A new homeless Navigation Center was scheduled to open Monday at the 1515 South Van Ness location at 26th Street, providing 120 beds just a few blocks from the persistent homeless encampment beneath the 101 overpass at Cesar Chavez Street. But this new Navigation Center did not open Monday at 1515 South Van Ness, and Mission Local reports the timeline for the center’s opening is completely up in the air.
It’s none too ironic that the Google Street View image of the 1515 South Van Ness location, seen above, is strewn with tents, debris, and the exactly the kind of people would benefit from the center actually being open. And as of just five days ago, the SF Department of Homelessness and the St. Vincent de Paul Society nonprofit that will operate the center were still touting June 26 as the opening date.
“I wish I could tell you, but we just don’t know. We are still working on it,” St. Vincent de Paul Society program director Lessy Benedith told Mission Local, not sounding confident herself on timeline for the center’s opening.
This particular Navigation Center is not even meant to be permanent, and in a classic San Francisco sign of the times, will eventually be torn down to build 157 units of condos. But after much loud public debate around the neighborhood, the center was supposed to open this week and remain in operation until construction begins on those condos in January, providing client stays of between 30 and 60 days.
"It’s not permanent housing, it’s not long-term transitional,” Department of Homelessness spokesperson Randy Quezada told Mission Local last week. “Its a Navigation Center, a way to plug people into the broader system and help people figure out their journey out of homelessness.”
There are currently three Navigation Centers operating in San Francisco, with plans to add three more (including this one). These Navigation Centers differ from traditional homeless shelters in that they include storage lockers, allow pets, let people sleep together, allow entire bonded friend groups to move in together, and have a more comprehensive system of case management and care.
Whether Navigation Centers or traditional homeless shelters, these facilities are badly needed. The recently completed “homeless census” indicated the city’s homeless problem is getting worse, and the Chronicle reports today that the waiting list for a shelter bed is currently more than 1,100 people. At this time last year, that list fluctuated between 600 and 900 people.
“I’m tired of being out here,” a homeless senior named Wesley, who camps near 1515 South Van Ness, told Mission Local. “The police want us moved. Every officer I’ve talked to they are for this.”