Tag Archives: BOSS


Op-ed: Being poor is not a crime

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Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates was quoted on Channel 7 News as saying, “It’s not an effort to criminalize people, it’s an effort to try to make things more civil.”

Yet the new homeless ordinance that passed 6-3 early Wednesday – nearly one week before Thanksgiving Day – does in fact criminalize the homeless and poor in Berkeley. It prohibits specific acts associated with being homeless, disabled and mentally ill in Berkeley, which include the following:

Placing personal belongings in … Continue reading »

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IKEA donates ‘makeover’ to shelter for homeless families

The "after" picture of a living room at BOSS furnished with Ikea furniture.
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The families living in the McKinley Family Transitional House in Berkeley now have a lovely space from which to plot their move out from homelessness.

IKEA, the Scandinavian furniture store with an outlet in Emeryville, recently donated $10,000 worth of furniture and design services to McKinley House, located at 2111 McKinley Ave. in central Berkeley. The home, which is operated by BOSS, or Building Opportunities for Self-Sufficiency, won the IKEA Life Improvement Challenge.

Now the living room has a comfortable blue plaid couch, lamps, a desk and shelving area, and new art on the wall. The bedrooms have wood dressers, beds and throw rugs. There is also new outdoor furniture on the lawn.

McKinley House is hosting an open house today from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. to show off the redecorated facility.  … Continue reading »

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The It List: Five things to do in Berkeley this weekend

This weekend, The Bay Area Book Festival will fill Downtown Berkeley with authors, readers, and, of course, books. Photo: Laughing Squid
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BAY AREA BOOK FESTIVAL Downtown Berkeley will be overrun by books, authors and readers this weekend when the inaugural Bay Area Book Festival comes to town. The free event spans several blocks, and sections of Allston Way, Milvia Street, Addison Street, and Kittredge Street will be closed to traffic from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturday and from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday. The areas usually filled by cars will be occupied instead by booksellers, storytellers, artists, art installations, and more. Dozens of panels, with themes of culture, poetry, technology, and more, will be held in indoor spaces around the Downtown area throughout the day (don’t miss the Berkeleyside Uncharted panels with authors Wallace J. Nichols, Ben Parr, and Design Within Reach founder Rob Forbes, moderated by Berkeleyside publisher Lance Knobel and American Oz: Berkeley and the Bay Area, moderated by Berkeleyside executive editor Frances Dinkelspiel). The stretch of Allston Way in front of Berkeley High School will be home to a food court and beer and wine garden. (On Saturday, the weekly Berkeley Farmer’s Market will be in its usual spot on Center between MLK and Milvia.) On Sunday evening, the band The Deadliners (composed entirely of authors) will play starting at 5:30 p.m. in Civic Center Park. To top it all off, on Saturday at 7 p.m. bestselling author Judy Blume will be speaking about her new adult book, In the Unlikely Event and about her experiences as a censored author. For more information, visit the Bay Area Book Festival website. (Berkeleyside Uncharted is one of the festival’s three main media sponsors.) … Continue reading »

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Nonprofit accuses city of Berkeley of ‘unethical contracting practices’ for new homeless center

Berkeley's new approach to homeless services. Image: City of Berkeley
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The city of Berkeley says it will change its commission recommendation process after a community agency brought allegations of serious conflicts of interest during a recent bid for municipal funding.

Building Opportunities for Self-Sufficiency (BOSS) raised these concerns in an April 16 letter to city officials after bidding to run a new one-stop homelessness services center for which the city plans to issue a contract next month.

Read more about homelessness in Berkeley.

BOSS and one other agency, the Berkeley Food and Housing Project (BFHP), put in bids in December to run the new center. Both service organizations are based in Berkeley, and have worked in the city since the early 1970s. BOSS requested $450,145 to run the center, and the BFHP requested $996,899 for the job. The city’s Homelessness Commission and city manager have recommended that the contract go to the BFHP, and council is slated to make its decision next month.

The commission report said only that the BOSS application did “not contain all of the necessary functions” required by the city in its request for proposals.

BOSS challenged the commission recommendation in April, saying two Homeless Commission members affiliated with the BFHP and another group, YEAH, should not have taken part in the discussions. BOSS wrote that their “organizations will gain financial resources as a result of their participation in the funding discussions and eventual funding recommendations” made by the commission and the city. … Continue reading »

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Streamlined housing crisis center slated for Berkeley

Homeless services in Berkeley. Image: City of Berkeley
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A new one-stop homelessness services shop is in the works in Berkeley.

Announced Tuesday night, the city is changing the way it funds programs offered in town, to prioritize the people with the highest needs, in line with a federal mandate to streamline services into a coordinated system.

The city is looking to create a central office where anyone seeking services will begin the process. Currently, there are too many entry points, as well as duplicative services and a mis-match between those who receive the highest level of assistance and those who needs it most, staff said Tuesday at a work session with the Berkeley City Council.

The city spends about $3 million a year on a range of programs. That is not set to change. But how the money is divvied up, and exactly which types of services receive money, will be different. Unlike the current system, programs will have to fit into set categories to qualify for city support. … Continue reading »

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BOSS to honor Berkeley’s ‘Rising Stars’ on Thursday

Kyle Evans, one of the Rising Star honorees, has been accepted to Brown University. Evans was homeless only last year
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A year ago, Kyle Evans and his family were sleeping in motel rooms and, at times, their car. Despite his circumstances, Evans focused on keeping his grades up and being a role model for his younger sister. He had to forgo various activities enjoyed by his peers, as his family didn’t have the money to pay for them. He managed to keep a positive perspective and achieve success despite the odds.

“Adversity is a chance to find the God in you,” said Evans, who has been accepted to Brown University and plans to become a doctor. “It makes you a stronger person.”

Evans is one of 20 youth who will be honored Thursday at the first annual “Rising Stars” gala, put on by local advocacy organization Building Opportunities for Self-Sufficiency (BOSS) to recognize youth for achievement in the face of adversity. The group is also raising money this week for a scholarship fund for award recipients; scroll down for details.

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The It List: Five things to do in Berkeley this weekend

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BOONA CHEEMA For decades Boona Cheema has been a fixture on the Berkeley scene, a recognized leader in the struggle to end homelessness in the city as well as state and national levels. (Read a profile in the San Francisco Chronicle.) On Saturday, Cheema will hand over the directorship of housing and services provider BOSS (Building Opportunities for Self-Sufficiency), where she has served for 35 years, to incoming Executive Director Donald Frazier. Frazier, formerly with Center Point in San Francisco, takes the reins on March 1. The handing over of the baton will be part of “Booma Cheema’s Goodbye Gala: From The Heart: A Legacy of Love…And New Beginnings,” with food and drinks from local restaurants, and music by Fua Dia Congo, Duniya Dance Company. Saturday Feb. 23, 2013, 6:00-9:00 pm, at Uptown Body & Fender, 401 26th Street in Oakland ($5 valet parking). Tickets $125 ($60 nonprofit, $35 low income). Visit BOSS online for details. Or by phone (510) 649-1930 x 222. … Continue reading »

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BOSS prepares for director’s exit, plans golf fundraiser

Executive director boona cheema reviews paperwork with a member of BOSS's Community Organizing Team. Photos: Natalie Orenstein
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The multi-pronged approach to combating homelessness at Building Opportunities for Self-Sufficiency (BOSS) is based on the belief that society knows what works, but rarely implements it.

“Good healthcare works, good education works, getting people help the first time they struggle works,” said boona cheema [sic], the Bay Area organization’s longtime executive director. “Being kind and compassionate so people see that you really care—that works, and motivates people.”

In 1971, as a recent immigrant from India with little money in her pocket and a baby on the way, cheema knocked on six-month-old BOSS’s door to ask for help. Two years later, she became its fourth director, and is now preparing to leave her job to make time for creative pursuits.

Over the past 42 years, cheema—a self-proclaimed “builder and dreamer”—has overseen an expansion of BOSS into a network of short-term shelters, long-term transitional houses, mental health and substance abuse support systems, classes, daycares, and career training programs that serve 1,500 people. The largest facility is the Ursula Sherman Village on Harrison Street in Berkeley, which houses more than 100 individuals and families. … Continue reading »

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Opponents of Berkeley sitting ban gear up for fight

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Opponents of Berkeley’s sitting ban launched a counter attack against the proposed ballot initiative Monday, but their plans for a sit-in fizzled.

After rejecting the idea of holding a protest outside Mayor Tom Bates’ house,  homeless and youth activists had planned to hold a sit-in at the City Council’s Agenda Committee meeting Monday afternoon. But the meeting was unexpectedly moved from a spacious sixth floor conference room to a smaller – but more visible – space on the first floor of City Hall, leaving too little room to sit down.

Instead, opponents of the sitting ban spoke passionately about why they objected to making it illegal to sit on the sidewalks in commercial districts between 7 am and 10 pm. The City Council will vote Tuesday night whether to place the item on the November ballot.

Youth “are just not the demons the press and some of the council members have made them out to be,” said Pattie Wall, executive director of the Homeless Action Center, which provides benefits and advocacy for the homeless in Alameda County.” She was one of about 20 people who spoke. “Passing this law sends the wrong message to anyone in a bad situation here in Berkeley.” … Continue reading »

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Rotary Club builds new play structure for homeless kids

Installing platform of play structure. Photo by Don Melandry
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For more than two years, the homeless children at the Ursula Sherman Village on Harrison Street in West Berkeley only had an empty lot to play in. The decrepit play structure that had stood in the yard for years was shut down because it was no longer safe.

“It was old,” explained Boona Cheema, the Executive Director of Building Opportunities for Self Sufficiency (BOSS) which was founded in 1971 and runs the village. “It wasn’t safe, so we took it down.”

Thanks to the intervention of the Rotary Club of Berkeley and assorted affiliates, the 24 children at Ursula Sherman Village now have a state-of-the-art play structure and playground to play in. Officials from the Rotary, BOSS, and the city of Berkeley gathered Monday afternoon for the official ribbon cutting ceremony of the playground.

“It’s already made a huge difference,” said Cheema. “The kids feel it’s their place, that it was done for them. They are so excited.”

Evidence was everywhere Monday that the kids were enjoying the structure. As adults mingled around chatting before the ribbon-cutting ceremony, the children ran all around the play structure, climbed up its stairs, and played on its bars. … Continue reading »

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