An emergency shelter and housing navigation center in Salinas that faced vocal opposition from some community members is showing signs of success, and a waitlist of hundreds of households has the Monterey County Board of Supervisors wondering how to duplicate the center’s model. 

The board heard an update Tuesday on the Salinas Housing Advancement Resource and Education navigation center, known as the SHARE Center, which provides emergency housing options for both single individuals and families, as well as a suite of services to help secure and maintain permanent housing. 

More than 400 households have secured permanent housing through the center since it opened in 2021, including 121 in the 2022-23 fiscal year, with the help of staff that can assist with everything from afterschool programs and health care, to job and housing application assistance, and making direct partnerships with landlords and employers.

“We don’t use the cookie cutter approach to supporting our unhoused community members. We will adjust services as we see needed.”

Jimisha Baker, BACS representative

The navigation center is operated by Bay Area Community Services, known as BACS. Clients stay for various lengths of time, with the average length of stay about seven months before finding permanent housing. 

BACS representative Jimisha Baker said there is no maximum length of stay and that housing options depend on individual cases. She said 36 people had found employment through the center’s programs.

“We don’t use the cookie cutter approach to supporting our unhoused community members. We will adjust services as we see needed,” Baker said. 

Struggles in numbers

There were 83 people staying at the shelter as of Tuesday, including 22 single men, 14 single women, and 47 families, which includes 24 children. There were also eight pets being cared for.

The demographic breakdown presented to the board showed the vast majority of clients being served were white, but BACS program manager Gary Tia said that was due to a problem with data collection by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Homeless Management Information System, which does not have an accurate category breakdown for Latino or Hispanic to differentiate it from race. Tia said most clients being served should fall into the Latino demographic.

Baker said HUD was making changes to make the data more accurate.

“That has been a challenge for a number of years in homeless services throughout all jurisdictions, with not being able to capture that specific information, so, the changes are coming but, for now we’re also tracking things on our end so that we can identify the breakdown,” said Baker.

The center, located on East Laurel Drive, adjacent to Veterans Memorial Park, faced pushback when plans for it were announced by the board.

“There was a lot of scaring and fanning of the flames. We were yelled at, frankly,” said Supervisor Luis Alejo.

Alejo said the board included a range of security measures, like cameras, when the center was established to assuage concerns from some neighbors, but that there had been no issues or complaints associated with the center.

Supervisors Chris Lopez and Wendy Root Askew also lauded the determination of the board to fund the center despite community opposition, and Supervisor Mary Adams said the county should look to replicate the model, given the waitlist of more than 500 households.