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How the Berkeley Emergency Storm Shelter (BESS) has adapted to serve during the pandemic.

Updated: Jan 19, 2021

Our Berkeley Emergency Storm Shelter program has been in operation for 4 years now.

Its primary purpose, in non-extraordinary times is to provide shelter for people living outside, one night at a time, allowing them to seek refuge and then leave in the morning. The BESS is usually activated to provide shelter during inclement weather – if it is any of the following:

· Too hot – temperatures above 100 degrees

· Too cold – temperature below 40 degrees

· Bad air quality

· Rain

The goal is to get people of the streets for at least a period of time for their own well-being – during this time Dorothy Day House can offer linkage to housing, health, and other resources depending on what the person’s immediate needs are. Emergency shelters play an incredibly important part in homelessness prevention, as they are often the first place that people turn to for support – which they typically can get in addition to temporary shelter.

Reception at BESS

Emergency shelters like that are important because they allow individuals that would not ordinarily go to shelters the autonomy to independently decide that they would like to take advantage of the shelter provided. Most individuals who utilize services such as these are more likely to be elderly, disabled, and to have slept on the street in preceding nights.

Due to this extraordinary year, our friends at the City of Berkeley have asked us to convert the Berkeley Emergency Storm Shelter (BESS) into a 24/7 shelter, like our Dorothy Day House Shelter, located nearby at our 1931 Center Street location. Because of the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, this came with some additional hurdles to overcome.

For the past 4 years, Rimmon Schurik, Dorothy Day House Operations Manager, has

overseen running the program.

“This year has been unusual to say the least – and making BESS a 24/7 shelter was totally unanticipated,” says Rimmon, “We needed to adapt it to be up to COVID-19 safety regulations – which we were able to do quickly.”

Using air purifiers, strict mask wearing policies, and distancing policies, BESS has had immense success – to date, it has had zero positive COVID-19 tests.

The BESS First Aid Station

“BESS right now is nearly an exact replica of our Dorothy Day House Shelter,” says Rimmon, “We are grateful to have the opportunity to provide ongoing temporary shelter to more individuals for this period of time.”

The impact of BESS cannot be overstated. Over the years, many of Dorothy Day House’s own employees have utilized the services we provide, and some were deeply impacted by the support they received from BESS.

One recipient of services, who wished to remain anonymous, says, “I can finally rest. I know I, and my belongings are safe here.”

Now that BESS is a full-time shelter, we are able to ensure the safety and health of all those who reside there. If you would like to help, please give us a call at 510-705-1325, or by sending an email to

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