City workshop stirs debate over Fremont's temporary Housing Navigation Center for the homeless

FREMONT, Calif. (KGO) -- Fremont City leaders, law enforcement and residents met on Wednesday to discuss how a temporary Housing Navigation Center (HNC) would help the City's homeless population.

However, the meeting uncovered the big question isn't "how," rather, "where?"

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Hundreds met for the first of three community workshops, focused on the HNC. The City's goal is to get the facility up and running by mid-2020, as the homeless population continues to grow.

"We never had homeless people in the suburbs," Fremont Vice Mayor Raj Salwan told ABC7 News. "But it's increasing, and it increased 27-percent in the past two years."

"There's a lot of misinformation and we want to make sure we're all working with the same set of facts," Vice Mayor Salwan added.

Two locations are being considered. The sites include a rear lot of Fremont City Hall and an unleased property on Decoto Road.

Those who spoke publicly at Wednesday's workshop expressed their opposition or support during a comment period.

Colors made it clear where residents stand.

People wearing red shirts say NO to the City Hall location. Among a number of reasons, the group said, "Downtown local businesses are already being affected by the homeless population in current downtown such as picking up syringes and human feces. Having this HNC in the center of downtown can only potentially make this current situation worse."

Another group in blue says NO to Decoto. Minghui Lu was one of them. He said his 6-year-old triplets attend school a short distance from that location. It's on Decoto Surplus property next to Regan Nursery.

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"Any incident that happens that will have a dramatic impact on their growth and their later life," Lu said. "So, that's the concern basically."

A third group wore hearts to the workshop with the simple message, "Yes."

Regardless of location, they say the 608 homeless people counted in Fremont need comprehensive services nearby.

"Decoto, City Hall, they need resources," Annie Koruga said. "I don't care where they are, as long as they're here."

Eventually, those 18-years-old or older will be able to stay on-site for up to six months. Among a number of services, they'd receive job training, behavioral health support and have access to hygiene facilities and more.

"The purpose of the Housing Navigation Center is to help address the City's homeless crisis. The 2019 Homeless Point-in-Time Count revealed that the homeless population in Fremont increased by 27% since 2017," a release by the City read. "Of the 608 homeless counted in Fremont, 485 are without shelter. The housing navigation center will provide homeless in Fremont shelter and a path to securing permanent housing."

Vice Mayor Salwan said the City will use feedback from three community outreach workshops to help guide its decision.

"We want everybody to be taken care of," he said. "But we got to make sure we're taking care of the most vulnerable, the most poor. The people that are suffering."

"The navigation center is not a shelter. It's a place to put folks there that are homeless, try to get them fixed in terms of their issues, and try to get them permanent housing," he continued. "Those are people we can take off the street, help them, and make them productive members of society."

According to the City's website dedicated to the HNC, both site locations are:

  • Within one-half mile of food and bus services
  • Utility connection points are available
  • Located outside of a fault trace zone,
  • Not subject to the hazard of surface fault ruptures.

Final site selection will be completed in September 2019.

RELATED: History of how many people are homeless in the Bay Area

Workshop #2 will be held on August 24 from 10:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m. at Harbor Light Church, 4760 Thornton Ave.

Workshop #3 will be held on August 26 from 5:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m. at the Fremont Teen Center, 39770 Paseo Padre Pkwy.

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