Homeless navigation center opens in SF Dogpatch with neighborhood support

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SAN FRANCISCO (BCN)-- The newest addition to San Francisco's Dogpatch neighborhood features a sunny deck, views of cranes at the waterfront and a welcoming atmosphere, and is expected to fill up quickly.

It's not a beer garden or lunch spot, however, but rather the new Central Waterfront Navigation Center, a 64-bed shelter intended to help get the chronically homeless off the streets.

Made up of portable units and a deck that is likely to become a central gathering place for its residents, the center offers beds, showers, laundry facilities, a kitchen and on-site support including links to housing, drug treatment programs and other services.

The center's location on Port of San Francisco-owned land at the end of 25th Street, near Warm Water Cove park and a Municipal Railway light-rail facility, means the main sounds nearby are the occasional rumble
and clang of a train and a distant whoosh of traffic.

"When you get here, the first thing you notice is how quiet it is, how breathtaking the views are, how bright the sunshine," Mayor Ed Lee said.

"That's the kind of atmosphere we wanted to provide."

Navigation centers are intended to be more flexible and welcoming than traditional homeless shelters, eliminating many of the restrictions on pets, possessions and staying with partners that can prevent homeless people from accessing services.

Jeff Kositsky, director of the city's Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing, said that around 80 percent of those who enter Navigation Centers have exited either to a permanent housing situation or to another program such as drug treatment.

"Now that we know Navigation Centers do work, the mayor has been pushing us and supporting us to do more," Kositsky said.

The new facility is the third Navigation Center the city has opened following the success of the initial pilot center at 1950 Mission St., which opened in 2015, and a second that opened at the Civic Center Hotel last

The city plans to open four more in the next year, including one with 15 beds on the campus of San Francisco General Hospital targeting those with chronic mental health and addiction issues, one with 120 beds at a
future housing site at 1515 S. Van Ness Ave., and another with 125 beds set to open in the South of Market neighborhood.

Altogether, the Navigation Center system is expected to expand from 167 beds to 416 over the next year, and funding for it will expand by 215 percent, from $4.9 million to $15.3 million, city officials said today.

In addition to the funding, however, the city needs the support of neighborhood residents. Crucially, city and port officials were able to win the support of the Dogpatch Neighborhood Association for the newest center.

Board member McAllen said opposition among some members of the group remained strong through around six months of meetings and discussion. Supporters won out, however, with the final vote on the project last fall coming in at 24 to 6.

Allen, who will be on the center's neighborhood advisory board, said he hopes to see neighborhood residents volunteer and engage with center residents.

More importantly, he said he wants to encourage residents in other neighborhoods to welcome similar facilities.

"I hope by enthusiastically receiving this center, our neighborhood can serve as an example to other neighborhoods, and that soon every corner of the city will be taking part in the effort to respond to the
crisis of homelessness," McAllen said.

The center will be operated with Episcopal Community Services, which also operates the Civic Center center, in partnership with the Providence Foundation.