An aerial rendering of the proposed Humboldt Navigation Center. | Screenshot




The City of Eureka invited community members to a town hall discussion on Tuesday evening to share a progress report on the Humboldt Navigational Center – a resource center for local folks experiencing homelessness. 

The facility will be built on the vacant lot across the street from St. Vincent de Paul’s Dining Facility at the corner of West Third and Commercial Streets in Eureka. It will serve as a one-stop shop for the local homeless community, offering access to shelter, affordable housing options, public health benefits, job training and mental health support, all located under one roof.

“County and city staff have been meeting for well over 10 years [to look] for ways to assist our folks that are unhoused, and having a place [for them] to be during the day was always noted as a thing that was really needed,” Connie Beck, said director of the county Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) said during Tuesday’s meeting. 

The Humboldt Navigation Center is modeled after Friendship Park at Loaves & Fishes, a day center for adults experiencing homelessness in Sacramento. Finding a place for homeless individuals to go during the day has been an ongoing issue for the City of Eureka and the local business community, said City Manager Miles Slattery. “[This is] something that’s been a long time coming, and I know this community has been looking for something like this,” he said.

During the day, the navigational center will provide a safe place for people to stay with access to storage lockers, a pet kennel, showers, restrooms, community classrooms, a computer lab, laundry assistance and a clothing closet. Social workers, mental health clinicians and substance use disorder (SUD) counselors would be available on-site as well. And at night, it will provide overnight shelter for local residents experiencing homelessness, including 11 individual rooms for individuals and/or couples.

First floor | Screenshot

Second floor | Screenshot

There will be 24/7 security at the facility and staff will be trained in de-escalation techniques. Staff will work closely with the Eureka Police Department’s Community Safety Engagement Team (CSET), which already works closely with local homeless residents.

Hannah Ozanian, a homeless services consultant and former program director of Friendship Park, has been working with county and city staff to bring the project to life.

“The objective [is] to develop a central location for our local community … to really work together on these local challenges [surrounding] homelessness,” Ozanian explained. “[For] any community that is working in homelessness, the staff and volunteers are typically working so hard to get what they need to get done [that] they’re often burnt out and worn out. What we’re trying to do is not replace anything, but to try to support all these agencies by creating a space to come together.”

Ozanian | Screenshot

It’s important to bear in mind that every individual experiencing homelessness has a unique story, Ozanian said. And along with that, there are many reasons why some folks choose not to seek help.

“We want to create a welcoming, warm space where we can invite folks in, they can use our services, and as we develop trust over time [we will] be able to have those folks take the next step and seek housing,” she continued. “Of course, there will be some folks that will be apt and ready to go right away, but I’m speaking to those harder cases where [we] really need to work on trust in order to take the next step in services.”

Ozanian added that they’re looking for local organizations to be a part of the navigation center. “Not only do we need help but it’s necessary for working on these difficult, challenging and complex issues of homelessness,” she said. “It’s going to take all of us and all of these organizations to come together.”

During the public comment portion of the town hall, Nancy Olsen, CEO of the Eureka Chamber of Commerce, asked about the anticipated timeline for the project. Beck noted that the city and the county are still working with the property owner to negotiate the terms of the lease agreement but estimated that the facility will be fully built out in the next two years. “I wish it was tomorrow,” she said.

“All of the permits are in place, the building permits in place, the design review has been done, all of the planning and zoning permitting is completed – basically now it’s just contractual work that needs to be done,” Slattery added. “That’s the only thing that’s really stopping more construction right now.”

When asked about funding for the project, Beck said the county had received a chunk of change through the state’s Homeless, Housing Assistance and Prevention (HHAP) grant program and the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Continuum of Care program.

“That’s the funding that’s used just to get this program started,” Beck said. “We also just applied for a grant that would fund the services portion for the next three or four years.”

Olsen also asked how the local business community can get involved once the facility is up and running. 

“We hope to have many different opportunities for businesses to come down and volunteer or just tour the facility so they can figure out what where they can fit within the overall project,” she said. “If there’s an artist that would like to come down to do a mural, or a group of nurses that would like to come and do some sort of foot clinic and give pedicures, or if there are just neighbors that can lend us different skills that they have – those are all things we need.”

Ozanian also underscored the importance of building positive relationships with business owners in Old Town. “For instance … if there’s an individual that needs help and is at a neighbor’s doorstep, they could easily call us and we could come and remedy what we could within our capabilities,” she said.

St. Vincent de Paul board member and volunteer coordinator Bob Santilli said he was somewhat concerned with the issue of “overlapping assistance to the community” and the possibility of having to compete for funding.

“But I’m happy that Hannah [Ozanian] and whoever else has listened and I don’t see things that we’re doing already being reapplied under that concept. I’m happy for that,” he said. “We want to have a kind of overlapping collaboration of sorts in that region to hopefully have a larger impact on what we’re trying to address.”

Eureka City Councilmember Renee Contreras de Loach asked if they could add more shelter space to accommodate more people in the facility or include a covered area outdoors. 

“There is a space for another building on the [East] side of the current location that we’re that we’re looking at [but] we’re going to start with this one,” Beck said. “This will be phase one, and then see where we go from here. We could definitely use more office space down there by that location, and if we were to do that, then we would want more housing above that space. Anywhere we can get more housing we want more housing.”

Contreras de Loach also asked about the number of animal kennels. Ozanian said there would be eight to ten kennels on-site but said the plan “could easily be modified.”

As a formerly unhoused person, Vernon Price asked how he could participate to “pay it forward.”

Price | Screenshot

“I’ve been housed now five years and this is something that has really been a desire in my heart is a navigation [center], and I know that has been in the hearts of some people that have been on the street for quite some time,” he said. “My question here is about volunteerism [for] people with lived experience: How can I pay it forward?”

Beck recognized Price and encouraged him and others to attend future public meetings and continue to provide feedback to staff.

Eureka Mayor Kim Bergel expressed her gratitude to county and city staff for their work on the project and encouraged community members to “grab an oar” and help out where they are able.

“This is a community issue and it needs a community solution,” she said. “That could mean dropping off your old clothes at the facility, dropping off a bag of toothbrushes; it doesn’t necessarily mean you have to engage with people, although that would be amazing as well.”