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Housing units at the Victorville Wellness Center, a complex for previously unhoused residents, opened in December 2023. (Photo Courtesy of the city of Victorville)
Housing units at the Victorville Wellness Center, a complex for previously unhoused residents, opened in December 2023. (Photo Courtesy of the city of Victorville)
Mercedes Cannon-Tran
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As communities across San Bernardino County continue efforts to address the unhoused crisis, the city of Victorville has debuted what it considers to be an innovative approach to a complex issue.

Unlike other efforts to renovate motels into apartment complexes or build communal, hostel-like shelters to address homelessness, the Victorville campus that opened in December includes 110 single-story, pod-like structures that offer private quarters for individuals in the form of single-occupant rooms, double-occupant rooms for couples or roommates and family unit rooms.

The Wellness Center offers wraparound services to its community, as do a growing number of shelters across Southern California, but it also provides on-site medical care, food service throughout the day and storage for personal items.

  • Resident units at the Victorville Wellness Center opened in Dec....

    Resident units at the Victorville Wellness Center opened in Dec. 2023. (Photo Courtesy of the city of Victorville.)

  • The cafeteria located at the Victorville Wellness Center, a housing...

    The cafeteria located at the Victorville Wellness Center, a housing campus for previously unsheltered residents, opened in December 2023. (Photo Courtesy of the city of Victorville.)

  • Housing units at the Victorville Wellness Center, a complex for...

    Housing units at the Victorville Wellness Center, a complex for previously unhoused residents, opened in December 2023. (Photo Courtesy of the city of Victorville)

  • One of the medical examination rooms at the Victorville Wellness...

    One of the medical examination rooms at the Victorville Wellness Center opened in Dec. 2023. (Photo Courtesy of the city of Victorville.)

  • A look inside one of the units at the Victorville...

    A look inside one of the units at the Victorville Wellness Center opened in Dec. 2023. (Photo Courtesy of the city of Victorville.)

  • A look inside a single-occupant unit at the Victorville Wellness...

    A look inside a single-occupant unit at the Victorville Wellness Center opened in Dec. 2023. (Photo Courtesy of the city of Victorville.)

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“It really is the cornerstone of our strategy to reduce homelessness in Victorville,” city public information officer Sue Jones said in a phone interview, noting that officials know there are many factors that contribute to homelessness in the region.

“We wanted to make sure that we came up with a solution that addressed the full spectrum of issues that individuals may face,” she said.

In 2019, the Victorville City Council voted to commission a Homeless Solutions Task Force to help address and formulate a plan to tackle the growing number of people without permanent shelter. The Wellness Center came from the task force’s study and outreach to individuals in need.

With the task force’s help, the city “developed a precise strategy to increase access to shelter, support services and healthcare,” Victorville Mayor Liz Becerra said in an emailed statement.

“By combining these services on-site in one campus,” she added, “we believe we will reduce homelessness in Victorville. It’s gratifying to bring our vision for the Wellness Center to reality for the benefit of our Victorville community.”

The center, located at 16902 First St. neighboring Eva Dell Park, offers transitional housing and support services with the goal of helping individuals and families eventually move on to more permanent housing solutions.

The city hired two nonprofits, North Hills-based Hope the Mission and Symba Center, to run the facility. Symba Center, cofounded by Shawn Smith, an assistant professor in pharmacy at Western University of Health Sciences in Pomona, operates the on-site medical clinic offering recuperative, reproductive, diabetic care and more.

The center was designed to address the barriers unhoused individuals may face when seeking shelter solutions — such as helping residents find veterinary care and offering a safe space to leave furry companions.

Other services offered to Wellness Center residents include mental health support, case management services, and job entry skills training.

In addition to housing and support services, the center has 24-hour security and provides food service throughout the day. There are also kennels for residents’ pets should they need a safe place to leave them while attending appointments or during a work shift.

The center has a minimum capacity of 170 beds with the ability to accommodate more if needed using options such as bunk beds. Since opening, the center has increased the amount of shelter beds in the city by 56%, officials say.

The center was not at full capacity by late January and still accepting new residents, according to Jones. In January, 30 new individuals have been admitted to the center. With the Point in Time completed on Jan. 25, Jones has hope more individuals will gain access to the center.

The total cost of the project was $42 million, with a majority of funding to build the center coming from a $28 million Homekey grant from the California Department of Housing and Community Development.

The city may expand the center in the future, Jones said, but nothing is cemented at the moment.

In January, the City Council approved additional funding specifically for the cleanup and relocation of individuals in an encampment along the Mojave River. Jones said this project, along with the established services at the Wellness Center, are likely to work together to provide housing options for individuals should they want them.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to correct the spelling of Symba Center.

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