The city's first Navigation Center for the homeless, launched in 2015 in the Mission District, is shifting its mandate amid the harsh realities of the homelessness crisis. Originally designed to house its clients for extended periods until they were able to find permanent housing or chose to leave of their own accord, the communications manager for the San Francisco Department on Homelessness and Supportive Housing, Randy Quezada, now tells Mission Local that the center has abandoned that goal, operating instead with a 30-day limit as a sort of triage center.
"The model switched so we have more opportunity with other people because we have far more need than resources,” Quezada told Mission Local. When their 30 days are up, homeless residents who enter the Mission Navigation Center are given the option to transfer to 90-day city shelters. The triage structure won't extend to the other homeless Navigation Centers: A second opened at the Civic Center Hotel last summer and another, bound for the Dogpatch, is set to open soon according to Hoodline.
The first homeless Navigation Center, a new effort to house homeless people with their partners, pets, and fellows from entire encampments, reached its 75-person capacity soon after opening, the Chronicle reported at the time. Optimistically — and it now appears unrealistically — the center, near 16th and Mission Streets at 1950 Mission Street , envisioned two- to three-week stays for its clients. The average stay turned out to be much longer: 85 days, with 37 clients having spent nine or more weeks at the center and one having spent 223 days there. The Chronicle's Matier and Ross characterized the center, perhaps cruelly, as "quite a hit with the homeless" and "may be a bit too successful for its own good." In its first year, the $2.7 million shelter served 399 people and moved 268 into traditional housing.
Although director of the Coalition on Homelessness Jennifer Friedenbach says she agrees that more homeless people should be given the opportunity to enter the Navigation Center, a mere 30 days is "not a realistic amount of time to stabilize people, nor enough time to secure housing or other critical services and benefit." Moreover, it may have been the promise of permanent housing originally represented by the Navigation Center that's made it so attractive to many. “Its why its been such a golden ticket,” said Kelley Cutler of the Coalition, calling the failure of such a promise "traumatizing" and a 30-day system a "band-aid."