Rapid progress is being made on a critical component of this region’s collaborative effort to address homelessness — Merced County’s “Navigation Center.”
The 15,000 square-foot facility, located along B Street at the old Juvenile Hall site, and will be constructed from modified shipping containers to save money, cut down on construction time, and provide for a versatile and modern look. The containers are currently being delivered, and will be placed during the week of Aug. 31.
The county has contracted with the Merced Rescue Mission to manage the new facility which will operate 24/7.
The Navigation Center will serve as a low-barrier emergency sheltering option for individuals currently residing in public spaces, and other places not suitable for human habitation. This initial step transitioning individuals out of homelessness includes providing a safe and service-rich temporary shelter with connections to onsite supportive services. Clients will be assigned a case manager.
The goal is to link Navigation Center clients to permanent supportive and affordable housing units as quickly as possible, while simultaneously working on barriers to sustainability such as lack of income and behavioral health challenges.
“Homelessness is a moral issue that impacts the health, safety, and quality of life in our community,” said Assemblymember Adam Gray. “Establishing a low barrier shelter will allow us to house vulnerable individuals, clean up our streets, and reduce the burden on our first responders. Government is often guilty of talking too much and failing to solve problems. Today we are taking action.”
District 4 Supervisor Lloyd Pareira, who also serves on the Board of the Merced City and County Continuum of Care (CoC), said the project is a vital element of lifting people out of the homeless population. “This project is the result of many key partners, including Assemblyman Adam Gray, the CoC, the Central California Alliance for Health, the City of Merced, and others,” Pareira said. “The construction of our Navigation Center is a monument to years of hard work from so many dedicated individuals in our community.”
“The Alliance recognizes that individuals currently experiencing homelessness can have complex health needs that are often exacerbated by being without a stable home,” said Stephanie Sonnenshine, CEO of the Central California Alliance for Health (the Alliance). “We are therefore pleased to support the new Merced Navigation Center as this facility will not only link its clients to secure housing, income, and job training resources, but will also ensure that all participants will be connected to Medi-Cal and a primary care physician. By connecting its clients to a primary health care provider through case management, this will reduce their need for more costly emergency medical services and hospitalizations, and more importantly, improve their health outcomes.”
The design includes approximately 75 beds, kitchen and dining facilities, laundry, classroom, clinic, and office space for support service providers. The Merced Rescue Mission is working with partners, including businesses and organizations in the neighborhood, to establish a “Good Neighbor Policy” to ensure community involvement and coordination to maximize the program’s positive impact on the surrounding neighborhood.
The Navigation Center, which is expected to open in late 2020, is one element of the proposed regional plan to address homelessness, a collaborative effort between Merced County, its six cities, and the CoC. Other elements include outreach and engagement, transitional housing, long-term supportive housing, and the system supports needed to coordinate these activities. Other elements include outreach and engagement, transitional housing, long-term supportive housing, and the system supports needed to coordinate these activities. Earlier this year, the Board of Supervisors approved an agreement with the Merced Rescue Mission providing other communities outside of the City of Merced with access to similar services on an appropriate scale by renting 10 homes distributed across Merced County that will be similarly used as low-barrier Navigation Centers.