Like everywhere in the East Bay, homelessness in Hayward is a growing problem. According to a recent census, more than 300 Hayward residents are without shelter on any given night. But a one-year pilot program based on a model used in Berkeley aims to alleviate at least some of the problem, despite several jaw-dropping comments by two Hayward CEOs who disparaged the less fortunate.

The Hayward City Council Tuesday night unanimously approved the creation of a Housing Navigation Center on Whitesell Street and Depot Road, costing $3 million in various state funding sources for the first year. The expenditure includes $2.5 million in annual operating costs and $500,000 in one-time start-up spending, the city said.

The facility, which could open sometime next winter, will be able to provide various services, including shelter, rehab, and rapid re-housing, to roughly 45 homeless Hayward residents. The city is currently seeking an operator for the future facility, which is based on the Berkeley’s Pathways STAIR Center that opened last summer.

While future funding is somewhat uncertain, Hayward Deputy City Manager Jennifer Ott said, the city is fairly confident former Gov. Jerry Brown’s outlay of $500 million in emergency funding for the homeless will continue under Gov. Gavin Newsom, based on his recent comments. Under Brown’s Homeless Emergency Aid Program (HEAP), Hayward received in $1.77 million in local funds.

The CEO of Pucci Foods in Hayward said the homeless navigation center will ‘bring people we don’t want’ to the area.

One impetus for moving quickly on the navigation center is those funds must be spent by the city before June 2021. Competition in Alameda County for HEAP funds has been fierce.

Last December, it revealed a rift between Oakland, the largest city in the county, and perhaps the city facing the most daunting task with homelessness, versus neighboring cities which claimed Oakland was seeking more than their fair share of HEAP funding. If Hayward does not act, said Ott, Oakland will surely seek those funds.

Another reason for the program is a recent federal court ruling that bars municipalities from clearing out homeless encampments if there is no other shelter space available in the city. Hayward currently has only two shelters.

The prospect of a homeless center coming to the area, however, was met with distasteful public comments from at least two local businesses located nearby.lam chris

Chris Lam (pictured, right), the President of CEO of Pucci Foods, a wholesaler on Industrial Boulevard, said he was concerned about the “side-effects” of the project. The homeless navigation center risked “bringing in people we don’t want,” said Lam.

He later repeated the phrase, during his public comments Tuesday before warning the center will attract more homeless to the “neighborhood that we are proud of.” Lam is a member of the Hayward Chamber of Commerce executive board, according to his company’s website.

Wei Qi, the CEO of Encyclogen, located on Cabot Boulevard, displayed a bag of used needles he claims was left by the homeless on his property. The center’s proposed 45 clients, said Wei, might overwhelm his parking lot. Later, he told the council that he suspects a “homeless party” was thrown recently on his property.