Berkeley High School’s Women’s Student Union began hosting a hygiene drive for the Dorothy Day House on Monday, Nov. 13, 2023 and that is continuing up until Friday, Dec. 8, 2023. Donation bins are located in the Title IX coordinator’s office, and the director of student activities John Villavicencio’s office. They are accepting unopened hygiene products such as toothbrushes, menstrual products, and travel-sized shampoo.
The Dorothy Day House was established in 1992 and provides temporary shelter to unhoused people in Berkeley. According to volunteer coordinator Tami Stewart, they also run a kitchen and provide upwards of 500 meals a day to the community.
Continuing the tradition, the Women’s Student Union also hosted a drive for Dorothy Day House during the winter holidays last year. “It’s a great way to get people involved,” said Stella Pfeifer, co-president of the Women’s Student Union. “It’s easy: just take products from your house (and) bring them to the donation boxes. That’s it.”
Pfeifer identified four focuses for Women’s Student Union this year, consisting of creating open discussions around gender equity, making a safe space for women at BHS, community service, and collaboration with other clubs.
The drive aligns with two of the aforementioned goals, “The drive opens discussions because it has people hearing and talking about Dorothy Day House, but also thinking about the importance of giving back to the community,” said Pfeifer.
This drive aims to help women experiencing homelessness in Berkeley. Often, prices for products marketed towards women are higher compared to products marketed towards men. Menstrual products are also costly to many. “Hygiene and menstrual products should not be treated as a luxury,” said Pfeifer.
Located at 1931 Center Street, just across from the BHS campus, the Dorothy Day House is a prime location for BHS student volunteers. “We are a volunteer-driven organization. We really couldn’t do the work without people who are giving their time,” said Stewart.
The Dorothy Day House also hosts a teen summer volunteer program. It’s a one-week commitment from 7:00 a.m. through 1:30 p.m. They offer two spots per week throughout the summer. BHS sophomore Anna Swedlow, who has volunteered at the shelter, said, “We did multiple activities. We served food and we also got food from the food banks, organized clothes, and organized donations. Then we worked at a food truck where people can request certain kinds of groceries.”
On the Dorothy Day House website, they report, “Currently there are 1,057 people who are houseless right here in Berkeley. Chronic and temporary homelessness are massive issues. We’re working to change that.”
At a Berkeley City Council meeting on Monday, June 26, 2023, the council allocated, “$412,185 in Measure P to operate an inclement weather shelter for up to 141 nights.”
Dorothy Day was an American Catholic political radical journalist, who fought for civil, labor, and women’s rights. Dorothy Day also co-founded the Catholic Workers Movement and started the very first Hospitality House, which provided both meals and shelter.
This model spread across the country following the Hospitality House’s creation.
The Women’s Student Union’s hygiene drive aims to collect hygiene products for people experiencing homelessness in Berkeley, providing the products that they need. To learn more about how to support people experiencing homelessness in the Bay Area, visit the Dorothy Day House website.