Fremont city leaders vote unanimously to approve homeless navigation center behind city hall

FREMONT, Calif. (KGO) -- The Fremont City Council has voted unanimously to build a homeless navigation center behind City Hall. The vote comes after months of debate.

Earlier this summer, city staff narrowed the list of potential sites down to two, including a city-owned surplus property in North Fremont off Decoto Road and the other at City Hall on Capitol Avenue.

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Tuesday night's special meeting brought out hundreds of residents who not only filled council chambers, but an outside overflow area.

Councilmembers heard from more than 400 public speakers hoping to sway their decision.

Shirts, stickers, and signs served as proof of division between Fremont residents.

Alameda County Human Relations Commissions chair Harris Mojadedi arrived in the morning and was the first speaker of the night.

"To me, it doesn't matter where the location is," he said. "We just need the navigation center. So, I'm going to keep it brief, concise and to the point that we support the navigation center and it's a huge win for our community."

Staff reports show the navigation center would cost roughly $7.7 million to build and operate over three years.

Those against the center in any location maintain the numbers don't add up.

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"Use this money to find a better way to help more people," resident Jieyu Yan said. "We can use the $7.7 million to help more people."

Many on Tuesday argued access to essential facilities should help navigate the city's decision.

The navigation center would temporarily house 45 people up to six months at a time. Those who are urging the council to vote no on the Decoto site say the center should be located closer to public transportation and essential services.

"There are many infrastructure improvements that need to happen here that presumably cost more money," said Fremont resident Vikram Paranjabe. "Then there's the risk of Highway 84, which is a major commuting artery coming back to the Dumbarton."

Some believe the center shouldn't be built at all, saying the nearly $2.3 million construction cost should be spent on programs to prevent homelessness.

"They're becoming homeless too quickly then we can even help to get them back on (their) feet," said Fremont resident Mei Bao.

According to the city, a recent point-in-time survey found more than 600 homeless people in Fremont, which is an increase of 27 percent since 2017.

"We just need more opportunities to bring people off the street to get them focused on housing and to get them into a more stable living situation," said Suzanne Shenfil, Fremont's human services director.
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