The Berkeley community has a brand-new, 3,000-square-foot outdoor space — funded jointly by the city of Berkeley and UC Berkeley — where unhoused people can go during the day to use the bathroom, grab a bite to eat, play board games, listen to music, and relax under the shade of trees and patio umbrellas.
Operated by the nonprofit Village of Love, the Sacred Rest Daytime Drop-in Center will connect people to housing resources, access to health care, therapy and many other services. The center opened last week and is on Haste street between Dana and Telegraph — on the campus of the First Presbyterian Church of Berkeley — just a few blocks from People’s Park.
Construction is scheduled to begin this summer at historic People’s Park for urgently needed UC Berkeley student housing and an open space revitalization project. The project will also include a housing facility with permanent supportive units for formerly unhoused people, and affordable housing for low-income community members.
The city and campus also partnered with the Rodeway Inn on University Avenue to provide an 18-month transitional housing program for unhoused people from the park.
UC Berkeley funded the design, site preparation and construction of the daytime drop-in center with a two-year, $500,000 campus grant and $250,000 from the city. Sacred Rest aims to provide services to people who gathered at the park during the day and to others in need in the area, said Village of Love Founder Joey Harrison, who hopes to create a place where unhoused people are not seen as clients, but as family.
“And we shower our family with love,” he said. “That is the environment we want to bring to Sacred Rest. A place that makes you feel like you’re at grandma’s house, where people are trusted and respected.”
Steve Eldridge is currently unhoused, but has connected with Village of Love staff throughout the years. He said the new drop-in center is clean, welcoming and a great place to help unhoused people in the area to find a community of people who care.
“The cost of living in the Bay Area is outrageous, so a lot of people are in need right now,” said Eldridge. “To have a place like this, with people that want to help, … you can’t put a price on it.”
New data released last month by All Home, a nonprofit housing advocacy group, showed that the Bay Area’s housing crisis, during the past three years, has continued to push people onto the streets at an alarmingly high rate. According to the survey, since 2019 the number of unhoused people in the Bay Area has risen by over 8%, and Alameda County’s unhoused population alone surged by 21.5%.
Services for unhoused people are sometimes inadequate, said Harrison, who lived on the streets of Berkeley and Oakland just eight years ago.
He remembers trekking back and forth from different transitional housing programs, feeling like he wasn’t being seen and working with case managers who treated him, he said, like “I was just another number.”
“I’d go in, sit down and fill out this paper, and it was like I was just some case number in their files,” he said. “It didn’t make me feel connected to the community. I didn’t feel like a person.”
Harrison founded Village of Love three years ago to counter that narrative and by working with other community partners, adding that “working with the university has been a beautiful thing.”
The space where Sacred Rest currently resides was previously used by the First Presbyterian Church of Berkeley as an open field. It was transformed into a community hub for the unhoused in just a few short months, said Ralph Anderson, the church’s facilities director. Beth Thomsen, who leads the church’s outreach efforts, said services offered at the drop-in center fit into the church’s mission “to love concretely” and “to help care for our neighbors.”