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SF opens Navigation Center on former Caltrans parking lot to shelter homeless

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A man walks around outside one of the tents at the new Division Circle Navigation Center on August 2, 2018. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

San Francisco will officially open its latest Navigation Center Friday on a Caltrans-owned parking lot near US Highway 101 that will serve up to 126 homeless persons at any given time.

The City opened the first Navigation Center in March 2015 and has since opened other sites building on the success of these temporary shelters, which have fewer rules than traditional shelters, allowing homeless persons to come and go when they want and keep their belongings, pets and partners with them.

They also receive robust services on site to steer them on the path toward housing.

Mayor London Breed and other officials will announce Friday the official opening of the Division Circle Navigation Center, which has already started to serve the homeless. The site is operated by the nonprofit St. Vincent de Paul Society of San Francisco.

“This Navigation Center will help us get people off the streets and transitioned into permanent housing,” Breed said in a statement. “It is not enough to merely get people indoors, we know that we need to provide services to ensure they do not end up back on our streets.”


A view of one of the tents at the new Division Circle Navigation Center, which will house up to 125 people, on August 2, 2018. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

The site, at 224-242 South Van Ness Ave., was made possible by the passage of Assemblymember Phil Ting’s AB 857 that allows the leasing of Caltrans sites for homeless shelters at a nominal rate. Ting, who will be on hand for Friday’s opening, also secured $10 million for The City to fund Navigation Centers.

“California has stepped up to support San Francisco so we can attack this homelessness crisis together,” Ting said in a statement.

Those found living in tent encampments will be referred to the Division Circle center, as well as those living on the streets and encountered by the Homeless Outreach Team.

Jeff Kositsky, Director of the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing, said, “This Navigation Center will play a critical part in our work to effectively resolve encampments, offering the most vulnerable among us a safe place from which to begin their individual journeys out of homelessness.”

As of June, Navigation Centers have moved 485 homeless residents into permanent housing, temporarily housed 91 and placed 1,065 individuals on the bus to reconnect them with families or friends outside of San Francisco, according to city officials.

Kositsky said residents will be given an initial 30 day stay at the Division Circle center, with the potential for longer. Since the City began operating Navigation Centers, under 10 percent of those passing through them have timed out, he emphasized.

The official opening comes two days after Breed signed her first city budget as mayor and said addressing homelessness was her top priority. The budget increases city spending on homeless services by $60 million.

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