San Mateo County takes major step to address homelessness

The San Mateo County Board of Supervisors took an important step toward fulfilling a decade-long commitment to effectively end homelessness: it approved the creation of a 240-bed shelter, in addition to counseling and other support. 

The Board approved an agreement with the City of Redwood City that will allow for the development of such a state-of-the-art shelter, called the Navigation Center, to be located east of Highway 101, off of Maple Street. 

Supervisor Warren Slocum, whose District 4 includes Redwood City, said, "We are one step closer to creating 240 safe spaces for the homeless and offering them hope and dignity so that the next step is permanent housing."

The Board approved the exchange of a county-owned parcel at 1580 Maple St., for a Redwood City-owned parcel at 1469 Maple St., an agreement that also sets aside 10 acres which will serve as a future waterfront recreation park.

"The county has long had a goal of ending homelessness and this land swap gives the county the ability to expand services to achieve our goal of ending homelessness," said District 3 Supervisor Don Horsley.

The county plans to build the new center at 1469 Maple St., "a facility with services that have proven to break the cycle of homelessness," said County Administrator Mike Callagy. 

It is "a safe navigation center where people will be treated with dignity and respect, which will provide people with the stability they need to make the transition to more permanent housing."

The navigation center model provides short-term housing, while also offering on-site a range of intensive safety net and other case management services focused on housing, stability and recovery.

County officials hope to begin construction of the new navigation center in 2022 and have it open by the end of that year. The site would also be engineered to be elevated to protect against sea level rise.

"The City of Redwood City has been an excellent partner throughout this planning process," said Callagy. "We know that a common concern among many San Mateo County residents is homelessness, and we applaud the city for taking the necessary steps to address the urgent need for a navigation center."

According to the county, more than 1,500 county residents were homeless in 2019, with more than 900 homeless. The largest number of unsheltered individuals was in Redwood City, with a substantial population living in tents or on the street, facing challenges such as exposure, high levels of stress, lack of sleep, unsanitary environments, lack of access to hygiene and care, poverty, and malnutrition.

"A navigation center will play an important role in addressing the need not only for shelter, but also for services," Callagy said. "The county's goal is to achieve zero functional homelessness, which means that anyone desiring shelter can access it through a variety of county facilities and programs."

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