SF’s third Navigation Center for homeless residents comes into focus

San Francisco plans to open its third nontraditional homeless shelter in the Dogpatch neighborhood after months of community meetings.

Pending approval by city officials, San Francisco’s third Navigation Center would open on Port property at the dead end of 25th Street in the Dogpatch neighborhood between Sheedy Drayage, a construction crane company, and the Muni Metro East Facility.

Initially, the facility was proposed at the end of 24th Street at Warm Water Cove, a park that has had issues with homeless encampments. But Dogpatch residents and businesses preferred the site one block away, and The City acquiesced.

“It has taken a little bit longer than we had expected originally, but I think that some of this extra time for community outreach has been very helpful, but we are ready to move,” Sam Dodge, deputy director of the Department of Homelessness, told the Port Commission during a meeting last week on the proposal.

The Port Commission is expected to vote Aug. 9 on the contract for the facility, which can serve about 70 people at a time. If all goes according to schedule, the Dogpatch Navigation Center would open by February 2017.

Port Commissioners indicated they would support the plan.

“For some people, this will be a controversial issue. It’s not a controversial issue for me. This is a moral issue,” said Port Commission President Willie Adams. “We are talking about people’s lives. We are talking about people that have mental problems.”

The 14,000-square-foot facility would include a 6,000-square-foot courtyard and cost $3.2 million to construct. The annual budget is estimated at $2.5 million.

Last month, the Board of Supervisors approved legislation introduced by Supervisor David Campos that mandates The City create six Navigation Centers within two years, in addition to San Francisco’s first one at 1950 Mission St., which opened in March 2015.

The 25th Street Navigation Center would count toward that goal, and the Civic Center Hotel Navigation Center, which opened in June, counts as well. The Mission location is expected to remain open for another year; the Civic Center Hotel for about two years.

The 25th Street facility would remain operational for about three years, according to Dodge.

Navigation Centers are temporary shelters without the rules of traditional shelters, allowing people to come and go as they please, hold on to their belongings and enter with their pets. There, intensive services are provided as The City transitions these people within months to housing or sends them on a Greyhound bus to areas across the U.S., if someone on the other end agrees to house them when they arrive.

Port Commissioner Doreen Woo Ho said Navigation Centers are “an example [of] where I think San Francisco is leading the way in trying to find out ways to sort of manage — I’m not sure end — but manage homelessness in a more reasonable way.”

Port Commissioner Eleni Kounalakis noted the 25th Street facility is something unique. “San Francisco has been trying a lot of different things,” she said. “It has been this mayor after mayor — everyone looks for all these new different ways to address it. This is going to be just a very interesting thing to see. Unlike the Mission — it is not in the middle of the street like this.”

Only one commissioner expressed concerns about an increase of homeless encampments in the area.

Kimberly Brandon, vice president of the Port Commission, said, “My issue is not the Navigation Center at all. My issue is the concentration of homelessness in one particular area.”

Brandon suggested the temporary Pier 80 homeless shelter, which closed July 1 after opening in February, resulted in an increase of encampments nearby along Islais Creek.

“It’s become tent city over the last six months,” Brandon said.

Dodge refuted the claim of a direct link between encampments and the opening of the Pier 80 shelter, arguing there was an encampment issue in the area prior to its opening.

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