Expansion of San Francisco’s transitionary Navigation Centers threatened

Navigating a Setback

Expansion of San Francisco’s transitionary Navigation Centers threatened

San Francisco’s Navigation Centers, including the Central Waterfront Navigation Center, have been helping the city's homeless population transition out of homelessness since 2015. (Courtesy Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing)

Amid several efforts by California lawmakers, architects, and activists to provide more homeless housing in the Golden State, a group of San Francisco-based Republicans, led by former Republican candidate for mayor Richie Greenberg, have made a concerted effort to scale back the city’s commitment to its homeless population. The San Francisco Department of Elections released a new proposed measure last week titled “Limitations on Navigation Centers.”

The measure targets Navigation Centers, a unique temporary housing model developed in San Francisco that offers a ‘pathway to housing’ for those with priority status through Coordinated Entry who stay until housing placement. The first Navigation Center opened in March 2015 and led to the construction of several others, prompting outcries from wealthier residents of the city that included lawsuits and crowdfunding efforts to halt further construction. Last year, the nonprofit group Safe Embarcadero For All (SEFA), argued that the construction of the 200-bed Embarcadero Navigation Center, for instance, would potentially endanger nearby condominium owners and tourists.

If added to the November 2020 ballot, the new measure could profoundly limit the operations of each Navigation Center by requiring their presence to become more temporary and reduce the number of beds in each to a maximum of 100—currently, the six operating Navigation Centers have as many as 200 each. According to Curbed, the measure could also thwart Supervisor Matt Haney’s goal of opening centers in all 11 of the city’s districts, making the waitlist for a bed, which is currently over 1,200, exponentially greater.

Despite a recent SF Chamber of Commerce poll that demonstrated 69 percent of voters would approve of a Navigation Center in their neighborhood, Greenberg went ahead with proposing rollbacks. “It’s just a tragedy now,” Greenberg told Fox and Friends. “But this is San Francisco. This is not anything new. This is classic San Francisco, where the downtrodden are celebrated and coddled.” While he reportedly abhors “the homeless, the drug addicts, and mentally ill roaming the streets,” his efforts to reduce the initiatives of the Navigation Centers would only exacerbate the issue he claims to be against by making housing even more difficult for the city’s homeless population to acquire.