In the 1990s FCCB supported – with the leadership of Frances Townes and others – the founding of the Chaplaincy for Homeless Youth. The program offered daytime respite for the increasing number of unhoused youth in our neighborhood on Telegraph Ave. FCCB members prepared and served lunches during this period with the program being housed at FCCB for a time. Increasingly, it became apparent that overnight shelter was needed, and YEAH (Youth Empowerment and Housing) evolved in 2000 to provide that service. FCCB began the Kitchen Community Ministry Team in 2002 to prepare dinner for youth staying overnight at the shelter housed in the recreation hall of the Lutheran Church of the Cross.
For the past 17+ years our Ministry Team has been preparing a meal and delivering it to the shelter on the fourth Thursday of every month. The meal was cooked in the FCCB kitchen until the 2016 fire changed that. For the past several years, we prepared meals in our homes and delivered the food individually to the church. Special meals were cooked for Thanksgiving and Christmas with turkey or ham dinners being provided. YEAH sheltered up to thirty-five 18-26 year old youth who had been living on the street. The COVID-19 pandemic lockdown made YEAH insist that the youth shelter in place and not leave the refuge. The number of youth dropped to around 10.
A few years ago, YEAH became associated with Covenant House which is a larger and better funded shelter in Oakland and other cities. YEAH lost its place at the Lutheran church and couldn’t find another site in Berkeley so that the present situation is that YEAH Is housed in trailers donated by FEMA which are located on a lot next to the Oakland Coliseum, close to the Tiny House Village. YEAH youth are taken via shuttle to the Covenant House campus in downtown Oakland during the day and brought back at night. The trailers are a much better situation but are far from Berkeley. This leaves Berkeley homeless youth poorly served. YEAH decided to purchase meals and ended its volunteer cooking program. Covenant House is building a kitchen in Oakland that will soon provide all of the meals.
The Ministry Team has had over 60 cooks during the past years. Some of us also volunteered with a program to help the youth achieve GED degrees.
The Ministry Team Coordinator for much of the past 17 years was Judith Norberg. Wilson and Patty Hoffman took over after the church fire and ran the ministry via email sign-ups. A very loyal group of cooks kept everything going: Ann Jensen, Bill Coffin and Barbara McHugh, Becky Wright, Bonnie Hester, Carole Wells-Desin, Craig and Pat Pratt, Joanne Lagerstrom, Joy and Eldon Ernst, Judith Norberg, Kathy and Bob Helliesen, Linda Koretz, and Stan Beghosian.
As of now, the Ministry Team members are taking a well deserved vacation but who knows what will happen when we get our kitchen back.