Opinion: Dorothy Day House: Where Berkeley and community come together

The Dorothy Day House in Berkeley has been helping feed, house, and employ people who are homeless for 30 years.

It has been a difficult year for everyone. The pandemic has contributed to seismic changes in how we work, socialize, travel, and go about our lives. At Dorothy Day House, a volunteer non-profit organization that has been providing meals, shelter, and employment for low-income residents in Berkeley for more than 30 years, we have had to radically adjust our day-to-day functions to keep both our staff and the people we serve, safe while still maintaining their dignity and our internal community.

A sense of community is something that binds people together. This sense can be from a positive common cause – i.e., helping the greater good by assisting those less fortunate, or from participating in a group that shares your passion for foosball. Our passion at Dorothy Day House is for helping other people. We seek to inspire a sense of community at Dorothy Day House amongst both our guests and our volunteers and staff. This has largely happened organically, as we have made it clear from the beginning that we consider our guests like our extended family members. In addition to that, our shelter was initially run exclusively by individuals who were homeless and received our services.

Because we believe in the dignity of every human being, hiring people who had previously been homeless was a no-brainer for us. We believe that communities that work together, win together. Throughout my career in the public service sector, there has never been a time where a non-profit could do what it does entirely on its own – they needed the help of their communities.

It is because of our donors that we can provide a community for the homeless population in Berkeley, which is more important now than ever. As we approach the winter months, we are bracing for the third wave of coronavirus infections, in addition to the regular rain and flu seasons. Those without housing were largely spared from the first two waves of the pandemic because they were swept up from the streets and put into thousands of motel rooms by the county. And, while some of these rooms will be converted into permanent housing for those in need – there are still 2,000 people without a home, living in encampments in Berkeley and the surrounding areas that need our help.


Dorothy Day House has been working around the clock to make sure that we are meeting this moment – by taking to the streets to hand-deliver immediate needs such as hygiene kits, warm socks, and PPE to people living in encampments. We have also recently become certified to perform housing assessments through Alameda County Coordinated Re-entry.

If you would like to stay up to date with Dorothy Day House, please visit our website at dorothydayhouseberkeley.org, or follow us on our social media accounts: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram.

If you would like to support us: Donate to Dorothy Day House

David Stegman is the executive director of Dorothy Day House.