El Dorado County opens navigation center, shelter | TahoeDailyTribune.com

El Dorado County opens navigation center, shelter

Eric Jaramishian / Mountain Democrat
District 3 Supervisor Wendy Thomas speaks to attendees at the opening of El Dorado County's navigation center Feb. 6. "I am proud that El Dorado County has come together with our community and the city of Placerville to meet the needs of our unhoused neighbors, our residents and our business community," she said.
Eric Jaramishian/Mountain Democrat

Those experiencing homelessness in El Dorado County have the opportunity to utilize a new service — a navigation center and shelter has opened and is ready for clients. 

Approximately 511 of El Dorado County’s residents are experiencing homelessness, according to the 2022 point-in-time count. Now the county is hoping the El Dorado Navigation Center can be a conduit to provide resources to get them off the streets. 

The center is run by Volunteers of America and provides 60 beds for temporary congregate housing. It is a low-barrier, referral-only center providing continental breakfasts, a sack lunch and hot dinner daily prepared at the Upper Room Dining Hall.

The facility offers showers, onsite laundry, internet, a common room with a television and outdoor recreation. 

Clients of the navigation center can expect case management services from VOA staff who work with community partners such as the Humane Society and Marshall Hospital to connect participants to housing, medical and other resources.

The center has guidelines. Curfew is 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. Participants with more than five unexcused absences will be discharged from the program.

Kennel space for pets is available but limited; owners are responsible for caring for their pets and cleanup.

VOA staff expect all participants to engage with a case manager in a housing stabilization plan to meet a goal of long-term, sustainable housing. No weapons, alcohol, drugs or paraphernalia are allowed and such items will be confiscated during a “take in” process when clients are first introduced to the program. During that process, fresh clothes are provided. 

Men and women will have their own spaces for sleeping quarters; a co-ed option is available as well. Participants are expected to dress, feed, maintain and bathe themselves.

Volunteers of America President and CEO Christie Holderegger is hopeful individuals will want to participate in the program. 

“We want this to be as warm and inviting as possible and do not want people to feel scared,” Holderegger said. “We want them to know that we are here to support them because when they do not have the resources or don’t have a fall back, they can find themselves helpless.” 

The El Dorado County Board of Supervisors voted in September 2022 to approve the temporary shelter at the former site of the juvenile detention facility. VOA staff removed barbed wire from the facility’s perimeter and gave the inside a fresh coat of paint to make it more welcoming.

The county is currently making plans to build a permanent shelter at the old El Dorado County sheriff’s headquarters. 

“I am proud that El Dorado County has come together with our community and the city of Placerville to meet the needs of our unhoused neighbors, our residents and our business community,” said Wendy Thomas, District 3 supervisor. “While this navigation center will not solve homelessness in El Dorado County on its own, it will be a significant tool to ensure that our unhoused residents have the ability to move from places not meant for human habitation, have the wraparound services they need to navigate out of homelessness and into productive lives.”

Some locals experiencing homelessness have expressed interest in utilizing the navigation center. 

Homeless in the county for more than two years, 62-year-old Walter Anderson told the Mountain Democrat he plans to use the navigation center’s services since the opportunity has opened up.

“This seems like it will be beneficial,” Anderson said. “I am hoping others will use this center as well.” 

Patricia Wassil is a 50-year-old woman who has been homeless for seven years. 

“If they can advocate for the homeless, that would be great,” Wassil said. “Even though I have a job, saving money can be hard. A place like this gives people hope and hope is good. Giving up is not the answer.” 

Wassil, who said she works as an in-home caregiver for a greater Sacramento home health-care business, hopes the county’s unhoused take advantage of the navigation center. 

“A lot of people are opposed to going but I’m hoping people will have an open mind,” she said.

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