Fremont considers homeless navigation center location proposals

A community meeting over a new homeless center in Fremont drew a large crowd Wednesday night as the city struggles to convince the naysayers. Two locations are proposed for the city's first-ever navigation center, one on surplus property on Decoto Road and the other in a parking lot behind City Hall.

Emotions were heightened at a packed meeting in Fremont as city staff got an earful from the community over a proposed homeless center.

City leaders are narrowing down the 45-bed navigation center to a final location. Supporters said a center is necessary since homelessness has jumped 27 percent in two years.

"I was very impressed the Berkeley center was very organized," said Vice Mayor Raj Salwan. "It was very clean. I didn't see any encampments in the immediate area next to it."

Salwan visited the Berkeley STAIR center, which is the navigation center that Fremont will model theirs after. He said it's not what people think.

"They had navigators that helped work with the folks that were homeless to try to get them jobs, get them benefits try to help them with their mental health issues as well as substance abuse issues," said Salwan.

"We are spending more and more of our time dealing with those negative interactions between homeless and the general population," said Fremont Police Chief Kimberly Petersen. 

Chief Petersen said 10 percent of the department's calls for service deal with homeless individuals and this is a way to get them off the streets

"I'd like to see more empathy from the people here when talking about those who are homeless and those who need hel," said one Fremont resident.

However, voices of support were drowned out by residents worried about their quality of life and don't want it in Decoto.

One downtown restaurant owner doesn't want it at City Hall. He said the existing homeless population there is already problematic

"We are powerless, we can't do anything when they come to the restaurant and disrupt the business," said the restaurant owner.

As for the resistance, city leaders are hoping to change the residents's perspective. So far, it's been an uphill battle.

For those who did not have a chance to attend this meeting or voice their opinions, a community meeting will be held on August 24 at Harbor Church and August 26 at the Fremont Teen Center. City leaders hope to make a final decision on a location next month.