STOCKTON, Calif. — A new project under construction in downtown Stockton is aiming to help the city’s homeless population by offering shelter to people with fewer requirements and more services.
Friday, a groundbreaking was held for the expansion of the Stockton Shelter for the Homeless on Grant Street near the city’s downtown district.
The $5 million expansion, funded partly by the City of Stockton, San Joaquin Continuum of Care, and San Joaquin County, will include adding a navigation center and a 180-bed low-barrier shelter to the existing shelter which serves as many as 300 people each night.
The new low-barrier shelter and 24-hour navigation center, which local homeless advocates have been calling on for years, will be the city’s first, a spokesperson for the city of Stockton confirms.
“Low-barrier shelters are critically important," said Ted Leland, Interim CEO of the Stockton Shelter for the Homeless. "It's a big step forward to us and Sacramento, Modesto, Fresno- a lot of other cities- already have this. We're a little late to the party, but we're happy to be there."
The shelter portion of the center will be built out of 42 shipping containers and will include a staircase and elevator to take shelter guests to sleeping quarters, bathrooms, showers, a laundry area, and the new navigation center.
“One of the things that we have found in dealing with homeless is sometimes they have trouble navigating the different systems, bureaucracies, and institutions in America that are set up to service them," Leland said. "Little things like not having an ID card or not being able to cash your Social Security check or not having access to rehabilitation, substance abuse, rehab programs, stops people."
With an estimated 893 people living on the streets of Stockton, according to a report released by San Joaquin County earlier in June, the new center and shelter hope to help members of the homeless community find shelter, and ultimately housing, easier.
Unlike the city’s existing homeless shelters, people using the new low-barrier shelter will be allowed to bring in partners, pets, and possessions 24 hours a day.
Shelter residents will be assigned case managers and offered social services such as housing navigation while living at the shelter.
The shelter’s navigation center will be staffed 24 hours a day with medical workers, social workers, and case managers.
“Some of our navigation centers in California had great success, there's a couple of them that have reported upwards of 50% of the homeless people that have enrolled in the navigation center program on their premises, three years later, they are in permanent housing," Leland said. "That's really a success record, most of the other programs can't match."
San Joaquin County’s June homelessness report described low-barrier shelters as “much-needed.”
“The unsheltered homeless living in San Joaquin County remain mired in long-term homelessness and face significant individual barriers to obtaining stable housing,” the report said. “Without a doubt, low-barrier emergency shelter is a critically important component of any homeless services system.”
The report mentioned the expansion of the shelter but argued that more, similar low-barrier shelters and navigation centers are needed in the county.
A need that the Stockton City Council reaffirmed during a June 14 meeting where council members voted unanimously to ask the county for funding for an additional low-barrier shelter.
The second 125-bed low-barrier shelter would be operated by the Salvation Army at a site near Airport Way and Jackson Street, across the street from a Salvation Army thrift store.
The second project is awaiting the approval of an $8.1 million grant by the San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors.
The expanded Stockton Shelter for the Homeless and navigation center is expected to open in January. The University of the Pacific's Business School has been tasked with creating a business plan for the navigation center, set to model the plan used by other cities such as Sacramento.
“Each one of these homeless people has their own story and it's complicated and they can't all be solved easily with one solution," Leland said. "But the navigation centers is a solution for a significant portion of them and it's proven to work."
Watch More on homelessness in Stockton from ABC10: 68-year-old Vietnam War veteran living under freeway in Stockton