Fremont City Council Holds Special Housing Navigation Center Meeting – NBC Bay Area

Fremont City Council Holds Special Housing Navigation Center Meeting - NBC Bay Area
Hundreds jam Fremont council meeting ahead of homeless navigation center decision
After hearing from hundreds of people at a special meeting Tuesday night, the Fremont City Council voted to put the controversial Housing Navigation Center behind the City Hall in downtown Fremont.

The goal of the meeting, which is only the latest in a series of meetings on the controversial center, was to decide between two proposed sites for the navigation center. One proposed site was downtown, behind the City Hall. The other site was on Decoto Road.

At a previous meeting on the topic, people from three camps showed up to voice their opinions: those that opposed the Decoto Road site, those that opposed the downtown site and those that supported a navigation center at either site.

Those that opposed a site at either location in past meetings had safety concerns about the site being in one particular area or another. Some that opposed the downtown site specifically cited a recent incident involving a homeless man attacking a resident in a building lobby in the Embarcadero in San Francisco.

“Of course, we want to pay extra attention to safety and how much it’s going to affect the downtown area,” the resident said.

But those that opposed the other choice, a site on Decoto Road, felt that it would bring danger to that area instead. Some felt that an industrial area might be a better location.

“From Berkeley and Oakland, they put it in an industrial area and right now from their data it seems successful,” said a Fremont resident who opposed the Decoto road site.

Kimberly Petersen, the Fremont police chief, pointed out that homeless people are already in Fremont regardless of where the navigation center will be.

“We’re not bringing them here, they’re already here,” she said. “These beds are going to be dedicated specifically to people recruited from the streets around the center.”

FREMONT — Fremont’s first ever homeless navigation center will be located in a parking lot behind city hall, the City Council decided Tuesday night.

The council vote was unanimous, and came after months of discussion and debate, including public workshops and at times raucous public meetings.

Hundreds of people lined up outside City Hall Tuesday evening, in anticipation of voicing their opinions about the center, an issue that has stirred significant debate in the largely affluent East Bay suburb where the average home sale price is around $1 million.

In July, the council narrowed the possible locations for the center to two pieces of city-owned property — a parking lot behind city hall in downtown off 3300 Capitol Ave., or on surplus land next to a plant nursery in the northern end of the city at 4178 Decoto Rd.

However, separate community groups from the neighborhoods near each of the two locations had vehemently protested against placing the center in their neck of the woods, while a third faction has protested against establishing a navigation center in the city at all.

Another group had also been formed to show support for establishing the navigation center anywhere in the city.

The question of where to locate the center has been discussed at multiple public workshops and meetings — including one where tensions reached a fever pitch, with people banging on city hall windows and shouting over other speakers.

Tuesday night, people set up tables with information on their views on the issue in the city hall parking lot and distributed signs, while other held posters in support or against the center.

The center would be modeled after a navigation center created in Berkeley last year, and would be comprised of 11 modular prefabricated buildings, city staff said, including sleeping units, community rooms, and hygiene units.

Up to 45 homeless people living in the city currently, as well as some from Newark and Union City, will be selected to stay in the center based on their individual needs and their willingness and ability to live in a group situation, with dormitory style sleeping, staff reports said.

The people would be allowed to stay there for up to six months while working with dedicated housing navigators whose main responsibility is to find them a permanent housing situation.

Staff members would also work with residents on finding employment, benefits, health and wellness connections, and support them in their social and recreational needs, and skill-building, city reports say.

Dozens of people protesting against the center on Saturday near Lake Elizabeth chanted Recall Lily Mei, the mayor of Fremont, while some held signs that read No HNC or Recall.

Tom Zhang said he lives in the Mission San Jose area of the city, and is opposed to the center altogether.

I feel its not an effective way to use public funds, he said while in line to get into the city council chambers Tuesday.

He said too much of the money for the center will go to staff, including the navigators, and hed like to see more emergency homeless funds go toward rental subsidies instead to help prevent homelessness from occurring in the first place.

Jane Wang, from central Fremont, said shes worried that more homeless people will come from other parts of the state if a navigation center is established here, and is also opposed to it.

Both Zhang and Wang were one of many people wearing red shirts that have the words No HNC in Fremont and Little Help Big Waste printed on the back.

In prior workshops and in online survey responses, many people told the city they are concerned homeless people will “commit crimes in the surrounding neighborhoods,” and could lower property values, city reports said.

Homelessesness is a big problem and it’s going to get worse, and we need to find a solution, and the HNC is probably one of them, said Arun Ramani in an interview Sunday. Hes a resident and one of the organizers of the group opposed to the north Fremont location.

You need to make sure that you put it in a place where it’s going to be really successful, he said.

He and others in the group think the city hall location is a better site, because its closer to medical facilities, grocery stores, and has better transportation options nearby.

Meanwhile, people who support the center said the council needs to continue on the path it has started down, and pick a location tonight, to show support for people who are living on the margins of society, and not demonize them.

We all have concerns about how it will pan out, but it doesnt mean we do nothing, Ghada Srour-Musselman, a resident, said to the council.

Please, please, these people are not scary, these people are unfortunate, Peggy Rahman, a resident who is supporting the navigation center proposal, told the council. It could be you, it could be your brother.

Posted in Fremont