VISTA — City leaders have selected a homeless services provider to operate a non-congregate shelter that will serve both Vista and Encinitas residents, with an anticipated opening date in early March.
The agreement with Retread, Inc., approved unanimously by the Vista City Council on Tuesday night, is one of the last major steps toward opening the 48-bed Buena Creek Navigation Center along South Santa Fe Avenue.
Prior to this, Vista and Encinitas leaders entered into a memorandum of understanding regarding the planned site and saw the approval of a master lease with the property landlord. Retread was selected as the operator during a request for proposal process that began in September.
The Buena Creek Navigation Center, or BCNC, is planned to host 250 clients per year, including 190 from Vista and 60 from Encinitas, via a 75%-25% split. Clients can stay as long as 120 days, but many are expected to be able to exit the center earlier with the needed support.
As a low-barrier shelter, a service that is lacking in the region, Buena Creek will not require clients to be sober in order to be admitted, but the use of illegal drugs on site will be prohibited.
“We will just try to get as many people into this low-barrier shelter as possible. We have assembled a staff that really, really cares about the homeless and really, really cares about people,” Retread CEO Hannah Gailey said.
The shelter is funded for a three-year period by $5 million in state funds netted by Sen. Catherine Blakespear (D-Encinitas).
BCNC clients will be in two-person rooms with their own bed, dresser, nightstand and locking storage. They will also receive hygiene kits, three daily meals, and laundry services, and will also be able to bring their pets and their partner if needed.
The shelter will be staffed each day by five employees living onsite, two navigation coaches who will be supervising the two buildings, one individual monitoring CCTV camera footage, and one on-call security officer living onsite.
Three full-time case managers will also meet with clients each week for check-ins and to connect them with services. Lung said case management will not be required but will be strongly encouraged for all clients.
Individualized service plans, which include goal setting and evaluation of needed services, will be developed within five days of intake.
Clients will also have access to regular classes and group meetings focused on topics like trauma, addiction and recovery, anger management, faith and financial literacy.
Jonathan Lung, Vista’s homeless services program manager, said the city and Retread are planning a grand opening for March 4, with the potential of taking clients earlier.
“We’ll probably be able to start taking referrals before that opening date, and we might be able to intake clients the day of. Otherwise, we will open referrals for clients on that day,” Lung said.
The 12-month agreement with Retread has the option for two additional 12-month extensions. Additional funding will need to be identified for the shelter beyond the initial three-year period, Lung said.
City Council members also asked how they would be provided with data about intakes, demographics and outcomes for clients. This issue has caused contention with other homeless service providers in the past, with city officials pushing for more detailed data from the providers who receive city funding to serve Vista residents.
Lung said that because the city itself is not a homelessness services provider, it will not have access to case management information systems such as HMIS and Clarity. However, Retread will be able to make reports on this data to the city.
In addition, Lung said, the city is working on creating a public online dashboard that will publish data from all of the homeless service providers that the city contracts with.
When it comes to intake, Retread said they will not accept individuals who have been charged with arson and will determine whether to admit low-risk sexual offenders on a case-by-case basis.
“Unless there is an imminent danger to our staff and residents, especially our DV [domestic violence]-impacted and sex trafficked victims, we will let everyone into our shelter,” Gailey said.
The latter caused concern for council members, who said they did not want anyone admitted to the shelter who has been required to register as a sex offender under PC 290, even if they are considered low-risk.
“Many of the people experiencing homelessness are victims of sexual violence, and while there might be cases in which someone ends up on the registration as a sex offender that are not related to a violent sexual violation of another person, I think as a general rule, we should have more stringent requirements,” said Deputy Mayor Katie Melendez.
The shelter site is on a parcel that includes two multi-family residential buildings and a four-bedroom single-family home with a detached garage. Lung said considerable renovations to two of the buildings were completed in December and that the single-family home is continuing to be renovated.
Over the next six to eight weeks, Retread will continue procuring and installing furniture and other infrastructure for the site and hiring and training staff. They are also planning an open house for other potential service providers.
“We are excited to get the facility up and running, and we’re delighted that you’re going to be running it,” Mayor John Franklin said.