[Hpn] Berkeley, CA - Newest Shelter Helps The Young Homeless - Berkeley Daily Planet - November 28, 2003

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Sun, 30 Nov 2003 14:58:01 -0500

Newest Shelter Helps The Young Homeless

By JAKOB SCHILLER - Berkeley Daily Planet - November 28, 2003

Berkeley, CA - “The first time you sleep on the streets you
become obnoxiously ill within two weeks. It happens to
everyone,” said Marz, one of the many young transients who
consistently line Telegraph Avenue.

Marz, who has been on the Berkeley streets for six months,
had his sick spell and says he’s now developed immunities.
Nonetheless, he says, it’s become increasingly difficult to
survive as the temperature drops and the rain starts.

It might not sound like much, but this year Marz has an
escape—at least for part of the year—at a new shelter called
YEAH!, which stands for Youth Emergency Assistance Hostel.
Now in it’s second year, YEAH! is a new shelter established
specifically to house people ages 18-25 who need overnight
shelter during the winter months.

Funded in part by the City of Berkeley and staffed by a crew
of over 75 volunteers, the shelter opens Dec. 1 at the
Lutheran Church of the Cross, 1744 University Ave.

Services include overnight shelter from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m.,
along with snacks, breakfast, and physical and mental health
programs. There are two separate facilities, one for single
women and children, the other co-ed.

YEAH! Executive Director Sharon Hawkins Leyden, a Licensed
Clinical Social Worker, says the shelter fills a need for
many of Berkeley’s homeless youth who have refused to stay
at other shelters around the area, which they say are
overrun by other groups.

“[The other shelters] are usually a little too rowdy and
smelly and insane,” said Marz. “They’re just a little

Youths complain that the other shelters are often filled
with the mentally disabled and the drugged-out.

“Around here, a lot of times the older homeless people, not
to stereotype them, are on some very hard-core drugs,” said
Sean, who has been on the streets of Berkeley for seven
months. “It’s hard to deal with them.”

YEAH! also provides another perk certain to attract younger
people in need. The shelter will allow animals, usually
forbidden at the other shelters.

“We know that the youth are really attached to their
animals,” said Leyden. “We didn’t want them to be a

Leyden said last year’s shelter was so successful that they
were able to re-open this year with even more support,
though with an estimated budget of $60,000 they’re still
short $25,000. If they get all their funding, she said,
they’ll be open seven days a week through March.

In the meantime, thanks to a number of large grants,
including a $15,000 contribution from the City of Berkeley,
they’ll operate at full scale until more money comes in—at
least through most of the coldest months. Operating at full
capacity, each bed costs $13 a night, much less than other
emergency programs.

Last year’s program prompted the Berkeley chief of police to
write a letter thanking the shelter for their help in
eliminating one of the city’s largest and most residual
problems. And several Telegraph Avenue vendors told Leyden
they’d noticed a decline in the numbers of transients on the

Leyden says the center also functions as an intermediary to
help their clients get back on their feet during one of the
hardest parts of the year.

Because they don’t have to worry about finding shelter each
night, they can spend their days looking for jobs and other
programs to help them find more permanent housing—and for
young homeless parents to send their children to school.

Marz says he’ll head to the shelter once it opens. In the
meantime, he says, he’s been sleeping behind buildings and
doing his best to stay healthy.

Joining him at YEAH! may be Jen and Jose, who have been
sleeping in their car. Both say they’ve caught pneumonia
sleeping on the streets and welcomed a chance to stay at the
shelter, especially because they can bring their pooch.

Jane Micallef, a Community Services Specialist with the City
of Berkeley, said there will be other emergency options for
those who can’t stay at YEAH!

Options include the shelter at the old Army Base in West
Oakland, which has 50 beds reserved for people from
Berkeley. Micallef said the city pays for BART tickets to
the West Oakland station and provides a shuttle from there
to the shelter.

Open since Nov. 10, the facility provides both a general
occupancy area and a reserved area for families or people
with disabilities. The facility is co-sponsored by the City
of Berkeley, City of Oakland and Alameda County.

The city also provides a motel voucher program for families
in need. Budgeted at $45,000, the program provides between
five and six families with a room every night at a cost of
about $60 per room.

Micallef says the additional programs are useful for
emergency use, but are only a partial fix for the city’s
long-running homelessness problem.

Other programs, including the Berkeley Food and Housing
Project, continue to run year-round food and housing
projects and conduct emergency services, such as coat and
blanket drives.

People interested in volunteering or making tax deductible
donations to YEAH! Can contact Sharon Hawkins Leyden at

For more information on other emergency and existing
shelters services, contact Jane Micallef with the City of

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