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Homeless ‘one-stop shop’ finds home

A long-awaited one-stop shop to provide homeless people with shelter, food and mental health care has found a home in Medford.

On Thursday, Medford City Council will consider the purchase for $1.9 million of two properties at 685 and 691 Market Street to create a navigation center for the homeless near Biddle Road.

The navigation center is expected to open by July 2022.

“I think it’s a tremendous opportunity for the city of Medford,” said Rep. Pam Marsh, D-Ashland.

The money to purchase the building came from a $2.5 million grant authorized by the state of Oregon in April.

Marsh said the navigation center will provide more than a place to sleep for the homeless, but will provide a variety of social service programs including mental health and addiction recovery.

“These services are for those who are ready to transition to something else,” Marsh said.

The location is next door to the Oregon Department of Human Services Self Sufficiency Program and is about a block from La Clinica.

Under the proposal being considered by the city, the navigation center would be housed in a 16,365-square-foot building at 685 Market Street. That building would be connected to another 7,500-square-foot building at 691 Market Street.

The main building would house offices and private meeting spaces for case workers and clients.

“I was surprised at the size of that building,” said council President Tim D’Alessandro. “The building will house multiple services and hopefully will be a one-stop shop for the homeless.”

The city has been looking for a building to house the navigation center for at least two years.

D’Alessandro said the exact number of services that will be available is still being worked out. He said the city is still in the process of selecting an agency that will manage the facility.

Potential managers of the facility could include one of many local social service organizations including Rogue Retreat or ACCESS.

The navigation center would have the ability to prepare meals on or off-site, provide storage, laundry facilities, and mental health and addiction counseling.

In addition, the center would offer recreational facilities for children and pets as well as a community justice court.

D’Alessandro said the number of homeless people who could be housed in the building has also not been determined yet.

The emergency shelter would be in addition to other shelter operations in Medford, such as the Medford Gospel Mission, the urban campground and the Kelly Shelter.

Currently, the homeless go to several locations to deal with addiction, mental health or other problems, but the navigation center would offer these services under one roof along with case managers.

Local homeless advocates say it’s important to provide a variety of services as quickly as possible to rapidly transition people away from a life on the streets.

The city will be looking at other navigation centers throughout the country to provide a template for a similar facility in Medford

San Francisco opened its navigation center in 2015.

Since then, the city has opened 10 navigation centers, but seven are still in operation to handle the approximately 8,000 people who experience homelessness on any given night.

Medford passed an ordinance in April that bans camping on the Bear Creek Greenway during the fire season, but the city has been working with local organizations to ramp up the number of shelter options.

D’Alessandro said the navigation center should help lessen the amount of unauthorized outdoor camping in the city.

“If we don’t have the beds, we can’t tell people they can’t say in certain places,” he said.

The city has conducted tours of the buildings with community partners including ACCESS, Rogue Retreat, Jackson County Public Health, Jackson County Mental Health, Jackson Care Connect, Maslow, and the Homeless Task Force

Reach freelance writer Damian Mann at dmannnews@gmail.com