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SF disbands nine encampments since August

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The City has disbanded nine encampments since August, and officials say more than 25 percent in those encampments have exited homelessness. (Jessica Christian/2016 S.F. Examiner)

In the latest effort to address homeless encampments, San Francisco plans to open a new Navigation Center for a short duration that could serve up to 300 homeless residents in the Mission District later this month, as well as launch a new data system to better track homeless residents across the array of city services.

The Board of Supervisors is expected to approve today the gift of a $0 lease between The City and Lennar Multifamily Communities to use its 1515 South Van Ness Ave. site pre-development until Jan. 15, 2018, for a homeless shelter.

On Monday, Jeff Kositsky, director of the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing, provided a requested update on encampments to the Local Homeless Coordinating Board.

“Since Aug. 6 of 2016, we have resolved nine encampments and roughly 70 percent of the people who were in those encampments went from those encampments into either a shelter, Navigation Center, reunited with family or into some kind of treatment program,” Kositsky said.

“Overall, of all the people that we have assisted in the encampments or that have been in the encampments, roughly 390 people in the encampments where we’ve worked, just over 25 percent of them ended up exiting homelessness permanently.”

The Mayor’s Office is in talks with Lennar to extend that lease gift until March 1, 2018. The board’s Land Use and Transportation Committee approved the arrangement Monday after asking several questions about cost.

The initial estimate for The City to turn the site into a Navigation Center for that half-year period is $400,000, with the goal to open the site by the end of May. The board would have to approve the costs in a vote expected later this month.

For San Francisco, the shelter site is the latest effort to address encampments in the Mission, where about 500 homeless residents live in tents — half the total estimate of those who reside in tents citywide.

A perceived increase of encampments near businesses and residences drew a large outcry of complaints to City Hall last year, prompting city officials to try new methods such as Navigation Centers and a strategy to break up the encampments.

Kositsky told the Local Homeless Coordinating Board that The City is currently focusing on encampments in the Showplace Square area and are discussing a schedule on where to proceed to next.

Members of the Local Homeless Coordinating Board requested that in future reports on efforts around encampments Kositsky provide more details, such exactly where people were housed, if they were formerly foster youths, if they were families and why some refused services.

“Seventy percent is great but we also know most people stay 30 days and then they go back into the street,” said Local Homeless Coordinating Board member Laura Guzman.

San Francisco is expected to soon have more data on homeless people on the street through the deployment of a new online navigation and entry system, or One System, being designed by Bitfocus, a company that did similar work for Las Vegas and Santa Clara. The system will also prioritize homeless people for services and housing based on a set of criteria.

The One System will launch May 23 with the first major training beginning for members of Homeless Outreach Team. The rollout will last several months to incorporate other data systems in use, such as transferring over the shelter reservation system by November.

On May 23, homeless outreach workers will trade in their paper clipboards for tablets (or they can retain their paper clipboards and fill out new paper forms with required information, but must enter the data into the system at the end of the shift.)

“There is not client-level data that has been kept by the Homeless Outreach Team historically. They’ve kept information about where they’ve encountered people, like which district they were in,” said Megan Owens, with the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Services.

“So it will be a big transformation,” she said. “We are really looking forward to learning who is actually using our street outreach services, how long those folks have been here, etcetera.”

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