“Berkeley sees S.F. efforts as guide to fighting homelessness” by Kevin Fagan

Brett Schnaper cleans up his campsite at a 35-person encampment on Adeline Street in Berkeley. Photo: Scott Strazzante, The Chronicle

Photo: Scott Strazzante, The Chronicle.  Brett Schnaper cleans up his campsite at a 35-person encampment on Adeline Street in Berkeley.

March 16, 2017 (sfchronicle.com)

An ambitious plan to pull Berkeley’s burgeoning homeless population off the streets, first into sheltering mini-villages and then into permanent housing, got a big rollout by the city’s mayor Thursday — but one big question loomed.

How will the city pay for it, especially when President Trump and the Republican Congress are trying to cut funding to social welfare ventures all over the country?

“We’re going to look at everything we can,” from foundations, private donations and nonprofits to ballot-box funding,” Mayor Jesse Arreguin said at a press briefing on the Pathways Project, which he crafted with City Councilwoman Sophie Hahn. “This is a growing humanitarian crisis, and I think the people want their government to take strong action.”

Homeless camper Brett Schnaper responds. Media: Kevin Fagan / San Francisco Chronicle

For now, the costs are penciled in only as “significant,” and what Arreguin and Hahn have in mind before the plan goes to the City Council on April 4 is a lot of community discussion — and fishing around for buy-in from potential funders. The money required would probably crest into the millions, considering one element of it alone, a Navigation Center-style shelter, cost San Francisco $2 million to start up in 2015.“This is a unique time in the crisis to capture the goodwill of the people,” Hahn said. “We’re a small town with a big voice and a big heart, and we can’t live with the status quo. It’s not acceptable for anyone. It’s time to act.”With tent cities sprouting in Berkeley’s empty lots and freeway exchanges in the same alarming, high-profile way they have in Oakland and San Francisco, homelessness is being called Berkeley’s number one problem by the mayor and other leaders.

The last published street count in Berkeley, conducted in 2015, tallied 834 homeless people, up 23 percent over the previous count taken in 2009. Numbers from a January count are expected this summer — but regardless of that tally, which most expect to be higher than 2015’s, most city officials estimate there are as many as 1,200 people living outside now. The city has 135 shelter beds.

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