With the drop in temperatures and increase in rainfall, the city of Berkeley and local organizations have been working to provide aid for the houseless population during this turbulent weather.
The city opens more inclement weather shelters to help people get out of the rain, including one at the North Berkeley Senior Center that holds 65 people, specifically when the temperature drops to below 45 degrees at night or there is rain predicted in the weather report, according to Peter Radu, assistant to the city manager of Berkeley.
“While the County and City are the leads on responding to the broader homeless crisis and providing shelter and housing resources, we do partner closely with Ari Neulight, the University’s Outreach Coordinator, and other nonprofits in outreach and resource offers to make sure people in the Park and the broader Southside/Telegraph district know what is available to them,” Radu said in an email.
Third-party organizations and nonprofits are also working to give out supplies to houseless people stuck outside, according to Ian Cordova Morales, lead advocate and president of Where Do We Go Berkeley.
Where Do We Go Berkeley has been providing sleeping bags, space heaters and other supplies to ensure people exposed to the elements stay safe and warm, noted Morales. Those in need can pick these items up from the organization’s office.
“A lot of people don’t really go out during the day or just go out at all, because of the rain, so they’re kind of stuck sitting inside this little, compact space,” said Enrique Marisol, an advocate for Defend People’s Park. “If they don’t have water and snacks in their tent already, they’re going for long periods of time without eating or drinking.”
Marisol added that the main concern for the houseless population in the park at the moment is to avoid getting frostbite or hypothermia. Such conditions can also lead to people contracting the flu, a cold and other “health ailments.”
Individuals within People’s Park have been taking their own measures to stay safe and healthy during this storm, according to Marisol. They have been enveloping their tents in multiple tarps to keep the wind from knocking them over and bundling up as much as they can.
Marisol noted the park also has a propane heater that residents are trying to install near the kitchen if they can avoid having it exposed to the rain.
“It is getting near, maybe even below freezing,” Marisol said. “I’m not sure how accurate the weather app is, but it’s been getting in the low thirties at night.”
In addition, Marisol noted that a few churches, The Suitcase Clinic, Consider the Homeless and the Berkeley Food Collective have been coming to the park to offer assistance, food and additional supplies.
“If people are interested in helping, the biggest thing at the park right now that people need are just shoes and warm socks, because we get a lot of those ankle socks that you just wear on an everyday day, but people need the big, tall, fuzzy wool and cotton socks and just generally anything that will help you stay warm and dry,” Marisol said.