Navigation Centers Launch Across Oregon Providing Critical Health and Housing Supports as Part of New Housing Initiative
New navigation centers began opening their doors this summer to address pressing housing needs across Oregon. In 2021, the Oregon legislature passed HB 2006. The bill targeted resources toward emergency shelters to serve families and individuals who lack permanent housing. With the bill’s passage, Oregon Housing and Community Services (OHCS) launched a newly named initiative called “A Path to Home: Navigation Centers of Oregon” that provided grants to community-based navigation centers linking housing to health by delivering trauma-informed “low barrier” supportive services as part of the Navigation Center models.
Navigation centers are an innovative response to homelessness. By combining behavioral health services within a single building location, Oregonians are able to have their basic needs met in an innovative, humane and responsive way. A single service hub can provide a range of services to many people in one location, including assistance acquiring identification cards, veterans’ benefits, pet care, job skill development, health services, peer-to-peer counselling, and referrals for unaccompanied youth in addition to restroom, showers, basic hygiene supplies, storage and laundry facilities. Many of the centers also offer meeting rooms with case management opportunities and onsite meals and mobile vaccine clinic appointments.
“Everyone deserves safe shelter and a welcoming place to rest,” said Andrea Bell, OHCS Director. “It’s beyond tragic to hear that community members have perished on the streets in the elements because they had no place to go. With the opening of Bend’s first navigation center and multiple others across the state, I have no doubt that centers providing year-round overnight shelter to houseless community members will save lives.”
Interagency partnerships are fostering new collaborations with the Department of Human Services and the Oregon Health Authority to remove barriers to people experiencing homelessness. Each navigation center tailors resources based on the community’s needs. Recent openings include the Gary Leif navigation center in Roseburg, the Lighthouse navigation center in Bend, and in August the Lane Navigation Center in Eugene. Others are soon breaking ground in the Dalles and McMinnville.
For individual and families in regions where there is limited public transportation or services are spread out across great distances such as those in Medford or Roseburg, having the ability to apply for medical benefits, get a haircut, and talk with a job training coordinator under one roof makes a huge difference. With the ease of coming to a single location, providing safety off the streets, and connections to services and housing supports, people can regain stability.
“I’m so pleased that with the launch of this initiative, we can get funds out into communities to be responsive to local needs,” said Bell. “These emergency shelters deliver shelter services that minimize barriers and increase access to individuals and families experiencing homelessness. At a time when Oregonians desperately need more housing options, navigation centers provide not only services but safety, dignity and hope.”