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Navigation center offers hope with permanent housing for half of participants in first year

Almost half of the homeless people who took refuge at Hayward’s Housing Navigation Center during its first 12 months now have permanent homes, the city announced Wednesday.

Forty-five of the 91 people who stayed at the center since its Nov. 18, 2019 opening now have permanent housing, while 26 are still living at the center at Whitesell Street and Depot Road.

Sixteen people moved to a Covid-19 isolation shelter offered by Alameda County, and four left for other reasons.

People staying at the center received intensive case management geared toward long-term housing placement.

The center is a beacon of hope amid a surge in homelessness further complicated by the pandemic. From 2017 to 2019, the number of unsheltered individuals in Alameda County increased 43 percent overall.

In Hayward, that number increased 23 percent, from 397 to 487 people, according to biennial point-in-time counts of unhoused people in the Bay Area. A shelter emergency was declared in Hayward in 2019.

When it first opened, the center was able to provide short-term housing for as many as 45 people at a time in dormitory settings with one meal a day, a restroom, a shower, laundry services and a kitchen.

When the pandemic hit, the number of people who could stay at the center was reduced from 45 beds in two residential trailers to a total of 25 beds, to reduce the possibility of infection.

In October, the center added two recreational vehicle-style trailers, increasing capacity to 32 beds, and a third such vehicle will be added to bring the capacity back up to 45.

The center doesn’t accept walk-ins. Outreach workers visit encampments and other locations in Hayward and work with social groups, law enforcement, paramedics and city maintenance crews to identify people in need who might be suitable participants.

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