VISALIA, Calif. (KSEE/KGPE) – A shelter for the unhoused years in the making, took a major step to become a reality.
Tulare County Hope for the Homeless (TC Hope) is spearheading these efforts, to create a “low barrier” navigation center. With nearly 1,000 unhoused people in Tulare County and nearly half of them in Visalia alone.
Give it about a year, and an empty lot on North Dinuba Avenue could temporarily house hundreds of people.
Anna Westbrook and Jason Blaylock are currently living out of their car, just down the street from the Navigation Center homeless shelter.
“It’s hard to get a job without a resume or something so if they offer that to help you get back on your feet and stuff, I think it’ll be good for this place,” said Westbrook.
Westbrook is hopeful the center could be a jumping point for her and up to 100 other families in her situation. In the facility, organizers say there will be opportunities to work.
“They will also get work opportunities within the kitchen to serve, we currently serve meals for about 14-thousand seniors through the program,” said Maryalice Escarsega-Fechner, the executive director, for Community Services and Employment Training.
“You can’t just put 100 people in a room and expect them to get along,” said Jason Blaylock, sitting next to Westbrook near the back of the car they live in.
Blaylock sees things differently and says he likes the idea of having the resources available for those who need or want them but feels every case of an unhoused person is different.
“You could probably build three more, and it still won’t be enough, it’s sad man,” Blaylock said.
According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, of the over 1,000 unhoused in Tulare & Kings counties, roughly 820 are either choosing to be in shelters or are in temporary housing.
Other shelter operators say cutting the distance the unhoused have to travel between shelters is a good thing.
“Hey go three miles or go five miles to these services, is not always reasonable. Hopefully, this will remove one of those hurdles or obstacles,” said Michael Simmon, Executive Director of the Visalia Rescue Mission.
“We’ll look to receive people and not have a lot of rules that apply to get into the center,” said Brian Malison. Malison is the Vice President of TC Hope‘s board which oversees the shelter’s operations.
Malison’s group has pushed for a shelter that could try to house as many people as possible.
“I don’t know all their going to offer but, it could be nice,” said Westbrook.
Security will also be available throughout the night hours when this shelter is fully built. Planners are hoping to run it 24/7.
On top of having a living situation and a job in one building, residents could also get their mail shipped to them.