This church, just below Telegraph Avenue, was the home of the Berkeley Food Project for several decades. The Food Project served a free dinner 5 days a week. They also had a morning drop-in center where the street people could get free coffee and pastries and hang out. They also provided many other services for the Berkeley street people.
The church stopped doing the Food Project a couple years ago. I’m not sure why. It could be they just got burned out by having the street populace constantly massing on their grounds (which can be no easy thing to deal with on a regular basis). And shortly after closing up shop, they erected a fence around their entire property (a clear-cut sign that the party is over). And the street people I used to see regularly lounging around on the site are long gone.
I also noticed an almost immediate reduction in the number of street people hanging out on Telegraph Avenue after the Food Project closed it’s doors. And that’s usually how it works. The charity free food joints are usually the epi-center of where the homeless street people live and hang out. And their numbers usually fan out in a radius from the site. It’s one of the terrible ironies of the “homeless problem.” The communities that are most willing to try to help the homeless, draw an ever increasing number of homeless to their communities. So the more they try to do something about the homeless problem, the larger the homeless problem gets in their community. What a life!
Some of the real old-timers might remember the Food Project when it was located on College Avenue and was called the “Quarter Meal” (because the street people had to pay 25¢ for the meal back then). This was back in the late ’70s, early ’80s, when there were only about 40 or 50 people on the Berkeley street scene, and we all knew each other. Probably the only person still around from the Quarter Meal days is Narrayana — that little homeless waif who was just a teenager back then. Everyone else is long gone. . . I used to go to the Quarter Meal every now and then with my pal Duncan, when I was living with him in the Berkeley Inn back in 1982 (a bygone era, sigh). Duncan was one of the real Food Project regulars. He ate at the Food Project just about every day, 5 days a week, for over 3 decades (but lest you think Duncan was just a freeloader mooching off the free meals, one year we donated a thousand bucks from the profits of our Telegraph Street Calendar to the Food Project, and Duncan did a lot to contribute to the scene over the years) (PS. I apologize for the virtue-signaling here).
It’s also worth noting, the charity free food joints like the Food Project don’t just serve the homeless or the street people. A lot of their clientele are simply poor people with limited incomes trying to stretch their food budget.
The Food Project has helped a lot of people over the years. I believe they’re located in a church on University Avenue now. And they probably took a lot of the Telegraph street people with them.