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The stated purpose of the Pathways Project is to "create new homeless programs and a 1000 person plan to stem the tide of homelessness in Berkeley."

Mayor Jesse Arreguìn's Vision Statement further specified:

The objective of Pathways is straightforward: develop innovative ways to provide short-term shelter and ultimately permanent housing for our growing homeless population. This will relieve the pressure on city streets, parks, business districts and neighborhoods that are disproportionally impacted by the concentration of homeless, and provide a real chance for the homeless to move their lives forward. Source: Arreguìin's personal website snapshotted 03/11/2019

Responsible Officials

Program Features

STAIR Center

Low-barrier shelter providing meals as well as services for mental health, substance addiction, and job training. The shelter permits;

  • Substance use
  • Pets
  • Living with partners and/or groups

Stays are limited to 5 months

Source: Arreguìin's personal website snapshotted 03/11/2019

Bridge Living Community

For those who are not prepared to be permanently housed after their five-month stay in the STAIR facility, Bridge Living Community will provide 25 tiny homes on the same plot of land as Pathways. Bridge Living will also be available for people who are transitioning into permanent housing. Source: Arreguìin's personal website snapshotted 03/11/2019


April 4th, 2017

The City Council voted unanimously to direct the City Manager to implement Emergency Interim Measures, as described in the Pathways Project report, to provide stability, navigation and respite to homeless individuals, and pathways to permanent housing and services. The Pathways Project would create new homeless programs and a 1000 person plan to stem the tide of homelessness in Berkeley. The vote authorized four proposed Pathways Project programs: an Encampment Resolution Team, a STAIR or Navigation Center, a Bridge Living Community, and a 100 voucher Homeward Bound pilot program. In his report, Health, Housing, and Community Services director Paul Buddenhagen cautioned council:

Council should recognize that failure to proportionally invest in more permanent exits to housing for Pathways consumers will create unintended consequences: either (i) most consumers will return directly to the streets after their time-limited respite stay at STAIR Center ends, or (ii) most consumers will remain “clogged” in a Bridge Living Community that rations the same limited housing options to more and more individuals ready to access them. For this reason, $500,000 in housing subsidies are included in the Bridge Living Community budget.

July 11, 2017

Council refined their approval of the Pathways Project to establish a combined STAIR Center/Bridge Living Community and associated Homeward Bound and rapid rehousing components, plus an outreach team, as recommended by formal action of the Council’s Ad Hoc Subcommittee on Homelessness. The manager proposed an annual operating budget of $2.6M, including one FTE for program administration, budgeted at $190,000. Media:2017-07-11_Pathways_Analysis_and_Recommendations.pdf

March 27, 2018

The Council unanimously authorized the City Manager to execute a contract with Bay Area Community Services (BACS) for 13 months of operations and facilities expenses for the Pathways STAIR Center (Pathways), as described below, for a total contract amount not to exceed $2,440,000

June 23rd, 2018

The Navigation Center opens on Second and Cedar streets, with 50 residents. Mayor Arreguìn's spokeswoman, Karina Ioffe, said

“Fifty (people) in the beginning. (The) goal is that (those) 50 will stay there for some time,” Ioffe said. “They will hopefully be placed, not all in Berkeley, but in the region, in some other sort of affordable housing. … The goal is to expand to 75 to 100 (people).” Source: Daily Cal, accessed 03/11/2019

Administrative Structure

Participation Criteria

Pathways selects participants who are disabled, and so eligible for disability income, and "work ready," and so able to hold a job.

  Within the navigation center itself, the target population really ends up being two-fold.  It is either someone that has permanent disabilities and is on a fixed income or it's a population who is really what the government would deem "work ready" and is able to hold a competitive job.  And so the navigation center works with both parts of the population to either help them find work if they're able to work and/or helps them really ensure that their permanent disability status is achieved and that their fixed income will help them sustain permanent housing.

Drug use, cohabitation, and pets are all permitted in Pathways.

Source: Bay Area Community Services Housing Navigation Center 4:40


According to the Daily Cal, funding for rent subsidies depends on flexible funding from the BHCS Everyone Home Fund. Everyone Home was created after the 2016 election, in which California voters expanded the scope of the Mental Health Services Act, permitting revenues to be used for housing (and not just treatment) of mentally ill Californians.

It is not known whether or how BHCS is screening clients who receive MHSA funds for mental illness before issuing subsidies.

Expenditures and Commitments

Buddenhagen's 07/11/2017 analysis estimated

significant up-front expenses for opening a STAIR Center, a Bridge Center, an Encampment Resolution Team, and a Homeward Bound Program are estimated to be $4.8 million, plus annual expenses of $4.3 million thereafter. A hybrid alternative would cost an estimated $2.8 million in year one, plus $2.6 million annually. These estimates do not include capital investments for opening a STAIR Center and/or Bridge Living Community, which (depending on the site) could entail significant construction costs and city staff time:
Encampment Resolution Team $400,000 $360,000
STAIR Center $1,800,000 $1,600,000
Bridge Living Community $2,300,000 $2,100,000
Homeward Bound $90,000 $90,000
1 FTE City Staff $190,000 $190,000
Capital Costs unknown unknown
Full Program TOTAL $4,800,000 $4,300,000
Hybrid Alternative TOTAL $2,800,000 $2,600,000


Participants in Pathways have been carefully selected. No public information is available to establish that participants were housed in Berkeley prior to becoming homeless and so it is equally plausible that they arrived here in order to take advantage of the program funded by Berkeley taxpayers.

The focus of the program is on high-functioning individuals or individuals who are already entitled to permanent subsidies based on disability rather than housing status.

  Within the navigation center itself, the target population really ends up being two-fold.  It is either someone that has permanent disabilities and is on a fixed income or it's a population who is really what the government would deem "work ready" and is able to hold a competitive job.  And so the navigation center works with both parts of the population to either help them find work if they're able to work and/or helps them really ensure that their permanent disability status is achieved and that their fixed income will help them sustain permanent housing.

Source: Bay Area Community Services Housing Navigation Center 4:40

  In the City of Berkeley's Navigation Center, 60% of people are disabled and qualify for disability income and 40% are either working or looking for work.

Source: Bay Area Community Services Housing Navigation Center 4:50

The small number of program exits to substance abuse treatment, psychiatric facilities, and prison indicate that Pathways is not addressing the challenges arising from those cohorts in the transient population.


According to BHCS Executive Director Jamie Almanza, the

  navigation center was designed [...] to end [clients'] street homelessness permanently.

Source: Bay Area Community Services Housing Navigation Center 2:30

Almanza also explained the kinds of housing Pathways staff work to identify:

 types of housing include shared housing, where an individual perhaps rents a bedroom in a house.  It may include housing where they're moving back with family and/or friends but that they hold a lease of their own and pay rent into the household.  It may be an individual unit and/or for a very small group of people it may be permanent, affordable supportive housing, where people pay a third of their income for the rest of their lives.  

According to the outcomes reported in response to a PRA, however, permanent housing is overwhelmingly not the outcome achieved for most program participants exiting Pathways. More participants end up back on the streets than in permanent housing and the largest # of program exits are to rapid rehousing solutions with short term (6 month) subsidies.

Outcome Councilmember Sophie Hahn BACS Executive Director Jamie Almanza City of Berkeley PRA response
Permanently housed, without subsidy 200+ 81 15, less 4 recidivists
Permanently housed with friends - - 7
Temporary tenure with friends - - 4
Temporary (Rapid Rehousing) - - 63, less 15 recidivists
Recidivists - - 4 from permanent; 15 from RRH
Return to Streets - - 20
Rental with subsidy - - 8
Rental without subsidy - - 8
Psychiatric facility - - 1
Hospital (non-psychiatric) - - 2
Emergency shelter - - 5
Drug rehab/detox - - 2
Jail/prison - - 1
Deceased - - 1

Little information is available about where housing units are being found. In one story, the Daily Cal described a couple who were placed in a studio apartment in the Fruitvale area of Oakland, with a monthly rent of $1,550 to be covered by Supplemental Security Income (SSI).

Source: August, 2019 Public Records Act response from the City of Berkeley

Average duration to exit from Pathways as of August 2019 is 75 days. Currently (August 2019) enrolled participants have been there for an average of 90 days, suggesting that placements are becoming more challenging with time. Despite the supposed five month limit, there are clients who have stayed well past that period, including one who has been in residence for more than 400 days.


November, 2019: Dozens Say Taxpayer-Funded Housing Program Put Them Back On The Street

KPIX 5 CBS Bay Area reports that dozens are back on the streets because of BACS, which placed them in illegal or uninhabitable units. Some reported being placed in units with fewer amenities and higher rents than market rate options, funded by taxpayers. Mayor Jesse Arreguin refused accountability and expressed confidence in BACS.

At least one of the people interviewed for the article had previously, though unsuccessfully, sued the City of Berkeley.

September, 2019: "drug infested place"

Activist Barbara Breust in public comment at the 9/10/19 council meeting:

   I was part of the commissions that talked about Pathways that has become a drug infested place that I can’t even go in and visit.  There are places on the streets that are cleaner than that. Encampments that are cleaner than that.

at the 38:43 mark.

August, 2019: How many clients are being placed in permanent housing?

Consistent information about the number of clients served by Pathways and their outcomes remains elusive.

Councilmember Sophie Hahn claimed in an August 15th email that the number rehoused through city programs was more than twice that.

  If you'd like to learn more about what we are doing, much of which is providing promising results (like rehousing 200+ people in less than two years) let me know.

Source: email to constituent

In an August, 2019 video about Pathways, produced by the city of Fremont, Bay Area Community Housing Executive Director Jamie Almanza indicated that in the "year plus" of operations, "

  81 of the 99 participants (82%) are now living in permanent housing."  

Source: Bay Area Community Services Housing Navigation Center 2:10, accessed 08/25/2019

In an August 22, 2019 response to a Public Records Act request, the City revealed that only 15 program participants exited to permanent housing. 7 more were "permanently housed with friends" and 16 were placed in rentals with no guarantee of permanent status.

Another 63 went to temporary housing with Rapid Rehousing (6 month) subsidies.

Of these, four "permanently housed" and twenty-four "rapidly rehoused" returned to pathways one or more times. The majority of recidivist cases returned within 24 hours.

March 11, 2018: activists question mission and likelihood of success

Shortly before its opening, activists questioned the cost and outcomes from the project

Barbara Brust, founder and director of the nonprofit organization Consider the Homeless!, said she believed the Pathways center would not succeed. She highlighted how the Pathways Project relocates homeless individuals to other cities and how the Pathways center will open just seven days before the Berkeley Emergency Storm Shelter, or BESS, closes June 30.
While the Pathways center will ensure housing for 50 people for up to six months, BESS has housed 90 people every night since December 2017. Previously, The Daily Californian reported that the Pathways Project cost more than $1.8 million — the city council voted March 27 to allocate about $2.4 million from the general fund to the project.
“I don’t think (Pathways is) gonna work,” Brust said. “It’s a piece of the puzzle that we have spent an exorbitant amount of money on.” Source: Daily Cal accessed 03/11/2019

October 11, 2018: Sophie Hahn accuses project opponents of human rights abuse

At a city council update, Sophie Hahn, a champion for the Pathways projects, equated not funding the program with human rights abuse. Source Daily Cal accessed 03/22/2019

October 10, 2018: Dueling stores about Berkeley Navigation Center

On the Occupy SF blog, Mike Zint writes

 Dueling stories. One story reports 20, using a council members numbers. One story says 10, and uses Radu and me. One publication has homeless haters as commenters. The other publication is UC Berkeley’s paper, put out by really smart kids.
 I’ll go with the kids any day.

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