Proposed navigation center in Fremont sparks debate

FREMONT, Calif. (KGO) -- As the homeless population rises throughout the Bay Area, cities are racing to find solutions.

Officials in Fremont hope to begin construction on a 45-bed navigation center by the end of the year. However, the specific location is still up for debate -- and some are concerned that the process is being rushed.

City leaders tell ABC7 News at least a dozen sites are under consideration, including a vacant lot owned by Niles Discovery Church on Niles Blvd.

However, nearly 3,000 people have already signed a petition against that specific location.

RELATED: San Francisco Port Commission approves controversial Embarcadero Navigation Center

"This is far away from the city services (and) all the essential services that the homeless people need and deserve," said Fremont resident Arun Saha. "This is also a busy intersection next to a busy train track."

The city council will hold a study session next week to establish criteria, which city staff will then use to narrow down the search.

"We're going to need to build more affordable housing, but that's going to take a while to come online, and in the interim, we need to start getting people off the street, and back into stable permanent living situations," said Suzanne Shenfil, Fremont's human services director.

Nearly 500 homeless people were counted citywide in 2017, but the total will likely go up when updated numbers are released this summer. Most neighbors want to help the homeless in some form, but say they also deserve a say in the process.

RELATED: New study shows Bay Area homeless problem growing unchecked

"What about the people who need a lot of help and a lot of follow up? Where are they going to track them and how long are they going to track them? Where is the exit strategy?" said Fremont resident Aparna Kalyan.

The center would be built with funds allocated by the state and operate for approximately five years.

"Working with each individual and looking at their specific needs and their specific situations and then figure out what's the best path for them," said Shenfil.

Church leaders, who are supportive of the project, were unavailable for comment.

A final location could be chosen by the city as soon as September.
Copyright © 2019 KGO-TV. All Rights Reserved.