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After Delays, City’s Homeless Navigation Center Brings Services Under One Roof

Marcus Rouse, his girlfriend Ka Mcmackins and their baby Keyelimn stand outsi...

Photo by Matt Hoffman

Above: Marcus Rouse, his girlfriend Ka Mcmackins and their baby Keyelimn stand outside of the city's new homeless navigation center, Dec. 9, 2019.

The city of San Diego officially opened its first housing navigation center Monday in the East Village, serving as a one-stop-shop for homeless services, resources and support.

The city has partnered with more than 25 organizations to offer services like triage, crisis management, benefit access and housing assistance. Family Health Centers of San Diego has overseen staffing and recruitment, outreach to unsheltered homeless residents and reached agreements with the navigation center's partner organizations since the city tapped it to operate the facility last December.

Listen to this story by Matt Hoffman.

The facility's opening was nearly two years in the making. The San Diego City Council unanimously voted in January 2018 to purchase the building, at that time an indoor skydiving facility, for $7.3 million. The city had planned to open the navigation center in mid-2018 but that never happened.

Despite delays, news of the center opening has spread throughout the homeless community.

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

"I came down here and I spoke to this one gentleman named Mike who said everything is good," Marcus Rouse said.

Rouse said he has been homeless the last few years. Monday he came to the center with his girlfriend, Ka, and 5-month old son, Keyelimn, looking to get off the streets.

"This is my son, Keyelimn," said Rouse, holding his son. "He’s 5 months old and he’s also with us and we want to stay together. We want to be a family together, we don’t want to be split up. We need a place to stay."

Rouse desperately wants to give his son a better life, but the family’s only income is his social security right now. "$900 a month — that’s not good — not good at all," Rouse said. "It should be more like $1,500 or $2,000. That’ll get (his son) somewhere, but right now $900 that’s just not enough."

Rouse is also dealing with alcohol abuse, something he has struggled with lately.

"I fell down, but now I’m trying to get back up," Rouse said.

The navigation center began welcoming clients last week, according to city officials. Mayor Kevin Faulconer joined representatives of Family Health Centers and the San Diego Housing Commission outside the facility on Imperial Avenue to celebrate its official opening.

"A flaw in our regional care network is that San Diego lacked a singular point for an individual to access an array of homeless services and start the journey to a better life," Faulconer said. "The Housing Navigation Center will fill that void and serve as a model for other cities looking to implement innovative solutions to reduce homelessness and get people into housing."

The city has taken additional steps to combat homelessness, like expanding its bridge shelter program, while the navigation center was still in development. The city opened its fourth bridge shelter last month at the corner of 17th Street and Imperial Avenue, three blocks from the navigation center.

The 2019 point-in-time homeless count and survey in January found a minimum of 8,100 sheltered and unsheltered homeless residents in San Diego County, including some 5,000 in downtown San Diego alone.

Residents can contact Family Health Centers at 619-515-2306 for information on the navigation center and how to volunteer at the facility.

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