Homeless Locker Program Set to Move

Contact Jacqueline Soohoo at [email protected]

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Berkeley's homeless will have a new place to store belongings early next year thanks to a revamped city locker program under new management.

The city will spend $50,000 to move its storage locker program from its current Shattuck Avenue location to the Berkeley Veterans Building on Center Street, along with allocating $45,000 annually to keep it operating.

In April, the City Council approved the new locker program, started two years ago by the Suitcase Clinic, a UC Berkeley student group that provides medical services to the homeless.

The locker program will allow a Berkeley homeless agency, Building Opportunities for Self-Sufficiency, to provide 96 school-sized lockers for the homeless in the courtyard of the Veterans Building, said Robert Long, a program coordinator.

After hearing complaints from homeless clients who were repeatedly losing their belongings, the Suitcase Clinic worked to reform the program with Councilmember Kriss Worthington, said Ryan Houk, UC Berkeley student and clinic administrator.

The original program operated out of a privately owned storage company, Shattuck Avenue Self Storage.

When the storage company tripled its rental rates, the city sought out a new location and ended up adopting the program and choosing the Veteran's Building for relocation, Worthington said.

"It's a practical measure to make it possible for homeless people to have a place to put their stuff," Worthington said. "It's better than having their stuff all over the place and being an eyesore."

But some agencies that share the courtyard in the Veterans Building do not share Worthington's positive opinion of the program.

Options Recovery Services, which operates a drug and alcohol recovery program for the homeless is also located at the Veterans Building.

Clinical Director Tom Gorham said he is worried about the way the program will be run.

In order to receive a locker, the homeless person will be required to see a case manager at least once a month and have active plans to get off the street, Long said. But Gorham, said he is worried there will only be one case manager for all 96 locker users.

Formerly homeless for 11 years on the streets of Berkeley and Oakland, Gorham said the lockers are a waste of taxpayers' money.

"I know firsthand from all those times on the street," he said. "It's not supposed to be a picnic out there. The only help we can give them is to help them get off the street. Making it comfortable doesn't help."

The $45,000 a year needed to operate the locker program could be used for more shelter beds or drug recovery programs, Gorham said.

The lockers could also bring trash, drugs and violence, Gorham said.

But Long said he strongly believes this will not happen. The locker program will have strict rules that the users must oblige to in order to retain their lockers, he said.

The locker program will begin early next year, starting with 20 users and gradually working up to 96.


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