'Things are looking up:' Resource center in Orange County offers support, solutions for homeless community

Regional center helps streamline the process of finding permanent housing, counseling, health resources, job and social skills for homeless community.

Phillip Palmer Image
Wednesday, December 16, 2020
Regional center in OC offers first step to homeless community
The Placentia Navigation Center offers a first step to help homeless; resources get people back up on their feet and integrated back into society.

PLACENTIA (KABC) -- Orange County's need to address the homeless crisis has received a lot of attention over the years. The Santa Ana river bed and subsequent lawsuits filed on behalf of the people living there, for example, forced the county and several OC cities to take action.

The Placentia Navigation Center is one of two new centers in North Orange County providing support to the homeless across 13 cities... it's seen as a comprehensive, regional solution.

"This is here to solve, basically the first step in homelessness and trying to get people back up on their feet and integrated successfully back into society," said Damien Arrula, Placentia city administrator. "Cities build homeless shelters, navigation centers, really just for their city. This is regional in nature, it's acknowledging the fact that the homeless tend to be really transitory."

The goal here, and at a similar site in Buena Park, is to streamline the process of finding permanent housing for the people who will call this home for up to 180 days. Counselors are on site to provide health resources, job and social skills; even re-teaching something as simple, yet important as making a bed. The idea is to maintain a degree of individualism, which can be seen in how each person decorates their living space, while creating a new normal.

"This space is yours. Where you put your head at night, that's your space. You decorate it. You put in those things that are important to you or that you connect with or recognize or realize," said Ward Smith, Placentia Mayor.

"We do create a homey environment for them. We build report with them. We show empathy. We build trust in them and also, we try to make sure that they understand that they are enough. They are capable," said Manvir Kaur, Associate Director.

The Navigation Center will work to reunite their clients with family and friends, even providing room for pets. The secure, clean environment is a welcome change from the squalor of the streets that Brett Vondette used to call home.

"I'm very grateful that I'm not in that life anymore. I'm able to take a shower. I got a bed. I'm here with my wife. I got my little dog, ya know? Things are looking up," said Brett Vondette, Navigation Center resident.

"There's no reason you shouldn't have these types of facilities in your jurisdictional area...whether you have a few or whether you have a lot," said Smith.