On December 4, Berkeley High School’s (BHS) Associated Student Body (ASB) leadership held its first-ever student supply center distribution. The event was facilitated through ASB’s Simple Supply Center, a newly-created program designed to support unhoused students at BHS by providing access to basic necessities at no cost.
Items being distributed at the Simple Supply Center include socks, toothbrushes, razors, and deodorant. Additional items — such as masks, gloves, and hand sanitizer — have also been made available to increase students’ personal safety amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Spencer Paik, BHS’ current ASB President, and Ultraviolet Schneider-Dwyer, ASB Vice-President, helped to organize and implement the Simple Supply Center. The items provided through the program were purchased using funds from the BHS Development Group (BHSDG).
“We’re extremely grateful for the support we’ve been receiving from BHSDG,” Paik said. “During the COVID-19 pandemic, most of ASB’s usual funding sources — like the talent show and in-person donation events — have been completely cut off, so this wouldn’t have been possible without them.”
The idea to create a supply center to support unhoused students began as a campaign promise during BHS’ 2019 school-wide ASB elections. Former BHS students Lexie Tesch and Daijah Conerly, who served as ASB President and Vice-President during the 2019-20 school year, had begun to implement plans for the supply center when the pandemic struck. Since Berkeley Unified School District’s (BUSD) closure in March, plans to begin distribution had been on hold.
At the same time, rates of student homelessness in the Bay Area grew due to loss of parent employment, families’ inability to continue rental payments, and other pandemic-related economic challenges.
“It’s especially hard to reach out to the unhoused population during COVID-19, and we thought this would be a helpful way to provide some amount of community support for them,” Schneider-Dwyer said. “I care about the well-being of all my fellow students at BHS and the least we could do as a leadership team was to offer basic supplies to those who need them.”
December 4 and December 18 — the Simple Supply Center’s two main distribution days — will coincide with the 2020 BHS Holiday Meal. Organizers of the supply center hope this will increase accessibility, as some unhoused students will already be on campus to receive meals. Paik and Schneider-Dwyer also plan to increase the supply center’s visibility in the BHS community by posting informative flyers in downtown Berkeley and on the BHS campus, and by sending messages to the student body through the BHS E-Tree.
Tammy Rose, Vice President of Academic Choice, assisted in structuring the supply center’s organizational logistics. Simple Supply Center volunteers — made up of BHS parents and students — have assembled and passed out packages of necessities to students in need.
“If we have the resources and contacts to do so, we hope to continue distributing supplies in the future,” Schneider-Dwyer said. “I’m eager to continue this project because I think everyone deserves to have their basic needs met and be supported in their day-to-day lives — no matter where they come from.”