Though it was set to open today, The Navigation Center — San Francisco's newest project to curb homelessness by relocating entire encampments of people with pets, tents, and all — has been delayed for two weeks. The cause, as Mission Local reports, is that Episcopal Community Services, a nonprofit operating several shelters and service centers throughout SF, was just last week awarded the contract to run the Navigation Center.
Understandably, that lent staff insufficient time to open the center by today. Santiago Lerma of the city’s Housing Opportunities, Partnerships & Engagement (HOPE) office says that Episcopal Community Services was unable to assemble a team and erect infrastructure to run the program in the window provided. What's more, the delay exposes the project to criticism that it's a poorly planned — or worse, superficial — effort.
Chronicle mustache bros Phillip Matier and Andrew Ross implied earlier this month that the Navigation Center would provide little more than political cover for Mayor Ed Lee as he looks to his re-election campaign, and the snafu strengthens their case.
Addressing homelessness, or at least appearing to, would seem pivotal, as Matier and Ross invoke a recent citywide poll carried out by the Chamber of Commerce. In it, 35 percent of surveyed voters said “homelessness/street behavior” was a major issue facing the city. Those survey results, though they could stand to be higher, represent a 10-point jump from two years ago: In San Francisco, concerns of homelessness are second only to concerns of housing affordability.
News of the the Navigation Center, an eight to 18 months-long pilot project funded by a $2 million anonymous donation by way of the San Francisco Interfaith Council, was therefore warmly welcomed. Its plan: move up to 75 people at a time to a temporary Mission District site for a 10 day period while permanent housing is sought and services are provided.
Though Board of Supervisors President London Breed called the center a “game changer,” its target demographic, when interviewed by Mission Local, seemed less convinced. “I don’t want to go through all that shit,” said Carlos Beza, who has been homeless for four and a half years. “Phone calls, reservations, you have to stand in line all day.”
Others, though, did seem open to the option. One homeless man, Guadalupe Jimenez, who was approached in his tent near 19th and Harrison Streets by a Homeless Outreach Team member, said “I’m going to go, just to go see what will happen.” However, he'll have to wait another two weeks at least.