New Navigation Site In Works For The Dogpatch As City Works To Find Spaces For Homeless

City officials are working to open a third Navigation Center site in San Francisco’s Dogpatch neighborhood near Warm Water Cove, one of several such new facilities for homeless assistance planned around the city in coming months, according to the mayor’s office.

The proposed 80-bed facility will be located on 24th Street between Michigan Street and Warm Water Cove Park on Port of San Francisco land, in an area known to support a homeless population, according to a report before the Port Commission today.

The city has begun outreach to neighborhood businesses and residents and held a community meeting on April 6. The facility is currently expected to operate for two years, with an option to extend the lease, according to port officials.

Like the original Navigation Center in the Mission District and a second one opening soon at the Civic Center Hotel, the facility will offer a mix of intensive support services, access to housing programs and a relatively loose structure that allows pets, keeps couples together and lets residents store their belongings.

The Navigation Center model, launched more than a year ago as a pilot program, has proven successful in moving many homeless residents into permanent housing, but officials have struggled to find new locations and expand supportive housing options quickly enough to meet demand. Supervisor David Campos has increased political pressure in recent months with a resolution declaring a shelter emergency and an ordinance that would require the city to open additional Navigation Centers within the next year.

The Dogpatch site is one of several around the city currently being considered for additional Navigation Centers, according to Christine Falvey, a spokeswoman for Mayor Ed Lee.

The push for new spaces to get homeless residents off the street has taken on new urgency in the wake of an April 7 police shooting at a homeless encampment on Shotwell Street in the Mission District. Police shot and killed Luis Gongora, a 45-year-old San Francisco resident, after responding to a report of a man armed with a knife in a homeless encampment.

In the wake of that shooting, the mayor has called for increased efforts to move people out of the tent encampments that have sprung up in many parts of the city.

“The mayor is very concerned about the public safety issues surrounding the camps, both for the people in them and for the businesses and residents living around them,” Falvey said.

Previous moves by the city to clear out encampments on Division Street and in the Showplace Square area have drawn protests from homeless advocates and elected officials, who argue the city does not have enough shelter beds or housing spaces to accommodate those on the street.

People living on the streets have reported increased harassment, more frequent orders to move and increased warrant checks by police since Friday in the wake of Gongora’s shooting, according to Jennifer Friedenbach, director of the Coalition on Homelessness.

The recent statements by the mayor have advocates worried about a further crackdown, she said.

“It’s really rough for people on the streets and they don’t have anywhere to go, so when the mayor calls for getting rid of all encampments, we don’t really know where he expects people to go,” Friedenbach said. “There’s no shelter available for all the people in the tents and there’s clearly no housing, so in effect what you get is more of the status quo.”

Falvey said the details of the mayor’s plans are still being worked out with department heads, but that he plans a “compassionate response” offering services and shelter spaces to those in encampments on a rolling basis as they become available.

“The mayor is prioritizing making spaces, shelter and services available to people as we address encampments, that will be happening at the same time,” Falvey said.

In addition to the Navigation Center on Mission Street, the city is currently operating a temporary 180-bed winter shelter at Pier 80, but that space is currently slated to close July 1. The city also previous examined Pier 29 as a possible shelter site, but found it unsuitable for safety reasons, according to port staff.

Sara Gaiser, Bay City News

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