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Valishia Chapman, North County donor engagement officer for the San Diego Rescue Mission, leads a tour through the new Oceanside Navigation Center. Photo by Samantha Nelson
Valishia Chapman, North County donor engagement officer for the San Diego Rescue Mission, leads a tour through the new Oceanside Navigation Center. Photo by Samantha Nelson
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Oceanside homeless shelter expected to open in coming weeks

OCEANSIDE — After years of planning and construction, the doors to the city’s new 50-bed homeless shelter are expected to open soon.

The Oceanside Navigation Center will be a year-round facility providing various support services and case management to help its clients get their lives on track and transition out of homelessness after leaving the shelter.

The shelter is in the former Ocean Shores High School building at 3131 Oceanside Boulevard. The city purchased the property from the Oceanside Unified School District.

Major renovations needed to happen on the older building to house the new shelter. Construction included installing new windows, HVAC system, roof, fire sprinkler system, sewer lines, showers, kitchen, furniture, computers, landscaping and ADA improvements.

The shelter was initially anticipated to open in 2022. However, complications slow down the process, including asbestos removal and rising costs in construction materials related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Originally the shelter was expected to cost about $4.07 million, but the additional work added more than $3.26 million to that overall cost.

Supervisor Jim Desmond speaks at the Oceanside Navigation Center ribbon cutting ceremony on July 21. Photo by Samantha Nelson
Supervisor Jim Desmond speaks at the Oceanside Navigation Center ribbon-cutting ceremony on July 21. Photo by Samantha Nelson

The city planned to primarily fund the shelter through its inclusionary housing in-lieu fees, collected by developers who opt to pay the fees over building affordable housing. However, the city received an additional $3.3 million from the county and $2.25 million in federal funding secured by Rep. Mike Levin (D-San Juan Capistrano).

A ribbon-cutting ceremony unveiled the new shelter on July 21, where elected officials, including Levin, County Supervisor Jim Desmond, Assemblymember Laurie Davies and Mayor Esther Sanchez spoke on behalf of the facility.

Levin emphasized the need for bipartisan support on a local, state and federal level to make projects like the shelter happen.

“This is really just the beginning – there is so much more work we have to do to ensure we’re addressing homelessness and housing issues in North San Diego County,” Levin said. “This is a tough issue but we’ve got to work together.”

Levin also said the San Diego Rescue Mission was the right organization to run the Oceanside homeless shelter.

In 2021, the City Council chose the San Diego Rescue Mission to operate the shelter. The faith-based organization will use private funds for its operations — a more than $1 million cost annually.

Oceanside Mayor Esther Sanchez, Rep. Mike Levin and San Diego Rescue Mission President and CEO Donnie Dee cut the ribbon at the Oceanside Navigation Center on July 21. Photo by Samantha Nelson
Oceanside Mayor Esther Sanchez, Rep. Mike Levin and Donnie Dee, president and CEO of San Diego Rescue Mission, cut the ribbon on July 21 at the Oceanside Navigation Center. Photo by Samantha Nelson

“When you walk into this facility, whether you’re dropped off or come through our shower trailer program, you’re going to feel like you have a chance,” said Donnie Dee, president and CEO of the San Diego Rescue Mission. “This is a place where you’re going to get a lot of care, a lot of love, and we’re gonna help you figure out your stuff.”

The shelter will have social workers and case managers on-site to help create specific care plans for each individual. The organization will also work with other partners like Interfaith and Exodus, who have medical detox facilities for individuals struggling with addiction and detoxing from drugs. The shelter will also help to stabilize those with mental illness through access to medicine and therapy.

Both families and single men and women will be housed at the shelter in different rooms. The shelter is a low-barrier facility that will require residents to maintain sobriety.

Desmond was particularly excited for the San Diego Rescue Mission to operate the shelter because of their sobriety requirement. He noted that the shelter, which will work using private funds, would not receive funding from federal and state governments to operate due to this requirement.

“What we need are results,” Desmond said. “Our homeless problem in San Diego County went up 22% last year, which is not good.”

At the ribbon cutting, Mayor Sanchez said having a shelter in the city was her dream and pointed out the city’s housing vacancy rate is about 1%, which is historically low for the city.

Some of the San Diego Rescue Mission staff who will run the Oceanside Navigation Center. Photo by Samantha Nelso
Some of the San Diego Rescue Mission staff will run the Oceanside Navigation Center. Photo by Samantha Nelson

“We’re in a critical crisis,” Sanchez said. “These are Oceanside residents who have a dream as well. This particular homeless shelter is a navigation center, and the goal is to really move our homeless back into our community into regular housing, into jobs, and ensuring we continue to address our housing needs, especially for our low income residents.”

Sanchez was originally opposed to the San Diego Rescue Mission operating the shelter, preferring Interfaith to run it instead.

Both Sanchez and City Manager Jonathan Borrego noted that elected officials and community members generally supported having a shelter in Oceanside. Some were concerned about how its clients would get there.

The facility will accept people by referral only through the city’s Homeless Outreach Team, Housing Department social workers and local partners. The shelter will not take walk-ups and will include 24-hour staffing, security and daytime activities for clients.

Deputy Mayor Ryan Keim, a supporter of the shelter and the San Diego Rescue Mission operating it, shared his thoughts on the shelter following the ceremony.

“It’s going to make a huge difference in people’s lives,” he said. It will protect the quality of life in our city, lead to the clean up of dangerous encampments and address all related issues as well.”

According to officials, the shelter will open in the coming weeks after construction crews finish meeting ADA requirements.

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