Photo provided by fremont.gov
The Fremont Navigation Center was proposed by the Fremont City Council on April 16th, 2019 to tackle the homelessness crisis our city is currently facing. The number of homeless people in Fremont has increased 27% since 2017; we currently have 608 people who are homeless, 479 of them without shelter. This center will provide six months worth of services to forty-five adults and aid them in finding permanent housing. The two locations suggested were the Fremont City Hall parking lot, and an area by Decoto Road. On September 10th, the city council came to an agreement to build it behind Fremont City Hall.
Before making this decision, the city staff of Fremont brought up how a similar program in Berkeley (the STAIR Center) assists homeless individuals by giving them resources. Suzanne Shenfil, the Human Services Director, City of Fremont, affirmed the results of the program, saying “they just completed their first-year operation with 64% of their participants exiting to permanent stable housing.” The Homeless Emergency Aid Program (HEAP) is funded byAlameda County to address the exact same problem in Fremont. Although the money is not directly going to the Navigation Center, it can at least go towards easing the issue.
However, while this proposition was met with a lot of positive feedback, there was also a lack of support coming from certain areas of the community. A protest organized by the residents living in close proximity to Decoto Road took place on July 16th, and nearly caused City Hall to cancel their meeting regarding the topic. Shenfil gave insight as to why people were against the choice of location.“Much of this was fear of homeless people which have been stigmatized in many ways,” she said “After much dialogue, I think more people understood why we needed to help people get rehoused, but people still did not want ‘homeless’ in their neighborhoods, or near their children.” The residents of this area want to keep their community safe, but due to the stigma surrounding homelessness, it feeds into the problem even more.
In addition, Shenfil says that, “homeless persons struggle with getting out of homelessness, but without the support and a helping hand it is almost impossible to do it on your own. Homelessness is a complex issue and as a community we all need to take some responsibility for being a part of the solution.”
Individuals who want to be in the program will need to complete the intake process with a Bay Area Community Service staff member, and this will include a Coordinated Entry Assessment from Alameda County. The Navigation Center will be open for homeless individuals who need it regardless of their mental health or substance abuse issues.