2 major facilities for homeless being built in Merced

MERCED, Calif. (KFSN) -- Crews from Hilmar-based Harris Builders are laying the groundwork for a new facility to serve the homeless at B and 13th Streets in Merced.

The 15,000 square foot "navigation center" will be made of modified shipping containers to save money and construction time. It will include about 75 beds plus space for a kitchen, laundry, and support services.

It's located where the former juvenile hall building was left vacant for years.

"The county decided to demolish it and use this site. One of the good items about this site is it's near Behavioral Health so it's close proximity to services for people who will be housed here," says Merced County Supervisor Lloyd Pareira.

Pareira says state funding and grants are helping to cover the costs of the nearly $6.5 million project. About one mile away, another empty field off Cone Avenue is slated to become a 5-acre campus operated by the Merced County Rescue Mission. It received unanimous approval from the Planning Commission last week.

"There were letters from people who originally were opposed to the project and are now in favor of the project so it was just wonderful to see the overwhelming support there is for this project," says the rescue mission's CEO Bruce Metcalf.

Metcalf says the first phase will include a respite care building where patients who have nowhere else to go can recover after being discharged from the hospital. There's also housing for veterans, families, and faith-based programs.

"It will all be by referrals. It will be a closed campus, and I think that really helps alleviate people's fear, knowing there will also be round-the-clock security, a 7-foot fence around the property, and I think people are just relieved to know we're trying to upgrade the community, not downgrade it."

Several different agencies are working together on both projects to ensure they are effective in moving people off the streets into more productive pathways. Pareira adds that about 80% of the homeless in this area had Merced County zip codes before they became unsheltered.

"These are our people. These are our friends, family and neighbors who have fallen on hard times, and I feel we have a responsibility to help them."

The navigation center is expected to be complete this fall. The new rescue mission campus still has more steps toward final approval but could break ground as early as August.
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