in connection with each other during the storm, with the goal of gathering and getting people supplies when needed.

People found the opportunity to volunteer and make donations through a post made on Instagram. The center operated for a week during which local community members were able to donate supplies, Marisol noted.

Donated items included chairs, dry blankets and bags of clothes. Volunteers at the centers also served lunch and dinner every day. 

“A lot of people were really, really happy to be able to find clothing and blanket donations that weren’t soaked from the rain because there’s always a lot of people trying to donate clothes,” Marisol said.

They added that because donations need a dry space to be stored, people are often not able to actually find useful stuff. 

People’s Park activist Naya Rose said that people waste time and resources, and risk their safety, by being exposed to the elements for long periods of time trying to access emergency centers that are at capacity.

“Our city should be providing 24-hour shelters where unhoused persons can walk right in and get dry clothes and food during an actual state of emergency,” Rose said in the email. “Better yet, we need one in every district.”

Another inclement weather shelter at North Berkeley Senior Center was managed by the Dorothy Day House staff.

According to Housing and Community Services Deputy Director Amy Davidson, volunteers primarily helped with food provisions and meal distribution. 

“Both the shelter and the senior centers operate regardless of the availability of volunteers,” Davidson said in the email. “Volunteer shortages sometimes impact meal provision during the week at the inclement weather shelter at the North Berkeley Senior Center.” 

Contact Madison Creekbaum at 


JANUARY 20, 2023