Whittier partners with Salvation Army for homeless center

Wave Staff Report

WHITTIER — A 138-bed comprehensive service center opened last week to serve Whittier residents experiencing homelessness. Wrap-around services provided by the Salvation Army will be offered in a modern residential setting and aims to set residents on a path to self-sufficiency.

Unlike traditional homeless shelters that provide only meals and sleeping accommodations, Whittier’s Navigation Center will provide clients with case management services that include health and wellness resources, employment assistance, substance abuse services and counseling, with the goal of connecting clients to stable income and permanent housing.

“This innovative approach to addressing the needs of unhoused Whittier residents is the culmination of many years’ worth of planning and thoughtful decision making by our City Council, the Salvation Army, and cooperating agencies,” Whittier City Manager Brian Saeki said.

The center is just one part of the city’s 2018 plan to address homelessness, but the COVID-19 crisis prompted the City Council to vote in April 2020 to speed up the development timeline.

While the Uptown Whittier Senior Center served as an immediate answer to the public health crisis, an all-hands-on deck approach led to the complete renovation of the Salvation Army’s existing building in Whittier which now offers clients a therapy room, patio, and cubicle-style sleeping quarters.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony preceded tours of the center, which will be operated by the Salvation Army, an experienced nonprofit service provider with significant experience serving homeless clients in the Whittier area and across Southern California.

In addition to receiving three meals a day and semi-private sleeping quarters equipped with personal hygiene amenities, residents will also have access to transportation, onsite pet care, health services and free phone service.

The opening of the navigation center also allows the city to continue enforcement of its no camping, curfew and other quality of life city ordinances prohibited under the Ninth Circuit’s Martin v. City of Boise 2018 ruling. The addition of the center’s 139 new beds is part of the homeless action plan approved by the City Council in 2018, which set a goal of increasing shelter and housing capacity in the city.

Criteria for capacity and residency was set forth in a settlement agreement between the city and the Orange County Catholic Charities Workers.

“Providing a path to self-sufficiency for our most vulnerable citizens while ensuring the safety of our community and improving the quality of life for Whittier residents is a win-win opportunity,” Mayor Joe Vinatieri said.

People referred to the navigation center began receiving housing and services Aug. 17, when they transferred from the city’s temporary shelter. The center has 78 beds for men, 39 beds for women and can also accommodate up to 10 couples.

For more information on the city’s homeless action plan and other services provided to Whittier’s unhoused residents or the safety plan for the navigation center, please visit www.cityofwhittier.org.

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