Imagine Kim Rogers’ surprise when she got the call earlier this year that she was chosen for affordable housing in Berkeley. After all, her two children, now in their 30s, were in middle school when she first applied for subsidized housing.
Rogers, 56, moved into her spacious one-bedroom apartment this month at the Berkeley Way Apartments.
On Thursday, officials celebrated the grand opening of the Berkeley Way Apartments and Hope Center, a joint affordable housing and homeless services center project developed by the Berkeley Food & Housing Project (BFHP) and BRIDGE Housing.
Built on a city parking lot, the project began as a vision two decades ago. The development includes BRIDGE’s Berkeley Way Apartments, with 89 affordable homes and services for low- and very low-income families, and BFHP’s Hope Center’s 53 permanent supportive housing apartments, a 32-bed homeless shelter, and 12 transitional beds for homeless veterans. The center also has a community kitchen and wrap-around services for mental health, substance abuse, job training and social activities.
“In keeping with our mission, the Hope Center and Berkeley Way go beyond housing to provide opportunities that lift up people and the community,” said Ken Lombard, president and CEO of BRIDGE Housing.
Terrie Light, former BFHP executive director, is credited with having the vision to see the project through fruition. On Thursday, she was lauded for her role in getting the ambitious project off the ground and through many hurdles. It is the largest homeless and affordable housing development in the city.
Mayor Jesse Arreguin thanked Light “for her bold vision for the Hope Center and her determination to get this project done.”
At a BFHP board retreat in 2003, the seed for the city’s largest homeless and affordable housing development was planted. In 2009, BFHP and the City Council approved the framework for relocating the BFHP men’s shelter. Four years later, the City Council sought proposals to replace the city’s parking lot at 2012 Berkeley Way with affordable and permanent supportive housing and supportive services. BFHP and BRIDGE Housing were then selected to build the joint development. After many delays, the project was approved in 2018 under state law SB35.
The $120 million project, which broke ground in 2020, was partly funded by Measure O, an affordable housing bond that voters approved in 2018.
It was completed in July, and residents started moving into the new development in late September.
Berkeley Way started accepting applications for studios, and one- and two-bedroom apartments in February. Kim Rogers had totally forgotten she had applied for affordable housing. After all, more than 20 years had passed. Her two children were now adults with their children.
“I didn’t know how long the process would take,” she said. “I thought it would just be a couple of months.”
Rogers, a Berkeley High grad, lived with her father in Arizona for seven years, and after he passed in 2016, she returned to the Bay Area.
“Luckily, I kept my same phone number,” Rogers said. “One of the ladies that worked in the office contacted me and asked me if I was still interested. I said yes. And then once I saw the tour, I was like, thank you, Lord. I’m so glad that I had my cellphone number.”
The timing couldn’t have been better. Rogers has been having health problems and hasn’t been able to work.
“I think I’m the most excited person. I am really, really blessed to be here,” she said. “I mean, it’s not just somewhere to live. They offer services, and I appreciate that.”
Mike Williams’ life has been a rough one. After serving time in prison, he spent 21 years “off and on” living on the streets because he was unable to find work. He called it a “blessing from God” that he finally find housing.
He was given a new 40″ television and pots and pans.
The facility pays for water and garbage service, and he’ll pay the PG&E bill.
“Everything I could think of that I needed, they took care of it.”
Late Wednesday night, Donna Ewing, 64, and her chihuahua quietly moved into her new studio apartment at Berkeley Way. It was the first time in 30 years she could lay her head down in her own home. She has lived on the streets much of her life and spent the last 2 1/2 years living in temporary housing cabins in Oakland before landing a spot at Berkeley Way.
She said her life got sidetracked by bad relationships, drug addiction and alcoholism. She’s been clean for two years.
On her first night in the studio, she said the motion lights kept coming on every time she got up which threw her off. She said she is humbled to have a place to call home.
“I’m not going to take it for granted. I consider myself a lucky one.”