The latest homeless Navigation Center to be opened by the city of San Francisco, which is open as of Wednesday, is a four-bed facility next door to Zuckerberg General Hospital called the Hummingbird Psychiatric Respite Navigation Center. As the Chronicle reports, another 11 beds will be added here in December, and they'll be open to homeless adults in crisis who are suffering from mental illness and drug addiction, and who need a "calm and quiet" place to recover and get on their way to stable housing.
Sam Dodge, deputy director of the city's Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing, tells the Chronicle, "As we’ve been able to expand Navigation Centers in the city, we’ve been able to articulate different needs that our system has, and this is clearly an important gap to be filled in our system, one around behavioral health and providing care to people in that kind of crisis."
Mission Local first reported on the project back in January, noting that Hummingbird was taking over an existing building at 1001 Potrero Avenue that housed the hospital's Behavioral Health Center.
The mental health problem among the city's homeless is, of course, a vast one, and not long ago Mayor Ed Lee was calling for "several hundred" more psychiatric beds for the homeless in the city, to add to the 400 we have between hospitals and contracted providers outside the city limits. So, 15 new ones is kind of a drop in the bucket, but these may prove to be a pivotal weigh station for homeless individuals who previously have been given all-or-nothing choices when it comes to leaving the streets and entering treatment programs.
Brett Andrews, executive director of the non-profit that's been put in charge of Hummingbird, Positive Resource Center, tells the Chronicle that he sees this as "a safe space for an individual to be thoughtful and contemplative about what their next steps are, and be able to consider all of that in a clean, safe environment." Those who come to stay in the facility are expected to come via referrals from SF General's psychiatric emergency unit, and the average stay is expected to be about two weeks, during which individuals can think about whether they want to return to the streets or take steps to stabilize their lives.
The Chronicle notes that while stays at Hummingbird are going to cost the city more than the average Navigation Center stay does, $274 per person per day compared to $100 per day, the hope is that halfway stop option might reduce the number of hospital visits that these individuals make in the longer term, which cost the city about $1500 each.
This is the city's fifth Navigation Center, with others already operating in the Mission, Dogpatch, and mid-Market.