SAN FRANCISCO - After months of debate and fierce court battles, a new homeless navigation center on San Francisco's Embarcadero is nearing completion.
The site on the Embarcadero was a parking lot just a few months ago and has now been transformed into the city's newest navigation center. Now, all eyes are on this project following a months-long fight over whether it should open here or not.
Most of the work has been completed on the new Embarcadero navigation center. Soon the doors will open to welcome homeless San Franciscans looking for shelter and services.
Mayor London Breed organized a news conference and tour of the new facility, saying despite months of controversy, opening the navigation center was a necessity to begin housing the homeless.
"Last year we helped 2,146 exit homelessness," said Mayor Breed. "And since we've opened navigation centers in San Francisco they have helped 5,000 people."
Since its proposal, the site has generated controversy, neighbors worried it would draw homeless people to the area and lead to an increase in crime.
Opponents formed the group safe Embarcadero For All, and took the city to court to block the navigation center.
Wallace Lee, leader of that opposition released a statement reading, “Given its proximity to 10,000 residents, this Navigation Center will be closely watched. We hope that will make it less of a failure for the neighborhood than previous Navigation Centers in the City.“
Other neighbors say they stand behind the mayor's plan. "I raised my hand and to say 'I support her,' because I want to raise my kid in a city that helps its people," said Matt Carson.
The navigation center has room for 200, but when it opens, it will only shelter 130 for the first six months, part of an agreement with the neighbors.
The director of the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing says it's a necessary first step to resolving the city's homelessness crisis.
"We need more shelters,” said Jeff Kositsky from the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing. "The mayor has called for a thousand more beds. We have a new site opening up in the Bayview and two more sites after that that we're not ready to announce yet."
70% of the city's shelter beds and three navigation centers are in Supervisor Matt Haney's District 6. He says the whole city needs to help resolve a citywide problem.
"I have proposed legislation to require a navigation center in every district," said Supervisor Haney.
The City of San Francisco says the long-term solution to homelessness is building more affordable housing.