The San Mateo County Navigation Center represents the first built instance of the Office of Charles F. Bloszies’s “Step1” interim supportive housing system, derived from the modular concept developed for the award-winning Mountain View Homekey facility. With the exception of two larger structures for gathering spaces and communal dining, all buildings are composed of prefabricated modules. While these components were being built in a factory, grading, utility installation, and foundation construction prepared the 2.5-acre site to receive them. These efficiencies in schedule and construction allowed this facility to be built at a very economical cost of roughly $200k per bed.
This project does not consist of “tiny homes” – the clients’ sleeping units are private quarters within the larger complex with shared amenities, services, and exterior spaces that comprise a supportive community. Most of the sleeping units have en-suite bathrooms; for those clients to whom that privilege is not extended, there are bathroom-less units with access to individual shower and toilet stalls in shared restroom modules. Other prefabricated modules house offices and meeting rooms for support staff and security, storage for client belongings and for facilities maintenance, laundry rooms and medical clinics, and staff break and restrooms. One site-built structure contains two large community rooms; the other serves as a dining hall with an attached commercial kitchen, which will serve all of the operator’s facilities in the area and which will be used to train clients for future employment in culinary industries. Garage doors open these large gathering spaces to landscaped plazas on the exterior, enlarging the potential gathering area and allowing interior and exterior to blend together. The efficiencies gained by manufacturing the rest of the structures off-site allowed these buildings to be built traditionally without affecting the project’s overall schedule.
Once complete, this Navigation Center will be able to serve roughly 260 formerly houseless clients at a time, with anticipated stays of 3-6 months. The facility will serve as a sanctuary for residents to recover from life on the street and develop the social skills crucial to a successful and sustainable transition to stable housing. With this goal in mind, the site is designed to provide a balance between privacy and community. Clients need a secure space of their own, where they can store their belongings without fear of theft and where they can wake up in the morning to solitude and serenity. At the same time, clients are encouraged to spend time outside their rooms, interacting with each other and with case managers and other staff. A variety of outdoor spaces ranging in character from quiet and secluded to open and public are meant to provide enough options for any client to find a place where they can feel comfortable.