Dorothy Day House provides shelter, sustenance and a caring presence to those most in need in our community. We were founded in the spirit of Dorothy Day, a faith-based social change activist who played a major role in the antiwar, women’s rights, civil rights, labor and human services movements of the 1920’s right through the Vietnam Era. She also co-founded the Catholic Worker Movement.
With the cooperation of the University of California, DDH served breakfasts to the general homeless community first at “Peoples’ Park” south of Campus and, later, at the adjacent University Lutheran Church. In 2001 we moved our breakfast serving to Trinity United Methodist Church where it remained for 12 years, until another move in the summer of 2013 to Christ Church of Berkeley.
Our Shelter Program started with the Berkeley Emergency Storm Shelter (BESS) several years ago. Since December 2016 we have taken our shelter operations to a new level. BESS originally only went online from November through April during rain or when the temperature dropped below 40 degrees – and rotated between different senior and community centers. That December, however, we opened a nightly shelter on 4th Street, which was extended through June via private donations. Fast forward a year! In December 2017, BESS started opening its doors at 1925 University Avenue around 6:00 PM every night to provide a safe, warm, and dry place for 90 people who would otherwise spend the night on the streets. This effort continued with great success and with support of the City of Berkeley and the greater community through August 31. It was the culmination of months of work from many community sources that had been advocating for this approach. BerkeleySide posted the following article in June: Emergency Shelter to stay open for summer!
On August 21, Council Member Davila and Mayor Arreguín organized a Town Hall meeting to brainstorm on a year round location for the shelter. This BerkeleySide article gives an excellent overview of what took place at the meeting. David Stegman, our Executive Director, spoke eloquently about the multiple risks of closing the shelter. The closing of the shelter on August 30, because of fire regulations, impacted our guests in many ways. To tie us over, we were able to reopened a couple of weeks later with a changing schedule between other city facilities. Ultimately, it was decided that MASC would be the most logical new location for BESS, and on October 1, 2018 we moved in. There are 57 bed available at this time. When we opened BESS early December, an additional 27 people will find shelter from the elements.
Many of our partnerships with collaborating institutions are decades-long, and go beyond the faith community and the City of Berkeley to include the Alameda County Community Food Bank, local food producers and retailers, a range of other citizen-based social service groups, the University of California, Berkeley High School, the Alameda County Continuum of Care Council, and regional philanthropies.