New facility coming to South Merced to provide housing for homeless

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- It's been one year since crews demolished the former juvenile hall at B and 13th Streets in South Merced.

Now, this property will be used for a 15,000 square feet "navigation center" with at least 75 beds for the homeless. The plan includes separate dorms for women, men and couples, plus a place for pets.

It will also have a kitchen, a dining area and space for support services, a clinic, and laundry. The facility will be made out of modified shipping containers to save money and construction time.

"It's something we can quickly implement," says Merced Co. Management Analyst John Ceccoli. "One of our challenges was the timeline. The need is now."

Ceccoli says representatives from many different agencies and cities across the county have been working on a regional plan to address the issue of homelessness for several months.

On Tuesday, the Board of Supervisors approved the new navigation center and a contract with the Merced County Rescue Mission to rent 10 homes throughout the community to provide additional beds and services. Each one can house five to seven people.

"There's 24-7 monitoring of the residents who are in these homes, and there's also a case manager to connect them to permanent housing," Ceccoli said.

Officials realize some residents may be concerned about having multiple homeless individuals moving into their neighborhoods, but Supervisor Lloyd Pareira says this type of housing already exists.

"There's distributive houses already in Merced, Los Banos, Atwater, in all the communities in our county, and there aren't complaints," Pareira said. "In fact, one of my colleagues has one in his neighborhood, and his neighbors don't even know that's what it is."

Pareria says the ultimate goal is to improve the quality of life for everyone who lives and works in Merced County.

"Why this is so important is that it not only helps them get into a spot where they can navigate into a better spot for themselves, but it also then gets the homeless people off the streets and out of our public spaces," Pareria said. "The rest of us can enjoy our community that we pay taxes for and should be able to enjoy," Pareria said.

The Board approved a $5 million budget for the navigation center project and nearly $1 million for the 10 rental homes.

Officials say funding in the state budget and additional grant funding will help cover those costs.

They also said the key to making all of this work is the continued collaboration among all of the agencies involved.
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