HAYWARD, Calif. - In an industrial section of Hayward, workers are putting finishing touches on the city's first homeless navigation center. It has 45 beds and is set to open Tuesday November 19, after the city formally unveils it the day before.
"Being indoors, having a bed...being able to shower and wash their clothes. Having that respite," says Jessica Lobedan who works for the city of Hayward's Community Services Division.
It is where homeless people will have access to social services, substance abuse counseling if needed, but most of all a path to permanent housing.
Homelessness does not occur just in bigger cities anymore.
The last count found about 500 hundred homeless people in Hayward, about a hundred more than two years ago.
"This is a regional crisis. People are recognizing we have to intervene to do something," says Lobedan.
Among Hayward's homeless is a 74-year-old man who says he spends most days on this park bench, and most nights sleeping on a concrete slab with just a blanket.
He says he's still learning about the navigation center and likes the idea that it offers more than the overnight shelters.
"Nobody is going to steal from you. I like that. And it has permanence. I like that too. Definitely I like that," says Robert Johnson.
Unlike the navigation center in Fremont, and the one planned on San Francisco's Embarcadero, there was no opposition from residents or businesses. Perhaps it's because the center is not near any homes or schools.
"This is new to Hayward. Everyone has questions but by and large everyone has been really supportive," says Lobedan.
The goal here is to find permanent housing for about 60-70 people within the first year, people who might otherwise would still be on the street.