Merced County Navigation Center

Navigation Center BedsIn March 2021, Merced County and its partnering agencies officially opened the Merced County Navigation Center — a critical component of our region’s collaborative effort to address homelessness.

The 15,000 square-foot facility was constructed from modified shipping containers to save money, cut down on construction time, and provide for a versatile and modern look. The County contracted with the Merced County Rescue Mission to manage the new facility, which will operate 24/7.

The Navigation Center serves as a low-barrier emergency sheltering option for individuals currently residing in public spaces, and other places not suitable for human habitation. This initial step transitioning individuals out of homelessness includes providing a safe and service-rich temporary shelter with connections to onsite supportive services. Clients are assigned a case manager. The goal is to link Navigation Center clients to permanent supportive and affordable housing units as quickly as possible, while simultaneously working on barriers to sustainability such as lack of income and behavioral health challenges.

The design includes approximately 75 beds, kitchen and dining facilities, laundry, classroom, clinic, and office space for support service providers. Due to COVID-19 safety requirements, the Center initially opened with a 66-bed capacity. The Merced County Rescue Mission established a Navigation Center Advisory Committee to work with partners, including businesses and organizations in the neighborhood, as a component of its “Good Neighbor Policy” to ensure community involvement and coordination to maximize the program’s positive impact on the surrounding neighborhood.

Serving as one of several emergency shelter options in Merced County, the Navigation Center provides participants with 24/7 temporary living facilities, in addition to case management and connection to income, public benefits, health services, and transitional or permanent housing. The average anticipated length of stay is six months.

Referrals to the Navigation Center are made in close coordination with homeless outreach workers, local law enforcement, and Navigation Center staff.  To make a referral, contact the countywide New Direction Outreach and Engagement Center by calling (209) 726-2700. Once a referral is made, an assigned outreach worker will contact, screen, and refer individuals to the appropriate housing and community services based on a standard assessment tool.

The Navigation Center is one element of the proposed regional plan to address homelessness—a collaborative effort between Merced County, its six cities, and the CoC. Other elements include outreach and engagement, transitional housing, long-term supportive housing, and the system supports needed to coordinate these activities. In early 2021, the Board of Supervisors renewed an agreement with the Merced County Rescue Mission to provide other communities outside of the City of Merced with access to similar services on an appropriate scale by renting homes distributed across Merced County that will be similarly used as low-barrier Navigation Centers.