Fountain Valley provides homeless update as construction continues on Central Cities Navigation Center

A building at 13871 West St. in Garden Grove is being converted into the Central Cities Navigation Center.
A building at 13871 West St. in Garden Grove is being converted into the Central Cities Navigation Center, which is expected to be operational in June 2024.
(File Photo)
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It was about a year ago that Fountain Valley made the decision to join Garden Grove and Westminster in a partnership that would provide dedicated shelter beds for all three cities.

The collaboration is leading to the Central Cities Navigation Center, a $7.5-million renovation project transforming a property built in 1964 at 13871 West St. in Garden Grove into a homeless shelter with 85 beds. Thirteen of those shelter beds will belong to Fountain Valley. Access will be available via a referral-based system.

A groundbreaking event for the project was held on June 13. Christy Le, a homeless liaison analyst for the city of Garden Grove, said the center is expected to be operational in June 2024. It will accommodate men, women and couples, and it will be equipped with a kitchen and dining area, laundry facilities, lockers and outdoor space.

A construction crew works on the roof of the Central Cities Navigation Center in Garden Grove.
(Courtesy of city of Garden Grove)

The services to be provided include individualized case management, substance use counseling, mental health support, transportation and assistive efforts to develop life skills and seek employment.

Without its own homeless shelter, Fountain Valley primarily relied on access to the Yale Navigation Center in nearby Santa Ana.

Omar Dadabhoy, deputy city manager and community development director of Fountain Valley, noted the importance in the city having its own beds lies in being able to get unhoused individuals the shelter and services they desire in a timely manner.

A property at 13871 West St. in Garden Grove is being renovated to serve as the Central Cities Navigation Center.
(Courtesy of city of Garden Grove)

“It’s a huge lost opportunity if we don’t have a bed available for them,” Dadabhoy said. “This would guarantee us a certain amount of beds that we could take our population to and get them services.”

Garden Grove will have 50 beds and Westminster’s allocation will be 22 beds at the center, which is located in an industrial area of town between Newhope Street and Harbor Boulevard. The shelter will have capacity for 100 beds.

Fountain Valley Mayor Kim Constantine said she was grateful for the three-city partnership to bring about the navigation center.

Construction staging at the Central Cities Navigation Center in Garden Grove.
(Courtesy of city of Garden Grove)

“There’s a lot there that is to do,” Constantine said. “They have to get this all remodeled. They have to get the systems up and running, staff, all the resources and everything. We’re so very grateful. … The city of Garden Grove, we were very happy and willing to go in on this with the city of Westminster. … I think it’s going to be really worth waiting for.”

Orange County had an unhoused population of 5,718 in the most recent Point-in-Time count in 2022. Fountain Valley had 38 unsheltered individuals in that report, which represented an increase from 28 in 2019. Garden Grove had a homeless population of 391, while Westminster’s stood at 159.

Fountain Valley city officials said 71 homeless individuals have been transitioned into housing since March 2022, when the city contracted the outreach and engagement services of City Net.

Fountain Valley Police Chief Matt Sheppard said he hears from community members about the local population of unhoused individuals.

“They’re frustrated with homeless persons on the street corners, they’re frustrated with them in front of businesses, they’re frustrated with them interfering with their customers, they’re frustrated with just seeing homeless, but we have to be careful how we go about working with our unhoused population,” Sheppard said.

“We can’t criminalize it, because it’s not a crime to be unhoused. The community’s frustrated because a lot of the tools have been taken away from us — psychiatric facilities ripped out from underneath our feet years ago, the criminal aspects of what occurs to you when you commit a crime. There’s not a lot of penalties that are sticking with people.”

Sheppard has advocated for an approach of compassion and outreach, noting that the contracted services with City Net have helped. During a presentation to the City Council on Tuesday, Sheppard shared data that showed a slight decrease in calls for service to the police department from 2022. City Net facilitated 40 street exits last year and 31 so far in 2023.

“When you see that when you have a problem area and you can dedicate and put resources towards it and help facilitate getting people connected with resources, connected with housing, and you clean up that area without criminalizing individuals, I think that’s a key to success,” Sheppard added. “That’s what the city of Fountain Valley has been doing. We try as much as we can to not arrest people.”

Garden Grove Mayor Steve Jones said addressing the issue of homelessness “has been a key initiative for the city of Garden Grove for several years that has been strongly supported by our city council and community. By establishing strong partnerships, we’ve been able to leverage resources that prove more effective in finding solutions.

“Our Central Cities Navigation Center is a collaborative effort with the cities of Fountain Valley and Westminster to offer the stability of permanent housing, employment and personal health and wellness on a broader and more effective scale.”