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First Navigation Center opens in San Mateo County to support the homeless

Navigation Center
Photo: San Mateo County

San Mateo County officials cut the ceremonial ribbon Tuesday to celebrate the dedication of the Navigation Center, which will provide 240 secure temporary living spaces for homeless individuals and couples.

Nestled in Redwood City, the Navigation Center is designed to serve up to 260 homeless San Mateo County residents who may be reluctant to go to traditional shelters. 

Navigation Center
Photo: San Mateo County

Unlike a traditional shelter, the Boating Center allows couples to stay together, have privacy, pet owners to bring their animals, and clients to store many of their belongings.

"This Navigation Center will provide a home environment for clients as they move toward permanent housing solutions," he said. Dave Pine, Chairman of the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors. “What we have heard over and over again is that being homeless strips people of their dignity. This Navigation Center will help restore that dignity."

The $57 million Navigation Center resembles a market-rate apartment complex, complete with open-air plazas, gardens, a basketball court, a dog park and a garden. Individual units have doorbells. 

"The idea is that the people who stay here are our guests," said Mike Callagy, county executive director. "We offer a safe and attractive place to stay while clients can work on the underlying causes of their homelessness."

This new space also offers specific services such as trauma counseling, substance use treatment, medical and dental care, and additional interventions designed to overcome barriers to seeking permanent housing.

Such a unique approach will allow unprotected patients to receive care faster and allow providers to coordinate overall care.

According to the county's Homelessness Strategic Plan, the goal is to find housing for each homeless person who elects assistance and that "homelessness will be a rare, brief, and one-time occurrence."

The Navigation Center will be operated under a contract with LifeMoves, a Menlo Park-based non-profit organization with experience in providing interim housing and supportive services for homeless families and individuals.

Located just east of the 101 Freeway, the county broke ground on the project a little over a year ago after reaching a land swap agreement with the city of Redwood City. 

The speed of construction was aided by the units and even the elevator being prefabricated and shipped to the site for installation. Off-site manufacturing also reduced costs per unit. The shelter is believed to be the first multi-story prefab in the country and has served as a model for designs for such spaces elsewhere.

Navigation Center in numbers

Location: 275 Blomquist St., Redwood City

240 homes, arranged in wings of one, two and three floors; 168 with bathroom in the unit, 72 without bathroom in the unit; Space for 260 clients; 68 parking spaces, including seven for electric vehicles; space for 140 bicycles.

Navigation Center
Photo: San Mateo County

Total cost of 57 million dollars ?237 thousand 500 dollars per bed?; Annual operating costs of approximately $5.01 million.

According to "A One Day Count," the county found that there were 1,808 homeless people in the area on the night of February 23, 2022. 

This number includes 1,092 homeless people who remain on the streets, in cars, in RVs, or in tents; and 716 sheltered homeless people staying in emergency shelters and transitional housing programs.

You may be interested in: New San Mateo County Boating Center to Open in Late April

Pamela Cruz
Pamela Cruz
Editor-in-Chief of Peninsula 360 Press. A communicologist by profession, but a journalist and writer by conviction, with more than 10 years of media experience. Specialized in medical and scientific journalism at Harvard and winner of the International Visitors Leadership Program scholarship from the U.S. government.

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