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Three new Navigation Centers could provide SF homeless with more than 300 beds

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A woman walks through a homeless encampment lining the sides of the “Hairball” bike paths on June 30, 2017. (Jessica Christian/2017 S.F. Examiner)

San Francisco is expected to approve Tuesday the opening of a new Navigation Center near the “Hairball” bike paths and to vote Thursday on turning two Caltrans sites into Navigation Centers as well.

A Caltrans site at 5th and Bryant streets would comprise modular trailer buildings to accommodate about 80 homeless people, according to a budget analyst report, and another Caltrans site, known as Division Circle at 224-242 South Van Ness Ave. near the I-80 onramp, would be “an initial large tensile structure” to house about 125 homeless people, according to a budget analyst report. Both sites could open by July.

The Board of Supervisors Budget and Finance Committee will vote Thursday on authorizing The City’s real estate director to negotiate leases with Caltrans for the sites. The leases could each cost a mere $1 month as a result of Assembly Bill 857, which was passed last year by Assemblymember Phil Ting. The cost to construct Navigation Centers on the two sites total $7.9 million.

SEE RELATED: S.F. advances plan to open Navigation Center near ‘Hairball’ bike paths

Meanwhile, the full board is expected to vote Tuesday to approve a 125-bed facility, which is expected to open in May at 125 Bayshore Blvd. that will cost $6.1 million in rent and capital improvements over the next five and a half years. This facility, which is in District 10 and borders District 9. is near the Hairball bike paths and is supported by the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition and Supervisor Hillary Ronen.

Supervisor Jeff Sheehy, who introduced the Caltrans sites legislation with the late Mayor Ed Lee, said the proposal is “a fulfillment of Mayor Lee’s” commitment he made just before he died to bring 1,000 homeless people off the street during the winter.

Sheehy said he was supportive of the effort, but noted, “I don’t like they have limits” for how long a person can stay in the beds at Navigation Centers, which use both so-called emergency beds and temporary beds.

“Emergency beds are for people who [Homeless Outreach Team], the Police Department, or the Homeward Bound bring to a Navigation Center for a variety of crisis situations or immediate needs. These stays are typically limited to seven days,” the report said. “Temporary beds are for people in need of respite from the street and people referred from encampments. These stays are typically time-limited to 30 or 60 days.”

Interim Mayor Mark Farrell, the former District 2 supervisor who was appointed by the board last week, said he is committed to the strategies underway to address homelessness and the work of Jeff Kositsky, who Lee had tapped as director of the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing.

“Tent encampments are part of the homeless issue here in San Francisco. It is so much more than that, of course. But they are certainly a very visible part of it,” Farrell said last week. “I appreciate all the work Mr. Kositsky has done. The bottom line is we want to get people off the streets and into housing. That is my goal and my goal has mayor.

When asked if he thought The City needs to more quickly remove tent encampments, Farrell said, “This isn’t about a faster or slower rate.

“These are mothers and fathers. Brothers and sisters,” he continued. “We need to treat them with the respect that they deserve, but also we need to treat them with the compassion that they deserve and understand that they need to get out of the tents and into shelters and housing. No one is getting better by sleeping in our tents at night on the streets. We want do everything we can to support that movement toward shelter and housing.”

The three new Navigation Centers would add 333 temporary and emergency beds to an existing 1,553 beds for a total of 1,886. Navigation Centers would provide 686 beds, and traditional adult shelter beds would account for the remaining 1,200. But since Navigation Centers are temporary sites, some of the inventory will disappear soon.

“Two Navigation Centers, 1950 Mission Street and 1515 South Van Ness, are scheduled to close in 2018, and a third Navigation Center, Civic Center, is scheduled to close in 2019,” the budget analyst report said. These three Navigation Centers have a combined 288 temporary and emergency beds.

The 2017 homeless count found there were 7,499 homeless persons in San Francisco on one given night, of which 4,353 were unsheltered. The shelter waitlist runs at about 1,000 persons.

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