Unhoused in Berkeley thankful for nontraditional warehouse they call home

On this Thanksgiving holiday,  a group of homeless people in Berkeley said they have found family and community in a shelter that uses a different approach to help people get off the streets.

They said they're thankful to be part of a program that treats them as individuals. And the only rules are ones that require everyone to respect each other.

The homeless received a hot, homemade Thanksgiving meal in a warehouse they call home.

"I'm surrounded by people I love and feel comfortable with. Happy to be here," said James Morry, a shelter resident.  

The folks live in tents inside a warehouse. The program is called Horizon Transitional Village. It's part of Dorothy Day House, a nonprofit that serves the homeless.

"We're a low to no barrier program," said program manager Angelina Roman,"We don't have a curfew. They can come and go all they want.  They are pretty much independent."

The program is a non-traditional shelter designed to  help those who don't do well with the restrictions of most shelters.  Each person is given an individual tent to retain privacy.

"You can go and visit your family for a couple of days and letting them know.  They don't govern us. They don't put us under a microscope," said shelter resident Ron T.

The shelter residents said they're given freedom and respect. And they don't have to worry about their belongings being stolen.

"It's stability. It's a safe place, and it's really a simple thing," said shelter resident Gregory Warner.

Simple house rules include no smoking, drugs and alcohol.   Wraparound services include medical treatment and permanent housing.

"A  sense of community, having people have trust and faith in you. It's good to have that," said Johnny Thurman who was a shelter resident until a few days ago when he signed a one-year lease for a studio apartment.  He said he also found a job.

Keys to success for him are "staying the course, doing as you're told, not making a fuss, not creating conflict." 

"It's nice to have your own place. Almost forgot what it felt like," said Thurman.

This tent warehouse program ends when the lease expires at the end of this year. 

The next phase is to move the folks here into a hotel setting.

But organizers said this model worked so well,  they'll bring it back when they identify a new warehouse space.

Amber Lee is a reporter with KTVU. Email Amber at Amber.Lee@Fox.com or text/leave message at 510-599-3922. Follow her on Facebook @AmberKTVU,  Instagram @AmberKTVU  or Twitter @AmberKTVU