San Francisco’s third Navigation Center, a proposed 14,000-square-foot facility, will open in the Dogpatch by February 2017. (Rendering courtesy Port of San Francisco)

Dogpatch Navigation Center expected to open by February

San Francisco’s third nontraditional homeless shelter will open in the Dogpatch neighborhood by February.

After months of community input and a slight location change, legislation allowing the so-called Navigation Center was approved Monday by the Board of Supervisors Land Use and Economic Development Committee and is expected to gain approval by the full board next week.

“It is my hope that the Navigation Center will add to the opportunities for people to move from the street into a more stable, long-term home,” said Supervisor Malia Cohen, who represents the neighborhood where the new shelter will open.

Cohen called on other neighborhoods to follow suit, stressing the need for “geographic equity” for such facilities.

Supervisor David Campos, who authored legislation passed earlier this year mandating The City open six Navigation Centers within two years, praised the third proposal. San Francisco’s first Navigation Center opened in March 2015 in the Mission, which Campos represents, and the second one opened in June in the Civic Center Hotel on Market Street.

“These people are not going anywhere,” Campos said of The City’s homeless residents. “I’d rather have them in a Navigation Center than camping out on the street”

Unlike traditional shelters, Navigation Centers have relaxed rules intended to make them more inviting for people who are living in encampments. For instance, people can bring in their belongings, pets are allowed, there is no curfew and couples can sleep in beds near each other.

There are 3,500 unsheltered people on the street on any given night in The City and 1,200 shelter beds.

Last week, Campos sent an email to his constituents praising recent efforts by city officials working to connect those living in encampments in the Mission with services and shelter. He noted how he planned to make regular site visits during his final four months in office.

During Monday’s hearing, Campos discussed his site visits.

“That was one of the hardest things to see today, that we had a family with three children and we don’t have spaces for them,” Campos said. “So that’s something we are going to have to figure out.”

The Dogpatch Navigation Center will consist of 16 dorm trailers at the end of 25th Street, comprising about 68 beds. It will remain open for three years.

Meanwhile, The City is adjusting its Navigation Center model. Instead of clients in the facilities receiving priority for housing — as was the case in the Mission facility — The City would take a more holistic approach.

Jeff Kositsky, director of the Department of Homelessness, told the San Francisco Examiner during an editorial board last week that prioritizing clients for housing in Navigation Centers is ineffective.

“We’re certainly not going to be able to say everybody in a Navigation Center is guaranteed access to housing,” Kositsky said. “And we shouldn’t do that.”

Kositsky continued, “We made some missteps with the [Navigation] Center, quite frankly. We shouldn’t be taking our resources and giving it to one program. It’s not about the program you are in, but it’s about the people.”

That’s why The City is trying to switch from a program- or provider-based system to a client-based system, he explained.

“Everybody gets what they need. So whether you are in a [Navigation] Center or a shelter or whether you are out on the streets, if you are the one who needs housing the most you are going to get it first.”

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