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Navigation Center poised to move ahead

Medford city officials have selected two properties to purchase for a planned navigation center to help homeless people get off the street. The City Council should approve the deal tonight.

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The money — $1.9 million — will come from a $2.5 million grant from the state. The city has been looking for a location for two years; it’s time to move forward.

The buildings, totaling nearly 24,000 square feet, are at 685 and 691 Market St., off Biddle Road, situated next door to the the Oregon Department of Human Services Self Sufficiency Program and near the La Clinica Wellness Center. The immediate neighborhood is commercial, not residential, which should reduce overreaction from neighbors.

We say overreaction because what people tend to fear from programs serving homeless population is people who commit crimes, start fires and refuse offers of shelter that come with rules that must be followed. This center, and other projects designed to counter homelessness, are aimed at those who want help to get off the streets and are willing to accept it. Those services will include mental health treatment and addiction recovery.

This center not only will connect people directly with services they need to achieve self-sufficiency, but offer more emergency shelter beds, which are in short supply. Existing shelters have been operating successfully for some time, but more capacity is needed.

The exact number of beds has yet to be determined, as well as the precise mix of services that will be offered. The key element is that people who now have to visit multiple locations to receive separate services will be able to find them under one roof — along with a place to sleep and a hot meal.

The agency that will operate the center will be chosen from among local nonprofit organizations. This community is fortunate to have groups ready and able to step up and provide that kind of service.

The city isn’t starting this program from scratch. Other cities have been operating navigation centers for years. Examining those operations to learn what worked and what didn’t should allow Medford to avoid mistakes made elsewhere and increase the chance for success.

The City Council should approve the first step in this process.