Homeless advocates unveiled a bright, renovated Victorian house in downtown Berkeley on Wednesday to provide temporary housing for people moving into their own apartments.
The Homeless Action Center (HAC), which provides legal services and outreach to homeless residents throughout Alameda County, will operate a seven-room home with a resident manager at 2207 Haste St. The Northern California Land Trust owns the home and it was previously occupied by Options Recovery Services.
Dubbed “Almost Home,” it’s the first safe house in Berkeley, though the nonprofit Building Opportunities for Self-Sufficiency runs a similar Casa Maria program in Oakland.
Talks to convert the property into a safe home started in 2021 after HAC director Pattie Wall saw the offer for the property and after HAC signed a 15-year lease for the building, renovations lasted most of this year.
Residents of Alameda County on the coordinated entry list are eligible for temporary residence at the home, according to Wall, likely between 30 and 120 days.
“When someone is homeless and we’re working on their case, it’s super hard to keep in touch with them and help them through the instability of life in an encampment,” Wall said, explaining that many of HAC’s clients work through additional security Income processes that can take months.
The safe house helps HAC arrange primary care physicians for their clients and provides a bridge between encampment or street life and permanent housing, which can be a shocking shift at first.
“Our customers deserve a place to catch their breath,” says Wall. “[Here] they can integrate into our community a little easier and remember how to be a housekeeper.”
HAC outreach workers will take residents to appointments and needed services, and there will also be “enriching” programming such as movies and art talks, Wall said.
House manager Brad Merrill, who worked at the Dorothy Day House about ten years earlier, will soon move into the property, followed by the first group of residents later this fall.
He said there will be rules and restrictions at the property – no pets, no drug or alcohol use, no visitors and there will likely be a curfew – but it will give residents a chance to move into permanent housing.
“Not everyone will pass, but we’re going to give everyone a chance,” Merrill said. “It’s kind of a new experience for [HAC]but we are going to give it a chance and hopefully it will help people.”