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First of its kind homeless navigation center opens in Red Bluff

PATH staff and community advocates gather outside the Plaza for a ribbon cutting ceremony in Red Bluff, Calif. on May 7, 2024.
Alec Stutson
/
NSPR
PATH staff and community advocates gather outside the Plaza for a ribbon cutting ceremony in Red Bluff, Calif. on May 7, 2024.

The Poor and the Homeless Tehama County Coalition (PATH) celebrated the opening of its homeless shelter and navigation center in Red Bluff earlier this month. The building, called PATH Plaza, soft-launched a few weeks before and has slowly been taking in more clients each day.

"I'm very excited to be able to get away from lying on the ground," said Brooks Houck, a resident at the navigation center.

"We need permanent supportive housing to end homelessness … I've seen people in our transitional housing be on a waitlist for over a year."
— Haley Surtees, PATH Director

He said it's helpful to have "a bed to sleep in, and not worrying about food."

PATH Plaza can accommodate up to 60 individuals, plus one family. The dorms are filled with bunk beds and divided by gender. It has 32 beds for women, 28 for men, and a single suite for a family.

In addition to daily meal services and shower access, PATH Plaza also provides case management to help residents navigate barriers like applying for new IDs, or securing housing. It also has a food pantry that's open to anyone in the community struggling with poverty, not just unhoused residents. And, it accommodates pets.

First homeless shelter in Tehama County

PATH Plaza is currently the only homeless shelter in Tehama County. A large part of its money comes from Encampment Resolution Funding. That’s a series of federal grants distributed by the California Interagency Council on Homelessness. Last month the Tehama County Continuum of Care was awarded more than $14 million from these funds.

Inside the group dorms at PATH Plaza in Red Bluff, Calif. on May 7, 2024.
Alec Stutson
/
NSPR
Inside the group dorms at PATH Plaza in Red Bluff, Calif. on May 7, 2024.

"We'll see about $10 million of that," said PATH Director Haley Surtees. "[That] guarantees us three years of operations."

PATH also manages an outreach team to contact unhoused residents on the street, as well as a team that helps collect garbage from encampments in Red Bluff.

Looking forward, Surtees said PATH wants to expand its shelter options.

"This is not going to end homelessness. But this is going to help."
— Haley Surtees, PATH Director

"[We want] to bring in housing that is not communal," she said. "There's people who would rather be on the streets than live in a communal dorm. We want to make sure that those people have an option also."

Surtees said what exactly that option will look like is still up in the air.

More resources still needed

As much good as PATH Plaza will do, advocates say it's not enough. The 2023 Tehama County point-in-time count found nearly 200 unsheltered people in Red Bluff — more than three times the maximum capacity of PATH Plaza.

"We need permanent supportive housing to end homelessness," Surtees said. "If you live on a fixed income, you're going to be put on a waitlist for a low-income apartment, and that waitlist is going to be long. I've seen people in our transitional housing be on a waitlist for over a year."

In the meantime, PATH is working on slowly ramping up to full capacity to make sure its staff can provide quality services to clients staying at the navigation center.

"This is not going to end homelessness," Surtees said. "But this is going to help."

Alec Stutson grew up in Colorado and graduated from the University of Missouri with degrees in Radio Journalism, 20th/21st Century Literature, and a minor in Film Studies. He is a huge podcast junkie, as well as a movie nerd and musician.