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Where to Put Six New Homeless Navigation Centers?

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Two sites have already been scouted, but four more are needed

Warm Water Cove in the Dogpatch has been tapped as one potential new center for the homeless.
Patricia Chang

The city’s verdict on the Homeless Navigation Center that opened last year at 1950 Mission Street is apparently pretty good, as lawmakers unanimously approved the development of a whopping half dozen more similar programs to be completed in the next two years.

The first Navigation Center, a $2.7 million experiment, provides immediate assistance and shelter for homeless San Franciscans before arranging temporary housing and, eventually, permanent homes. The program has been praised for its accessibility.

The problem is that the current center only has 75 beds for the city’s 6,000-plus homeless residents. And the waiting list is long and not always impartial. (City official say they fast tracked some applicants to get them out of the way of Super Bowl festivities this year, for example.)

The old Civic Center Hotel is already servicing the homeless. That’s one down...

Septupling the number of sites (for a projected 900 beds) should cut down on both of those problems, but the aggressive schedule is a challenge. Where to find six new sites (with one specifically for homeless youth) with sufficient facilities, where the neighbors won’t make a fuss, and where the clientele can access it easily?

The city is already converting a troubled SRO at 12th and Market into a new center, but that’s temporary as the building is eventually going to be redeveloped into new housing, with one-fifth of it reserved for the formerly homeless.

A third has been proposed to go in the Dogpatch on 24th Street, but the city is still testing the waters to see if the neighborhood will accept it.

Layout of the Mission Navigation Center. Note the kennels on the south end.
Public Works

That leaves an obligation for one entirely new site to be identified later this year, and three to be rustled up at some point next year. All of the centers should be open by 2018. The legislation, which passed on Tuesday, does have one deceptively straightforward suggestion: Assimilating existing homeless shelters into the Navigation Center model, a move that would cut out most of the legwork.

There are plenty of disused sites throughout the city that might theoretically serve, if only the all-important community outreach pans out. Any suggestions, folks?