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COF Housing Navigation Center Project
Niles Discovery Church was being considered as a location for the City of Fremont’s Housing Navigation Center, though it is pretty clear this will not happen. However, we are leaving these FAQs on our website so you can see what we were considering and on the very small chance that the City changes its mind and asks us to consider becoming the home of the HNC.
What are the basics of the project?
- The City of Fremont (City) has declared a homeless crisis emergency in order to quickly take several actions to reduce homelessness. One of the actions is to set up a temporary Housing Navigation Center to house 40-45 homeless adults at a time for up to six months as they participate in services to help them navigate from homelessness to stable housing. The City is considering locating the Housing Navigation Center (HNC) on “squirrel hill,” if an agreement with the church can be reached. This program will operate for two years with an option to renew annually for a total of five years.
What is a Housing Navigation Center?
- A Housing Navigation Center is a newer model for offering intensive assistance to secure stable housing WITH temporary shelter. This model has emerged in the last 10-15 years as experts examined what programs have the best success rates with adults who’ve been homeless for prolonged periods. For more information on what a Housing Navigation Center is, click here.
What is the city’s timeline?
- The City has an urgent goal of setting up this Housing Navigation Center by November 2019, just before the winter rains begin. While we are not sure this is a realistic time-table, we can appreciate this time line since our congregation was among of Fremont’s winter relief churches between (dates)
If the Housing Navigation Center is located on “squirrel hill,” we will lose our overflow parking. How will that work?
- There are two main options under consideration, and we may uncover some others. The City has suggested adding parking on the street along the church’s property on the north side of Niles Blvd. We are also looking into use of the parking lot in the Nursery Park on the few days when extra parking is needed (like on Easter and at some memorial services and weddings).
How will we keep this a community-safe zone?
We are negotiating for program enrollment and ongoing procedures that will minimize the risk from people with a history of violence (including sexual violence). The Coordinated Entry Access Packet does ask about arrests and sexual offender status as a housing barrier because property managers often require background checks. The team is carefully reviewing the written applications, the interviews with the prospective non-profits and any evaluative information we can lay our hands on, to assure the HNC will operate with the minimum risk for everyone.
Click HERE for more information about safety with a Housing Navigation Center.
- We have learned that experienced providers have routine procedures for confiscating weapons and other unsafe and/or hazardous items, as well as 24/7 staff to prevent and quickly stop violent behaviors (even from pets). FYI, Mark McConville noted that Second Chance has called police mostly for assistance with involuntary psychiatric hospitalizations, and rarely if ever in his memory for a property crime.
What precautions will be in place?
- California’s “Housing First” model requires HNCs to use a “low threshold” (or “low barrier”) approach when enrolling participants. That means that people who are addicted, people with poorly managed mental illnesses, people who have other disabilities, and people with criminal records are welcome – if they’re willing to do the work that is required to move from homelessness to stable housing.
- Some background information: People who are homeless have typically been “screened” out of emergency housing programs for personal problems like an addiction. “Housing First” shifts the framework: Instead of using housing as a reward for solving one’s problems, housing becomes a tool that allows people to heal and then rebuild their lives.
- Unfortunately, people who’ve lived in doorways and tents for months come to believe there is no hope and stop trying. For many the experience of homelessness is the cause of mental illness and/or addiction. People in this circumstance often need repeated contact to raise their hopes and try again. As a result, HNC programs rely on the Outreach workers who go out and get to know the people living in encampments and on the streets. The workers are trained to recognize when an individual is motivated to participate and move quickly to provide services because delays de-motivate.
Will this attract more homeless people to Niles?
- It is unlikely to, but (of course) no one knows for sure. Because a Housing Navigation Center is not a drop-in shelter, there will not be people lining up to get in. That’s not how entry into the Center works.
- Fremont is requiring the HNC operator use the Coordinated Entry Access system which includes information about what locale the participant identifies as home. Most of the time “home” is likely to be the most stable housing option because there are more likely to be supportive friends and family. People placed in housing too far from home are more likely to return to homelessness
- Unfortunately, it may be hard to determine because homelessness is on the rise and will continue to increase until some of the steps to increase the housing supply and improve access to rehousing assistance can have an impact.
- It is possible that some of the residents who do not successfully move into stable housing will choose to remain in Niles, including those who come from other parts of the Tri-Cities outside of Niles. However, if this program is as successful as the program in Berkeley we visited, their numbers will be more than made up for with Niles residents moving into stable housing (at almost a 2 to 1 ratio).
Is there going to be a curfew?
- There is a noise and lights curfew established.
Can the residents spend their daytimes in the Housing Navigation Center?
- Many of the residents will have jobs and not be around during the day. Others will be out with program staff attending to the work they need to do to navigate from homelessness to stable housing. However, there is no requirement that those who do not have other obligations to leave the site during the day. Note: staff will be on-site 24/7, and based on our research, HNC site staff are expected to actively engage with participants every day.
Can the safety of church members and our neighbors be guaranteed?
- Everyone’s safety is important to us all, and every effort is made to ensure it. Obviously. there is no guarantee, especially without this program.
- The reality is that people (housed and unhoused) do violent things. The program rules, the program staff, and good communication between the church, the City, and the agency that runs the program will reduce the likelihood of anyone getting hurt. We do know from the experience in other Housing Navigation Centers that violence is unusual and that the residents monitor each other to make sure the program is successful – because they want it to be successful for themselves.
- Niles Congregational Church (one of the former churches that formed Niles Discovery Church) was part of the Winter Relief Program and hosted several homeless families for a month during the Winter, along with five other faith organization. We, along with the program team with Tri-City Homeless Coalition, successfully ran the program without incident for several years.
What preparations will need to take place before installing modulars?
- The land will be graded, and compressed gravel will be placed.
Are there any environmental issues?
- The compressed gravel provides a permeable base to allow water to soak through, mitigating the need to set up water run-offs.
How will trash and garbage be managed?
- There facility will have trash services. Concerns about trash in general in and around the facility are being brought to the negotiations with the City.
What efforts will be made to to make the site blend in?
- Landscaping the area is included in this project. The exact layout of the modular and the landscaping is not settled.
How are utilities going to happen? What impact will that have?
- Sewage, water, and electricity will be built into the area fior the duration of the project, then capped off.
What sort of outreach is planned?
- The Church has already held a community meeting to discuss the proposed Housing Navigation Center. An email list has been established and anyone can join it by clicking here.
- The City is required to reach out to home owners within 500 feet of the proposed center and they will do so when their public hearings are scheduled.
Will this increase the number of homeless in Niles or decrease it?
- We can be hopeful because BACS reported that the homeless encampment (about 200 people) in Berkeley has disappeared since STAIRS opened. Further existing programs routinely include 9 months of after-care. The Church is requesting as part of our negotiations that the agency that runs the program focus about half of its space on residents of Niles who are homeless.
- Not everyone who enters the program will successfully transition to stable housing. The church is requesting that all the program participants, including those who do not move to stable housing, get follow-up.
Will there be a non-discrimination policy, including faith and LGBTQ+ status?
At the end of the lease term, what happens?
- Typically, the City would restore the property to as close as possible to its original state, though we may work out a deal where they leave the compressed granite – this would save the City money and would make the property more useable as overflow parking year-round.
Insurance? Indemnity? Liability?
- The Church will insist that the City and the agency that runs the program properly insures and indemnifies the Church for issues related to the program.
Will the City approve funding to the Church for use of the land?
- Yes. The exact amount is still being determined and will be based on market rates for Fremont. The funding is part of Fremont’s long history of using Federal, state and county grant funds to assure Fremont residents (especially those with low incomes) have access to needed health and social services provide by non-profits including churches, Many of Fremont’s non-profits and churches have received funding to make facility modifications necessary to provide services. Among them the Centerville Presbyterian Church for the free dinner program; Tri-City Volunteers for the food program; Kiddango for childcare Abode Services, SAVE, and BACS for shelter and buildings.
Where are they going to eat?
- The program upon which the City is modeling this Housing Navigation Center has one meal delivered each day. The residents are responsible for providing the rest of the food they need (just as they are now).
Will they have transportation for those who don’t have cars?
- The experience at other Housing Navigation Centers is that very few of the residents own cars (about 5%) and that most residents rely on public transportation. Having two bus stops nearby on Niles Blvd, makes the church property very suitable for a HNC. There may be times that agency staff drive residents to and from appointments, but this will depend on the agency that is selected to run the program and how they design their work.
What are the mental health services are provided? What other services are provided?
- The program on which the City is modeling this program does very few services on site. The idea is to model how the residents will need to manage their lives once they move into stable housing. Once they’ve moved to stable housing, they will need to get out into the community to get to doctor appointments, to attend 12-step meetings, to get to work, to go grocery shopping, etc. So the program models that and helps the residents navigate that, building success upon success.
What is the target population?
- The target population is adults who are homeless, who have an interest in moving from homelessness to stable housing, and who seem to have the internal resources that, when aligned with case management, will enable them to move to stable housing. There may be some preference given based on vulnerability (age, health, etc.) and/or veterans status.
- While we don’t know for sure, we anticipate that most of the adults will have been living in tents and doorways. Individuals living in RV’s are safer (compared to a tent), more likely to be working, and less likely to view the HNC as a better option. RV’s allow people to store more belongings and offer more personal freedom. This means that individuals living in tents or doorways are more likely to enroll with a HNC
- Again, the Church is requesting that, if the Housing Navigation Center is located on church property, that current residents of Niles who are homeless get a preference, too. Those outside of Niles would be unhoused people from Alameda County.
- Some background information: Research is showing that ending homelessness requires regional approaches. The best stable housing option will likely be outside of Fremont for many, especially for individuals needing ongoing supported housing. In addition, residency requirements are a form of barrier that is inconsistent with the “low threshold” framework for HNCs.
How successful are these types of programs?
- The Housing Navigation Center in Berkeley has an over 70% success rate in moving people from homelessness to stable housing. If this center has that success rate and half the clients that come through are Niles residents, over five years, 150+ people from Niles will move from homelessness to stable housing.
This page will be updated as new information is gathered. It was last updated on 5/22/2019.