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Jackie Speier delivers $500K check to help fund 240-unit Navigation Center in Redwood City

Rep. Jackie Speier held a news conference on Wednesday to present the $500,000 for the project

San Mateo County received more funding Wednesday toward constructing its 240-unit navigation center, a key component of its plan to end homelessness this year. 

At the center's construction site in Redwood City, Rep. Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo, held a news conference Wednesday to present $500,000 for the project. The money comes from a federal Community Project Funding grant that Speier secured, which will help furnish the center. 

"It's a way of saying what we know to be true in San Mateo County, which is that we are compassionate, that we are committed to making sure that everyone who needs a place to call home will have a place to call home," Speier said. 

The $57 million project will provide 240 temporary living units and support services to people experiencing homelessness. The bulk of funding comes via a state Homekey grant and construction is expected to be complete at the end of this year. 

San Mateo County is one of many California localities working to address homelessness, an issue the state has dedicated billions of dollars towards addressing. Services at the navigation center will be focused on helping clients move into permanent housing.

"In a county where we sometimes focus on the wealth it's important to also focus on the fact that we do have homeless people," Speier said. 

In 2019, over 1,500 people were experiencing homelessness in San Mateo County and more than half of them were living in RVs, cars, tents or on the streets. 

The county conducted its 2022 homeless count -- a survey of people experiencing homelessness -- earlier this year and expects data to be available by the end of the month. 

City council members from Redwood City, county officials and construction personnel echoed Speier's remarks on the importance of the project, which has been a partnership among several groups. 

San Mateo County broke ground last month on the Navigation Center at 275 Blomquist St.

The groundbreaking ceremony comes after a decade of negotiations between San Mateo County and Redwood City officials who last year finalized an agreement on a property exchange.

Funding comes from the state, county and local donations and the county acquired the 2.5 acres of land from Redwood City in 2021. The agreement meant that Redwood City would exchange a 2.5-acre parcel at 1469 Maple Street for two acres of County-owned land at 1580 Maple Street, which was the site of a 145-bed homeless shelter and a decommissioned jail. 

Redwood City Mayor Giselle Hale said that the city is not new to homelessness, an issue which has been the city's priority in recent years. 

Hale said the city is committed to the county's goal of "functional zero", that is, being able to offer every unhoused person access to a shelter or housing.  

"This is what it looks like when all levels of government are committed singularly to an issue and to working together," Hale said. 

To speed up construction, stacks of units will be built offsite and then craned into place, fast-tracking the project by about a year, according to construction personnel.

Currently, construction is underway on the foundation and underground utilities. 

Construction manager Erik Slaughter said that the support for the project makes it different from some others he's worked on. 

"Because it's such an important project, everybody is really behind it," Slaughter said. "It's not just about making money. It's about doing something meaningful and I think that gets everybody really kind of jazzed to be a part of the project."