A navigation center is planned at a City College of San Francisco-owned property at 33 Gough St. The site will eventually be developed into affordable housing. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

Supes approve 200-bed navigation center in Upper Market Street

Health board to vote on meth sobering center, behavioral health respite center

San Francisco on Tuesday approved a navigation center for homeless residents in the Upper Market area as part of a continued expansion of services, a week after approving one in Lower Nob Hill for transitional age youth.

The expansion of services is expected to continue as The City has more than 8,000 homeless persons in San Francisco on any given night, more than 5,000 of whom live unsheltered. There are nearly 1,000 people on a waitlist for shelter.

The Board of Supervisors unanimously approved the deal at 33 Gough St. in District 6 Tuesday afternoon at the same time the Health Commission was scheduled to hold informational hearings on two more service expansion projects — a methamphetamine sobering center at 180 Jones St. in the Tenderloin and a 30-bed behavioral health respite center at 1156 Valencia St. in District 8 for “homeless individuals with behavioral health diagnoses who are not ready for treatment or not fully engaging with care.”

The Health Commission is scheduled to vote on the service contracts for both these two sites on March 17.

The 33 Gough St. navigation center is expected to operate for two years under a three-year lease. The lease will cost $4.3 million over three years and the shelter operation will cost $7.5 million in each of the two years. The shelter services are expected to open in the late fall.

The site is owned by City College of San Francisco and ultimately is slated to become an affordable housing development.

“With the approval of this lease, we are one step closer to creating 200 new places for people experiencing homelessness to get off the streets, into shelter, and on the path to housing,” Mayor London Breed said in a statement after the board’s vote. “The location of this new Upper Market SAFE Navigation Center will help us meet people where they are, and more easily connect people who are suffering on our streets with the help they need.”

District 6 Supervisor Matt Haney, who supported the proposal, said that “clearly we have a huge need to build additional navigation centers and additional navigation center beds in this area.”

He added that the site has “long been an eyesore for nearby residents and business and has sat vacant for sometime.”

Jeff Kositsky, director of the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing, said in a statement that “everyday, our teams talk with people living unsheltered who are desperate to come indoors and begin their journey out of homelessness.”

“We need more shelter and more housing exits from homelessness of every kind,” Kositsky said.

The shelter expansion also comes as The City is shifting its homelessness response strategy to address those living on the streets and in tent encampments, a change that Kositsky outlined during a Monday meeting of the Local Homeless Coordinating Board, as previously reported by the San Francisco Examiner.

The Healthy Streets Operation Center, also known as HSOC, which launched in January 2018, will cease operating based on 311 complaints after data showed this model increased complaints and helped few leave the streets.

The complaint-driven response began in late 2018. HSOC data shows its outreach was more effective when it worked more methodically, relying not on complaints but focusing on areas of the city with a large number of homeless persons.

HSOC will begin using a “zone-focused” strategy and concentrate on areas with high numbers of homeless persons, Kositsky said.

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