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Plan for Polk Gulch homeless youth navigation center would cost $124 million

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But that’s arguably less than the city is likely to spend on temporary facilities elsewhere

Reports Hint At White House Close To Rolling Out New Agenda For Dealing With Homelessness Crisis In California Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

The plan to open a new San Francisco navigation center for homeless youth could move one step closer to fruition today as the city’s Budget and Finance Committee will vote whether or not to lease a three-story building in Polk Gulch.

The plan by Supervisor Aaron Peskin would see a 75-bed navigation center open inside a three-story building at 888 Post, which would stay put for at least 20 years. And the deal would cost quite a bit—nearly $124 million.

The idea of a shelter serving the city’s youngest homeless adults has been on the table for years. City lawmakers approved the idea in 2019, but now they must green light some of the particulars separately.

According to the most recent homeless count, 14 percent of the city’s 8,000-plus homeless residents are between the ages of 18 and 24. Of those, a startling 81 percent are unsheltered, sleeping on the streets or in vehicles rather than emergency housing.

Forty-six percent of youth surveyed during the 2019 count identify as LGBTQ, with many respondents saying they “became homeless after fleeing persecution, job discrimination or abuse” over their sexual or gender identity.

An intersection with a three-story warehouse.
The vacant building at 888 Post.
Image via Google

Polk Gulch, being on the edge of the Tenderloin which was a onetime queer neighborhood—it played host to the city’s first Pride parades and festivals—seems an ideal place for such a facility.

For decades, the nearly 39,000-square-foot site was a fan store, but it went out of business in early 2015. The lease for the vacant space is now $125,000 per month, or $1.5 million per year.

However, since rent goes up every year, it would cost more than $2.63 million by the end of 20 years. In all, the combined rent, taxes, and insurance over two decades will total up to more than $49 million.

On top of that, the budget estimates that running the 75-bed shelter will cost more than $3.76 million per year. Over 20 years, plus the lease payments, that’s more than $124 million.

That’s a lot of money, but it might actually be a bargain. According to a city audit, other homeless centers cost some $4.3 million per year, on top of the average $6.3 million to construct the temporary facilities.

The city might reduce its costs by leasing some of the space, including to Goodwill, who are interested in teaching classes there. The new deal also includes the cheaper option of just buying the Post Street building outright for $29 million.

Sherilyn Adams, director of Larkin Street Youth Services, noted in a January opinion piece that “familiar concerns” about crime started coming up as soon as Peskin and Mayor London Breed announced plans for 888 Post last year. She urged neighbors to support the shelter.

At a January community meeting, residents said they feared that the shelter would attract more people sleeping and camping on the sidewalks (presumably spillover when the shelter runs over capacity).

If the city approves the deal, the new center could open by the end of this year. According to the mayor’s office, the 75 planned beds here are part of a total of 499 new shelter spaces they hope to open by 2021, part of Breed’s campaign promise to increase capacity by 1,000.