County officials propose Navigation Center for the homeless

Facility would provide a 24-hour homeless shelter in Kitsap County with supportive services

The Kitsap County Department of Human Services and county officials have started early discussions about a proposed Navigation Center in Kitsap County, a 24-hour homeless shelter with supportive services.

The Navigation Center would provide between 50 and 75 shelter beds and be open around the clock. Potential on-site supportive services would include case managers, mental health professionals, physical health providers, housing navigators and employment. The facility would also allow pets, possessions and partners — but not families with children — according to a presentation from DHS.

The facility would be used by people experiencing homelessness and prioritized for the most vulnerable people who have mental health treatment needs, substance use disorders and are experiencing long-term homelessness. The end goal for these individuals would be to identify permanent housing options and provide the tools to reach self-sufficiency, the presentation stated.

“When we talk about self-sufficiency and only letting someone stay at a shelter a maximum of 30 days, a lot of folks can not get to self-sufficiency — whatever that means — especially if they’re already working and still can’t afford a place to live, which is a common problem right now in our society,” Bremerton City Councilmember Lori Wheat said at an Oct. 16 council meeting.

“I just want us to be mindful and respectful about the folks and their struggles.”

According to the Department of Human Services, nearly 4,000 people across Kitsap County needed help with housing and 1 in 140 people in Kitsap County experienced unsheltered homelessness in 2018. The need for a similar facility stems from the reality that existing shelters in the county that do not provide on-site social services.

Other so-called navigation centers have opened across the western U.S., including Portland, Vancouver, Wash., Berkeley, Calif., Seattle and San Francisco. The total estimated capital budget for this proposal would be around $1.3 million, according to the county agency. Funding sources would come from grant requests and other local sources.

“As I think about the plans for the Kitsap Rescue Mission and Kitsap County Navigation Center, I think that they need to look no further than Tacoma for a highly successful model on which to pattern their facilities after,” Bremerton councilmember Richard Huddy said at a City Council meeting Oct. 16 concerning the Tacoma Rescue Mission.

“The transition plan toward self-sufficiency is the key that I think we need to be looking at as we design services for the homeless in Kitsap County.”

A location for the Navigation Center has not been set yet. The county is looking for public outreach, input from providers and people experiencing homelessness, guidance from cities and tribes, as well as law enforcement interviews to determine the appropriate location.

The Kitsap County Department of Human Services will have a public forum at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 22, at the Poulsbo Library Community Room to provide information and elicit feedback from the public.

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