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Berkeley Nonprofit BOSS Has Fought ‘Root Causes of Poverty and Homelessness’ for Over 50 Years

In this article, written by Joanne Furio BOSS is highlighted for their 50 years of service in the East Bay. With a mission to “help homeless, poor, and disabled people achieve health and self-sufficiency, and to fight against the root causes of poverty and homelessness,” BOSS is now one of the largest nonprofits of its kind in the East Bay. Almost 4,000 people and families are served every year by more than 50 BOSS programs at its 14 sites in Alameda County.


In 1967, Gov. Ronald Reagan signed the Lanterman-Petris-Short Act, which closed state mental hospitals in favor of community-based care. There was one problem.

“The funding never came and the facilities were never built,” said Donald Frazier, CEO of the Berkeley nonprofit Building Opportunities for Self Sufficiency, or BOSS.

It was Ursula’s vision for a safe, supportive welcoming environment that shaped the BOSS housing programs --- Donald Frazier

As former state hospital patients suddenly found themselves on the street, members of Berkeley’s Jewish community “stepped in to fill the gap,” Frazier said. Leading that effort was Ursula Sherman, a librarian and lifelong human and civil rights activist in Berkeley, who helped create BOSS in 1971.

Since its founding, BOSS has grown tremendously. Frazier now oversees an $18 million budget, made up of federal, state and local funding and private foundation, corporate and individual donations, and 150 employees.


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