Officials for Stockton’s main homeless shelter say the new navigation center is slated to open in just a few months.
If construction adheres to the new timeline, the center’s grand opening will mark the completion of a shelter expansion project that’s been six years in the making.
“It’s been a longtime coming,” Stockton City Councilmember Susan Lenz said during a shelter presentation before the Council at a meeting earlier this month. “These services are really going to help our homeless people — and I thank you … for moving forward.”
A groundbreaking ceremony was held for the new $5 million navigation center at the Stockton Shelter for the Homeless in June. Completion of the facility, three stories tall and its 11,000 square feet made entirely out of shipping containers, had previously been tentatively scheduled for January. It will offer a host of wraparound services for the city’s homeless.
However, the process to obtain an encroachment permit from the California Department of Transportation took nearly a year longer than expected, Emily Ballus, treasurer for the Stockton Shelter Board of Directors, told City Council earlier this month. As of earlier this year, only the center’s foundation had been laid.
The shelter is located — and so subsequently will be the new navigation center — on Caltrans land just beneath where the overpasses of Interstate 5 and Highway 4 meet in downtown Stockton.
An encroachment permit was needed for the vertical construction of the center’s three floors, Ballus said. The permit, which had to be approved through the Federal Highway Administration before being issued by Caltrans, finally came through last month.
“So now we can really build,” Ballus said.
According to a timeline presented to Council, construction of the navigation will move quickly in the coming months, with installation of the actual shipping containers scheduled to begin next month. The center’s targeted completion is for June, which will add 180 beds to the shelter’s more than 350 already in use.
“We are the largest (shelter) in Northern California, so we’ll be even larger,” said Ballus, who described this expansion as an “innovative partnership” between the shelter and the city of Stockton.
Largely being built with funding from various local sources including the city of Stockton,Ballus said the navigation center will be operated using anywhere from about 10 to 20 staff with annual operating costs ranging from about $250,000 to $500,000.
The two top floors of the center will have living quarters, while the first floor will house administrative and case management offices. Center beds will be low-barrier, which allows people to bring their pets, partners and possessions inside with them, often viewed as a barrier for many not seeking out a shelter’s services. Those who live in this specific area of the shelter will also not have to check in and out every and will not be evicted for drug or alcohol use.
Ballus says the shelter’s philosophy and framework are designed to provide resources that move people toward stability.
“The navigation center is not created to manage a person’s homelessness, but again to provide an end to it,” Ballus said. “It’s to offer people a pathway away from trauma off the streets and into a successful life.”
Councilmembers widely praised the shelter and its partners for the work they’ve done in pushing the navigation center expansion over the finish line.
“I know everybody feels a sense of urgency, and we want this to happen — yesterday. But life doesn’t work that way,” Councilmember Dan Wright said. “The good thing is though is you’re seeing tonight we’re completing some projects, and this is one of the big ones. This is a big win for the city of Stockton.”