The Super 8 motel on University Avenue was previously used as temporary housing for residents of the Here There encampment on Adeline Street in South Berkeley, which the city closed in February. Credit: Ximena Natera, Berkeleyside/CatchLight

Berkeley will lease the Super 8 motel on University Avenue (at California Street) in its continued push to close outdoor encampments around the city and move people living on the street into transitional housing.

The 23-room Super 8 Motel was previously used as temporary housing when the city closed the 6-year-old Here There encampment on Adeline Street in February. Thirteen former residents there were given 60-day vouchers for stays at the Super 8.

City homeless services coordinator Josh Jacobs said all 13 people were offered alternate shelter options before their stays ended, and eight people accepted alternatives while five denied shelter and left the hotel. The city typically offers both congregate and non-congregate housing to residents, and individuals have to decide if the option is suitable for their needs.

The $7.3 million Super 8 Motel lease, approved by City Council Tuesday, will run through July 31, 2028. The state awarded Berkeley $4.9 million in “encampment resolution” funding this summer, and the city put $2.9 million toward the Super 8 with the goal of addressing the “crisis of encampments” in Northwest Berkeley.

The city has raised concerns about unsafe and unhealthy living conditions there. Encampment residents have pushed for additional resources — like water stations and more trash bins — they say would mitigate the impact of life on the street during an ongoing regional housing crisis.

Insight Housing, which was formerly called the Berkeley Food and Housing Project, will manage the housing program at Super 8.

The city began leasing multiple hotels as temporary housing after an influx of state funding for emergency housing during the COVID-19 pandemic.

After the initial wave of short-term leases, the city is trying to convert some locations into permanent supportive housing. The state granted Berkeley funding to convert the 43-unit Golden Bear Inn on San Pablo Avenue into permanent supportive housing last December under Project Homekey, and the 42-bed University Inn (formerly Rodeway) on University Avenue is currently moving through the same process.

The city also has a five-year lease for supportive housing at the Berkeley Inn on San Pablo Avenue, operated by Dorothy Day House after the closure of the Horizon Transitional Village last winter. Most residents who lived indoors at the congregate shelter moved to the Berkeley Inn, but RV residents at the shelter’s safe parking site have mostly been left without options.

The Super 8 motel is one of several transitional housing locations leased by the city since the beginning of the pandemic. Credit: Ximena Natera, Berkeleyside/CatchLight

Many residents of the hotels have raised concerns over security, food and living conditions at the transitional programs, but they also say the stability and respite of a non-congregate shelter (meaning either having your own room or sharing it with just one other person) is preferable to sleeping on the streets or in a park.

The city will time the opening of the Super 8 motel rooms with the closure of encampments in Northwest Berkeley along Harrison Street, as they’ve done in the past with encampments along I-80, in Southwest and West Berkeley.

Multiple residents currently living at Harrison Street described receiving mixed communication about the availability of hotel rooms, but said the city hosted a meeting with outreach workers this week to share information.

It’s a matter of being in the right place at the right time, some said, while others felt like they’d been overlooked for housing offers time and time again. Yesica Prado, local activist and journalist, said there are more residents living in the Harrison Street area than there are rooms available — and she’s concerned about how the city will prioritize rooms.

Dean Bowman graduated from De Anza High School in Richmond and has lived on the streets in Berkeley for 18 years. He’s mostly gotten by doing odd jobs, but is now finding it difficult to manage street life, and overcoming a drug addiction, while focusing on day-to-day survival.

“I’ve never had a [hotel] voucher, not even once,” said Bowman. “If I did have housing, I know that I wouldn’t burn that bridge.”

He said he hasn’t heard anything from the city yet, but even if he doesn’t, he hopes his neighbors are able to get rooms.

“I just want my brothers and all these people on the streets to be watched for, because they’ve been pushed under … and their rights have been violated in so many ways,” Bowman said.

Supriya Yelimeli is a housing and homelessness reporter for Berkeleyside and joined the staff in May 2020 after contributing reporting since 2018 as a freelance writer. Yelimeli grew up in Fremont and...