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San Diego City Council Votes To Proceed With Housing Navigation Center

The future Housing Navigation Center for Homeless Services building, Jan. 30,...

Credit: Matt Hoffman

Above: The future Housing Navigation Center for Homeless Services building, Jan. 30, 2018.

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The San Diego City Council voted 5-4 Tuesday to proceed with a proposed Housing Navigation Center that will offer services and programs to help homeless residents find housing and obtain medical care, mental health treatment, job training and other supportive services.

With the vote, the city enters into a one-year agreement from Dec. 1, 2018 to Nov. 30, 2019 with Family Health Centers of San Diego to operate the center. The agreement includes four optional one-year extensions.

The council, acting as the San Diego Housing Authority, also authorized a memorandum of understanding on the roles the city and the San Diego Housing Commission will play in the operation of the navigation center, with the Housing Commission overseeing the day-to-day management and oversight of the facility.

"Helping someone transition from homelessness isn't just about finding an apartment, it is about rebuilding a life," Mayor Kevin Faulconer said. "A navigation center will be where this starts. Where people can find financial assistance to get back on their feet; where people can reconnect with family; where people can get an ID, assistance from (Veterans Affairs) benefits or access to healthcare from county and federal services."

RELATED: City To Buy Downtown Building To House Homeless Services Center

The council voted unanimously in January to purchase a building in downtown San Diego that will eventually house the navigation center. The city agreed to pay $7.3 million for a building at 1401 Imperial Ave., adjacent to Father Joe's Villages and a trolley station.

Funding for the navigation center is expected to total $1.8 million during the first year and $1.5 million each subsequent year, with $1 million annually coming from the city's Community Development Block Grant program.

The vote could be the council's last significant one before the three new City Council members are sworn in next month, and it did not lack partisan politics despite the council being technically nonpartisan. Democratic City Councilwoman Myrtle Cole voted with the council's four Republicans in favor of the proposal, while Democratic City Council members Barbara Bry, Chris Ward, David Alvarez and Georgette Gomez voted against it.

Council Democrats noted that the navigation center does not include sorely needed new housing units. Ward, who represents the district the navigation center will be in, argued that the center does nothing new to assist the city's homeless population.

"This no longer aspires to be a one-stop, low-barrier shelter model with access to multiple providers and on-site services, targeting the chronically homeless and those living in encampments," Ward said. "Instead, this proposal will provide zero additional shelter beds, zero additional housing units, and zero additional services for our vulnerable population."

City officials remain unsure how many homeless residents will use the navigation center each year. The city's 2018 Point in Time report found San Diego's unsheltered homeless population at roughly 5,000, with another 3,500 homeless residents in emergency shelters and transitional housing.

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