When the under-construction Navigation Center opens on the corner of Michigan and 25th Streets this March, it will provide services to San Francisco's homeless population—hopefully allowing many who pass through its doors to eventually find their way into permanent housing.
This will be the third such center; however, as the Chronicle reports, the approval of the Dogpatch site may represent a rare bit of good luck, as many elected officials and city residents stand opposed to opening centers in their own districts.
It appears to be a classic case of San Francisco NIMBYism: The centers are great, the argument goes, just so long as they are somewhere else.
Strikingly, residents of the Dogpatch are of a different view. One such resident, Mc Allen, went so far as to pen a September op-ed supporting the center. "I count myself among those who believe this is our neighborhood’s opportunity to meaningfully contribute to solutions to the homelessness crisis," wrote Allen.
Similar feedback did not fall on deaf ears, and The Port Commission approved the center this past fall. “For some people, this will be a controversial issue," Port Commission President Willie Adams told the Examiner at the time. "It’s not a controversial issue for me. This is a moral issue."
Supervisor Malia Cohen, whose district includes the Dogpatch, agreed. “It is my hope that the Navigation Center will add to the opportunities for people to move from the street into a more stable, long-term home," she told the Examiner when the site was approved.
Other city officials have not been so welcoming. With centers currently open in the Mission and SoMa, homeless advocates are looking to expand to the six locations required by legislation introduced last June by then-Supervisor David Campos. Mayor Lee has even reportedly pressed the recently appointed District 8 Supervisor, Jeff Sheehy, to back a Navigation Center in his district, to no avail.
“I don’t think it would be appropriate in District 8,” Sheehy told the Chron. “If you want to have a Navigation Center, there should be services nearby, and you should have neighborhood support," he added.
Sheehy is far from unique in his opposition to putting a center in his district. Supervisor Norman Yee of District 7 has also balked at the idea, saying two proposed West Portal locations were unacceptable, as they were located near family-oriented businesses. Many West Portal residents reportedly agreed with his stance, and feared a potential loss of parking as a result of any new centers.
This seeming contrast—elected officials decrying the state of homelessness in San Francisco yet unwilling to let a 68-bed shelter open up in their community—isn't lost on Allen. In his mind, people are just going to need to come around. “When I look out at the weather right now, the urgency couldn’t be more real,” the Chronicle quotes him as telling Mayor Lee. “I wish this place was already open.”
Thanks to his advocacy, and the support of other Dogpatch neighbors, the Navigation Center on Michigan and 25th is targeting a March opening date.
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