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The Navigation Center

The Navigation Center, opened in 2017, is a low-barrier, service-enriched shelter targeting high-needs adults experiencing homelessness who are living in encampments, and who have acute behavioral health issues that may prevent them from staying in regular congregate shelters. Onsite services include hygiene facilities, 24/7 staffing and intensive case management. The program offers highly marginalized people the opportunity to regain safety and engage in supportive helping relationships that allow them to move forward with rebuilding their lives, as well as develop pathways to permanent housing, income, healthcare and stability.

The Navigation Center welcomes all genders, singles, pairs (partners are allowed to stay in coed sleeping rooms together) or groups; with pets; and with access to secure storage for their belongings. The dormitory-style facility has no curfew and provides shower, bathroom and laundry facilities, as well as comprehensive case management, behavioral health services, meal services through a partnership with OSL and connections to benefit programs and housing.

The Navigation Center can accommodate up to 74 guests at a time.

Referrals and Contact Information

Referrals to the Navigation Center come exclusively from the city’s Unified Care Team.

To contact the Navigation Center, please call (206) 322-1763.

For media inquiries, please contact Communications Manager Claire Tuohy-Morgan.

Key Components

  • Low-barrier framework – The Navigation Center welcomes people with partners, pets and possessions.
  • Visiting providers – DESC partners with relevant external providers to engage and work with guests onsite.
  • Harm-reduction approach – Staff work with guests on safety, reducing the harm associated with substance use, building motivation and offering practical support, including recovery activities and harm-reduction supplies and education. Substance use is seen as an opportunity for engagement rather than a reason for termination of services.
  • Minimal rules – Part of a low-barrier model is having as few rules and formal structure as possible. Guests are expected to be working on housing acquisition, but other than that, services are focused on determining with guests what they want and believe they need. Violence, weapons, open use of substances or disruptive behavior in the neighborhood are not allowed.
  • Individualized and holistic support services, focused on housing – Intensive, individualized, wrap-around case management services are provided on site by case managers and milieu service coordinators. Services are voluntary but highly effective and engaging.
  • Good neighbor relations – Staff monitor the immediate neighborhood, discourage loitering by guests, attend community safety meetings and respond promptly to any neighborhood concerns.
  • A safe, clean, calm and flexible environment – Only enrolled guests are permitted to enter the program spaces, and the entry is staffed at all times. Separate areas for sleeping, eating and meeting with staff accommodate guests’ differing schedules and needs. Janitorial services are robust.