FREMONT (KPIX 5) — A KPIX 5 investigation has uncovered that the same company that is going to run several Bay Area navigation centers for the homeless has been cited for serious violations at a local drug and alcohol treatment facility.
San Francisco was the first, then Oakland. Now cities all over the Bay Area are embracing the concept of homeless navigation centers.
KPIX 5 has discovered three of those centers — soon to be five — are operated by Bay Area Community Services, a company we have reported on that has been cited at a local treatment facility.
The debate over where to put a homeless navigation center in Fremont, or whether to have one at all, divided the community this past summer. The city council finally voted on a location, approving a space in the parking lot behind city hall. But the controversy isn’t over.
“Definitely a concern, definitely,” said Fremont resident Luke Lu.
He wants more details on the company selected to run the center, called Bay Area Community Services or BACS.
“Right now I don’t think they provide enough transparency to the public,” said Lu.
He says BACS presented numbers from navigation centers it currently operates in Berkeley and Oakland that to Lu seemed too good to be true.
“If you give me a number you have to give me details, you cannot just give me a number. 80 percent success. I really want to see what makes up that 80 percent,” said Lu.
Information was hard to find because homeless navigation centers don’t have to be licensed by the state. That means they don’t have to be regularly inspected and complaints do not have to be publicly posted.
His suspicions grew when he came across KPIX 5’s recent investigation of Thunder Road, a drug and alcohol treatment facility for youth in Oakland that is also run by BACS.
We spoke with a teen who sank deeper into his addiction during his stay at the facility, and another teen who says she was assaulted there and ended up in the emergency room with acute alcohol toxicity.
KPIX 5 discovered Thunder Road is considered so poorly managed by Alameda County’s Chief Probation Officer Wendy Stil that she took a drastic step.
“We had a few incidents that occurred last year that I was very concerned about. And I made the decision to no longer use the facility,” said Still.
“If they run Thunder Road this way, it makes me suspect, ‘Ok, how are you going to run the navigation center?'” said Lu.
BACS is one of the fastest growing companies in what has become a booming homeless care industry.
The non-profit’s contributions doubled in just three years to over $20 million. It currently operates dozens of social service facilities and, by next year, is set to run a second navigation center in Hayward in addition to the one set to open in Fremont.
“The contract is for about $2.3 million,” said Fremont human services director Suzanne Shenfil. She says the bidding process to run her city’s planned new navigation center went by the rules. In this case, officials chose the best candidate, which was BACS.
“In our personal experience of working with BACS in our community for several decades now. The relationship has been very strong and we feel like they have been very successful,” said Shenfil.
She says BACS’s record in running the now year-old STAIR center in Berkeley was also a big selling point:
“We liked the success rate that they were having with placing people into permanent, stable housing,” said Shenfil.
In a video presentation to the City of Fremont, BACS CEO Jamie Almanza quoted an 82 percent success rate in getting residents of the STAIR center into permanent housing.
A new report shows the numbers aren’t quite that high. 64 percent of the people who stayed in the shelter found permanent housing, while 22 percent of people at the shelter ended back on the street.
“I think the 64 percent are actually great, considering people were there for probably six months or less. And they are getting people off the street,” said Shenfil.
BACS didn’t want to comment for this report. But after the previous stories about Thunder Road aired, BACS CEO Almanza sent a letter to Hayward and Fremont warning officials in both cities about what she claimed was KPIX’s “one-sided, sensationalized” news story.
In it, Almanza said she has “one million percent confidence” that BACS has done “good to excellent work.”
It is going to take some more convincing for Luke Lu.
“For Thunder Road at least they have parents, to speak for their kids. Ok it’s not right there. But what about homeless people?” said Lu.
Fremont’s new housing navigation center is expected to open in the middle of next year.