East Bay's First Navigation Center Shows Success in First Year

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September 24, 2019

(Berkeley, CA) – The STAIR Center, opened on June 27, 2018, has placed 101 people into permanent housing during its first year in operation, according to a report provided to the Berkeley City Council. Of the 170 people who have accessed a bed at the shelter, 128 have exited, with 82 clients receiving housing. An additional 19 people were housed through outreach services. 22% of those who received permanent housing ended up returning to homelessness, a number slightly lower than rates at other navigation centers. The average length of stay for a client who moved from the STAIR Center into housing was 88 days.

Berkeley’s homeless population stands at 1,108 based on a count in January 2019, with 813 people on the street or in cars or RVs. This is an increase of 14% since 2017, which is significantly lower than the countywide increase of 43% during the same time period. The 45-bed STAIR Center, along with Berkeley’s increased emphasis on anti-displacement measures, can be attributed to Berkeley’s modest increase compared to the rest of Alameda County.

“The statistics from the STAIR Center’s first year show promising results in making a difference for dozens of residents who have been lifted out of homelessness” said Mayor Jesse Arreguín, who originally proposed the STAIR Center with Councilmember Sophie Hahn back in 2017. “It is my hope to expand operations and increase the capacity while advocating for other cities to adopt similar models”.

Navigation centers are different from a traditional homeless shelter in that they focus on connecting clients with housing services with the goal of getting them permanent housing. The STAIR Center prioritizes the most chronically homeless, with 79% of clients sleeping in an encampment the night prior to arriving at the Center. In addition to intensive housing search and social service assistance, clients have no curfews, and are provided one meal a day, laundry, showers, and accommodations for partners, pets and possessions.

Navigation centers are becoming an increasingly popular solution to addressing the region’s homelessness crisis. The Fremont City Council unanimously approved a 45-bed navigation center at a meeting earlier this month. Some residents expressed concerns of increased crime, but were rebutted at that meeting when it was pointed out that there had been no increase in crime around Berkeley’s STAIR Center.  San Francisco has six operating navigation centers, and is in the process of opening approximately 200 beds at the Embarcadero. Berkeley’s STAIR Center was designed based off of San Francisco’s model.

Jesse Arreguin