Beds for Bayview! Mayor London Breed proposes new Navigation Center in Bayview Hunters Point

At a long awaited sold-out event July 30 in the Jewish Community Center, San Francisco Chronicle Editor Audrey Cooper “talks homelessness” with Mayor London Breed. For the past four years, Cooper and the Chronicle have organized a consortium of nearly all the media organizations around the Bay to tackle the “seemingly intractable problem of homelessness.” That effort may have helped elect Mayor Breed for her strong and sincere commitment to equity and ending homelessness, and it is spurring her innovative solutions. – Photo: Johnnie Burrell

by Evan Ward

San Francisco – Mayor London N. Breed, along with Supervisor Shamann Walton, has proposed building a new SAFE (Shelter and Access for Everyone) Navigation Center in the Bayview to serve people experiencing homelessness. The proposed SAFE Navigation Center is part of Mayor Breed’s efforts to open 1,000 new shelter beds by the end of 2020. San Francisco District 10, which includes the Bayview, has an especially urgent need for additional shelter beds. The 2019 Point-in-Time Count found 1,889 people experiencing homelessness in District 10, and only 455 emergency shelter beds.

The SAFE Navigation Center would provide approximately 200 beds for people experiencing homelessness and will include dormitories, offices and community space, along with laundry facilities, and medical and social services. The Center will replace the 125 overnight mats currently offered at Providence Church with beds and will add 75 much-needed new beds in the area.

“We have to continue to move quickly to build more shelters and housing throughout our City because there are too many people suffering on our streets. We especially need more shelters in neighborhoods like the Bayview where there aren’t currently enough resources to serve the people who need them,” said Mayor Breed. “This SAFE Navigation Center will be a place where people can get the help they need to exit homelessness.”

“I am extremely proud to join Mayor Breed in announcing the opening of a homeless shelter at 1925 Evans, which will provide shelter for 200 people who are unhoused right here in Bayview,” said Supervisor Walton. “This shelter is a result of our efforts as a district to address the shelter and housing needs and will be on top of our two existing Navigation Centers in D10, as well as over 15,000 proposed units of housing being built in our district. I would like thank United Council (Gwen Westbrook), Providence Foundation (Helen LaMar) and all the members of the community for their continued fight to get ‘Beds in Bayview!’”

The new SAFE Navigation Center will be located at 1925 Evans Ave., which is an approximately 45,000-square-foot parcel owned by the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans). The Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing (HSH) will work with area providers to operate the proposed SAFE Navigation Center and to provide onsite services, including the Providence Foundation and the United Council of Human Services (UCHS).

“District 10 has the second highest number of individuals experiencing homelessness on any given night,” said Jeff Kositsky, director of Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing. “Additionally, 37 percent of San Francisco’s homeless population identifies as Black or African American, while comparatively the City’s general population is only 6 percent. It is vital to increase shelter capacity for this disproportionately impacted community. HSH is excited to partner with community leaders, Providence and UCHS to bring a much needed resource to the Bayview area.”

Funding for the new SAFE Navigation Center is included in the City’s budget for Fiscal Years 2019-20 and 2020-21, which leverages a mix of local and state funding sources to make significant new investments in homeless services. The Bayview SAFE Navigation Center would be the third Navigation Center to be constructed on land leased from Caltrans, following the opening of the Division Circle Navigation Center in August 2018 and the Bryant Street Navigation Center opened in January 2019.

“It’s gratifying to see Assembly Bill 857 being used by San Francisco to potentially open a third Navigation Center on under-utilized Caltrans property. State and local partnerships are key to tackling California’s homeless crisis,” said Assemblymember Phil Ting, D-San Francisco, Assembly Budget chair and author of AB 857. “I’m also proud to have led the efforts last year to secure $500 million in state funds to establish the Homeless Emergency Aid Program, from which the City received a $27 million grant to help build and maintain Navigation Centers. This year’s state budget allocated an additional $650 million, a portion of which will go to San Francisco to continue supporting the good work the City has done to address homelessness.”

The City is able to use underutilized Caltrans locations like 1925 Evans Ave. for emergency food and shelter programs at affordable rates and appreciates Caltrans’s partnership to ensure that this site can help provide assistance to those experiencing homelessness in San Francisco.

“We definitely need a shelter in the Bayview and coming together with the United Council of Human Services in one central location will be beneficial for the community and clients,” said Helen LaMar, executive director of the Providence Foundation.

“Everybody should have a roof over their heads. It’s something that has been needed in Bayview for years, and I’ve been working on getting something like this in the community since 2011,” said Gwendolyn Westbrook, executive director of the United Council of Human Services. “So, it’s like a dream come true. Without Mayor Breed, we’d still be struggling.”

An advisory committee of local residents, merchants, faith leaders and advocates will work closely with the City throughout the development and implementation of this project. HSH will conduct at least two public community meetings in August. These will take place from 6:00 to 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 8, at 4301 Third St., and from 6:00-7:30 p.m. on Monday, Aug. 19, at the Southeast Community Facility, located at 1800 Oakdale Ave.

Since announcing the 1,000 bed initiative last October, Mayor Breed has opened 286 new shelter beds. With the addition of this proposed SAFE Navigation Center, there will be a total of 504 beds in the construction pipeline and scheduled to open within the next year.

Evan Ward, a journalist in the Mayor’s Office of Communications, can be reached at evan.ward@sfgov.org.

PHOTO: Chronicle Editor Audrey Cooper talks homelessness w Mayor London Breed 073019 Jewish Commy Ctr by Johnnie Burrell

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