Modesto recognized for Youth Navigation Center partnership

The City of Modesto will receive the Audrey Nelson award from the National Community Development Association

MODESTO, Calif. — 19-year-old Eddy Roberson knows what it likes to be homeless on the streets of Modesto.

“You want to sleep, but simply can’t sleep because of the weather, how cold it is, how scared you are. You don’t know what’s going to come when you close your eyes,” said Roberson.

Roberson says he snuck out of his grandmother’s home at age 15, then he was kicked out by his mother and ended up on the streets. He says he became addicted to drugs, but quit cold turkey at age 17.

Finally, nearly a year ago, he found his way to the Youth Navigation Center in Modesto run by the nonprofit Center for Human Services.

“All of them are like angels in my life,” said Roberson.

The City of Modesto says one out of every five people that are homeless are under the age of 24. Across Stanislaus County, one out of every 10 that is homeless is under the age of 18. That’s where the Youth Navigation Center comes in.

Opened in October of 2021, it serves Stanislaus County young adults from ages 13 to 25 as a one-stop shop to get their life on track again.

“We are helping people who really want to do something different for themselves,” said Janene Honberger, the Youth Navigation Center’s shelter operations manager.

The center offers drop-in services as well as transitional housing, a low-barrier shelter with 24 beds and much more.

“Wrap around services, case management, navigation, working with them to obtain employment, the ultimate goal for that program, because it is transitional housing, is to gain permanent housing,” said Gina Machado, development & operations director at Center for Human Services .

It all added up to the City of Modesto being selected for the Audrey Nelson Award from the National Community Development Association for its partnership with the youth center.

The award will be presented Jan 27 in Washington, DC

The city provided a $500,000 loan and a $500,000 grant funded by the Community Development Block Grant for purchasing the Youth Navigation Center property.

“The award is really looking at the most effective use of the community development block grant funds and the results that we can have on our community. So, for the city to receive this for our Youth Navigation Center, we’re very excited,” said Jessica Hill, City of Modesto interim director of Community & Economic Development.

For Roberson, his dream is to one day become a chef and own a restaurant. He wants to create a positive legacy for himself and others.

“Because of Eddy, you never know whose life you’re going to save,” said Roberson.

In its first year, the Youth Navigation Center found permanent housing for 25 young adults.

Construction is currently underway for exclusively for Youth Navigation Center young adults in the form of 14 permanent apartments on 9th Street in Downtown Modesto.

They are expected to be ready for move-in in about two months.

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