Local News

Fullerton Navigation Center Being Used as COVID-19 Site

Due to a spike in COVID-19 cases across Orange County’s homeless shelters, Fullerton’s Navigation Center run by Illumination Foundation is being used as a site for homeless residents who have contracted COVID-19.

This operational change took place over the weekend as residents from other facilities who had contracted COVID-19 were moved into the Fullerton shelter, and those who had tested negative were moved to other facilities, including motels.

Sleeping area inside the Fullerton Navigation Center.

“There is a high number of COVID-19-positive cases throughout Orange County and this vulnerable population is no different,” Terry Campbell, VP of Marketing and Communications at Illumination Foundation, told the Observer. “We are isolating COVID-19-positive cases at the Fullerton Navigation and Recuperative Care Center because the size of the building can best handle this need.”

Illumination Foundation is working in tandem with other shelter operators…to handle as many clients as possible and they have created a fluid situation, according to Campbell.

“Like hospitals across the State and County, homeless shelters and centers are reaching maximum capacity due to COVID-19,” Campbell said. “Our efforts are designed to lessen the burden on hospitals and our healthcare systems where ICU beds are at 0% capacity in Orange County.”

According to Jason Austin, Director of the County Office of Care Coordination, “We can confirm that we are using the Fullerton Navigation Center as one of our sites for individuals experiencing homelessness who are either COVID-19 positive or symptomatic.”

“Unfortunately, this is exactly why we have been pushing the use of single occupancy options [such as hotel rooms],” Brooke Weitzman, directing attorney with the Elder Law and Disability Rights Center, told the Observer. “In congregate settings with shared bathrooms and dozens of people sleeping and breathing the same air in each room, the outbreaks of COVID-19 seem almost inevitable. The guidance from the CDC and State have called for making hygiene available, getting private rooms with bathrooms when possible, and providing the services needed to ‘shelter’ in place for anyone else so they aren’t moved into these congregate settings. We have seen similar issues in other counties when people are in congregate living situations during a pandemic.”

In October, the County decided to end Project Roomkey, the program that sheltered elderly and disabled homeless people at high risk for COVID-19 in motels, replacing it with Project Toolbelt, and restricting new applicants.

“None of this would be happening if the County had not shut down Project Roomkey while there was still funding,” Weitzman said.

A resident who lives at the shelter and recently tested positive for COVID-19 said that communication with residents has been lacking during the numerous operational changes over the past week, as COVID-19 cases have continued to rise.

When the residents were tested, “Instead of telling us, they just escorted the people who were negative or inconclusive to these motels. They brought the negatives out and left the positives in, but they didn’t tell the people they were positive until the following day.”

The resident said that staff at the Fullerton Navigation Center have also been “apathetic, understaffed, and frustrated.” Due to the new changes at the Navigation Center, activities have been nonexistent. “We’re just in our bed, or you go to watch TV in the TV room, or you watch TV in the kitchen area, and that’s about it, and there’s a 10 o’clock curfew to be in bed at night,” the resident said.

The resident said that the Center has been filling up with COVID-19-positive residents from other shelters around the County, including Salvation Army in Anaheim, and Mary’s Kitchen in Santa Ana.

The Observer received word that all the shelters in Anaheim have been in quarantine all week and are not receiving new clients. These new restrictions and lockdowns could impact cities’ ability to enforce anti-camping ordinances at this time.

“For vehicle dwellers and unsheltered people in this moment of crisis, sheltering in place, wherever that is, seems necessary for community health,” Weitzman said.

5 replies »

  1. This place knowingly hid a Covid ward on site
    Follow the money
    They had either intention or negligence or both
    They had the homeless and recuperation programs axed in exchange for Covid patient influx, consisting of Salvation Army/Mary’s Kitchen/Impact Sober Living/Santa Ana’s Illumination Foundation branch, the bathrooms have been progressively filthy for days and the kitchen shorthanded and even being filled in by medical staff, Angie and Elliot are disgusting yes men for an even more disgustingly apathetic/corrupt organization going hand in hand with some already questionable programs to begin with (learned more about the Salvation Army’s questionable practically slave labor programs) these programs need a complete overhaul and are longdue for lawsuits and reform.

  2. I warned fhe Melrose shelter staff! I called the city of Placentia and TOLD them they were NOT in compliance with CDC guidelines. They responded by making up some bogus reason that I was not participating in the non-existent case management services. Also, against CDC guidelines! I finally have gotten housing via Telecare. I am almost 60 a female with COPD! I was a case manager! They are not taking people to the old El Toro Hangers. The conditions are unknown. This is an outrage! There is no excuse. We are being reproached for stockpiling funds and not spending them to house people! The Mc Kinney Vento Act calls for the use of federal properties that are vacant to assist with housing the homeless, yet we have over 1500 homes vacant, sitting unused that could be retro fitted. This is insanity! That this county, the board and powers that be are willing to put the entire county citizenry at risk! The arrogance with which we pick and chose what we will enforce is totally unacceptable. This is about survival of us all and not ego. Stop using sanism as public policy!

  3. Incorrectly labeling the chronically mentally ill as “homeless” and lumping them with those suffering economic hardship results in continued neglect of our society’s most vulnerable persons, the mentally ill. This “Navigation” center merely puts a band-aid on those who are chronically, mentally ill with schizophrenia and or brain damage. These individuals need twenty-four supervision in a structured environment that ensures their food, shelter, hygiene and compliance with antipsychotic medications not a cubicle with a cot. And this therapeutic milieu is a life-long commitment to the mentally ill and that is expensive cost to the state which explains why the state has shrugged off its responsibility for them instead kicking them to the curb. If this center wants to help those who have fallen into poverty then it should commit its mission to helping them. To help the mentally ill, maybe this center should muster its resources to influence state legislators to return funding and appropriate services for the mentally ill.

  4. Thank you Jesse La Torre for on reporting this. Honestly, many questions follow: Who’s making the decisions here? And on what basis are they being made?

    We have two crises that are conflating together — Homelessness and COVID.

    And truth be told / all things considered, we here in Fullerton have been _quite responsible with regards to both_.

    Yes, we were dragged somewhat kicking and screaming to face our homelessness crisis, but we did put up that Navigation Center and open the County’s as yet ONLY Safe Parking site (though now set to close 10 days from now … to bring available parking lots for safe parking in OC back down to zero …).

    Then when it comes to mask wearing, social distancing, we’ve had a far more serious / polite population than south county in this regard. I’ve not seen lack of mask wearing, etc to be a problem in our city.

    So are we being punished for trying to be good?

    Then who’s meeting whom in the next couple of days (and yes Christmas is coming up …) to make sure that a _credibly_ County Wide response is going to be made to this county-wide conflating situation.

  5. This site is only being used as a COVID site because the staff there does not care for their residence and didn’t take anywhere near the right precautions to prevent it from entering the shelter. Please look into the staff and people who run the Navigation Center. My friend’s death and many others could be on their hands because of their lack of empathy and basic cleanliness in a PANDEMIC. Illumination Foundation is being run by absolute scum and the Navigation Center has it’s goons trying to cover everything up.