Vine Street School will close to make room for a planned Navigation Center to provide help for the homeless and affordable housing.

The City of Porterville has worked with the Porterville Unified School District on the project.

“The City of Porterville has sincerely appreciated its collaboration with the Porterville Unified School District in the acquisition of the soon to be former Vine Street School site, and its transition into a Navigation Center to serve local individuals that are experiencing homelessness with wrap-around services, and assisting them into housing,” said Porterville City Manager John Lollis. “The establishment of the Navigation Center has required many partnerships, not only with the school district in the site and supporting facilities, but also Turning Point of Central California as the facility operator, as well as the Kings-Tulare Homeless Alliance, County of Tulare Health & Human Services Agency, Tulare County Workforce Investment Board, Community Services Employment Training, and others serving as important onsite service providers.”

The school district informed the city earlier this year that it would be closing the Vine Street School site, and asked if the city would have any interest in the site for the provision of city services, which then led to the proposed development of the Navigation Center. The location of Navigation Centers are ideally located where services are available and can be easily accessed, and it’s been determined the site supports both purposes.

The district stated Vine Street Community Day School students will be moved to the former location of the Prospect Education Center in January. Those students will then be moved this summer to east of Butterfield Charter School.

“Our goal has been to consolidate our alternative education program to provide increased rescoures such as counseling and other social-emotional support,” the district stated in a released statement.

A staff report regarding the Navigation Center provided by the city reads as follows: “On September 4, 2018, the City Council reviewed funding opportunities the State of California was proposing to assist with the homeless situation and affordable housing shortage. The funds would be directed through Continuum of Care’s and Counties throughout the state.

“On February 13, 2019, the Kings/Tulare Homeless Alliance and the Tulare County Health and Human Services Agency released a joint Notice of Funding Availability (NOFA) of the Integrated Pool for Homeless Initiatives Locally (PHIL). The NOFA includes four (4) state grant programs: Emergency

Solutions Grant (ESG), California Emergency Solutions and Housing Program (CESH), Homeless Emergency Aid Program (HEAP), and Homeless Mentally Ill Outreach and Treatment Program (HMIOT). The ESG grant has a bi-county allocation for Tulare and Kings Counties, HMIOT has funds available for Tulare County, and the CESH and HEAP grants have an allocation for each jurisdiction in Tulare and Kings Counties based on the 2018 Point in Time count (PIT). The PIT is a count of sheltered and unsheltered homeless persons on a single night in January.”

The count held in January, 2018 determined there were 965 people in Tulare County experiencing homelessness, 195 of them in Porterville. 

The NOFA makes $113,733.71 available from the CESH grant and $506,718.40 available from the HEAP grant to Porterville,” the city staff report stated.

The plan calls for the Navigation Center at the Vine Street School site to have up to 30 beds. The draft plan includes converting two classrooms to dormitory style housing that would each have 15 beds.

Another building would be utilized as office space for such providers as County of Tulare Mental Health, CSET, Turning Point, housing navigators, Porterville Library, case workers, as well as for the management of the facility. 

The facility is proposed to be a 24- hour facility offering meals, daytime activities and training opportunities to assist those to obtain permanent housing and employment.

“Turning Point has taken the lead on the project utilizing their experience and expertise in operating programs to assist people experiencing homelessness,” the city staff report stated. “Turning Point intends to submit an application for HEAP, CESH, and HMIOT funding for the operation of a navigation center in Porterville. Kings View has agreed to partner for the outreach component of the navigation center to assist those experiencing homelessness in Porterville being transported to the center.

“The County of Tulare and Community Services Employment Training (CSET) have expressed interest in leasing office space to have staff on site to provide services.”

Turning Point is applying for the maximum amount of grant funding for the Navigation Center, a little more than $600,000.

The grant funding would also cover a restroom, shower and laundry trailer as well as municipal sewer and water systems. It’s also planned for existing buildings at the site to be retrofitted with sprinklers and hard surface flooring.

“Staff is proposing that due to the significant increase in the local population of people experiencing homelessness, that the situation be considered an emergency,” the city staff report also stated.  “Porterville experienced a 48 percent (48%) increase in the population of people experiencing homelessness from 2017 to 2018, an increase of 63 people for a total population of 195. The numbers from the 2018 Point in Time count reflect a dramatic increase of 75% in the homeless population that is unsheltered, an increase of 65 people for a total of 152. The data reflects that it is not only adults that are experiencing homelessness, but that 26 children are considered homeless in Porterville.”

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