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Mayor Taps Troubled SRO as New Homeless Navigation Center

100-year-old building slated for eventual redevelopment, but in the meantime will house 93 homeless people

Most San Franciscans cite homelessness as their number one complaint/concern about living in the city, and angry fingers are pointing back and forth at City Hall about what’s to be done, beleaguered civil servants say they’re doing their best, and the homeless themselves simply try to make do.

Now, the Chronicle reports that Mayor Ed lee has proposed a follow-up to the largely successful but sometimes divisive Homeless Navigation Center at 1950 Mission: A second outpost at Market and 12th Street.

The site is presently the Civic Center Hotel, a 100-year-old building serving as an SRO and often cited as one of the most troubled and inhospitable in town. "Alcoholism, madness, depression, and drug abuse. And don't get me started on the other guests," reads a 2015 Yelp review.

The building, regularly cited by the Department of Building Inspection, is on the block for redevelopment; under the current proposal, about one-fifth of the new units would be below-market-rate housing for formerly homeless residents. But until developer Strada Investment Group gets final approval on that plan, the building is available for the mayor’s 93-bed homeless outreach proposal.

The Navigation Center in the Mission, which provides temporary shelter while securing permanent housing for the homeless, has been widely praised, the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty calls it as a model for other cities after the Super Bowl. But it can accommodate only 75 people at a time, and homeless advocates allege that the waiting list is sometimes manipulated for political reasons.

Given what already happens at the hotel, it might not seem like anybody would complain about the transition into a homeless shelter. But Jane Kim, board supervisor for the neighborhood, pointed out that that’s something of an elitist assumption.

"Just as we wouldn’t locate a Navigation Center in Pacific Heights without public input, we shouldn’t put a center in District Six without that same opportunity," Kim told the Chronicle.

The mayor also announced yesterday an addition of 200 new city-owned permanent housing units, a partial rejoinder to the criticism that there’s no point in having a Navigation Center if there’s nowhere to navigate anyone to.