The temporary, low-barrier Navigation Center for the homeless scheduled to open its doors Monday at 1515 South Van Ness Ave. was still under construction today and it is unclear when it will open.
Last week, city leaders announced the center’s much anticipated opening. But on Monday afternoon, those doors remained shut and the center void of furniture and clients. A supervisor on site that she wasn’t sure when the shelter would be ready to admit clients.
“I wish I could tell you, but we just don’t know. We are still working on it,” said Lessy Benedith, Multi Service Center-South program director with St. Vincent de Paul Society, the nonprofit that will operate the center and its programs.
The center will provide beds for 120 people out of a pool of about 510 homeless individuals currently living in tents or unsheltered in the Mission District. Client stays will fluctuate between 30 and 60 days, and the center will operate for only six to nine months because construction for a 157- unit housing project is slated to begin at the site in early January.
The center will cost the city some $2.5 million to operate throughout that time.
Benedith said that the new center’s first round of clients have not yet been selected, but that this list will likely be comprised of referrals from the city’s Homeless Outreach Team. In the shadows of the Navigation Center on Monday, several homeless campers who had set up tents along its Shotwell Street parking lot said they hoped to make the cut.
“The HOT team has talked to me about [the Navigation Center] going in here and there. I went by today to ask about it but they are not open yet,” said a senior who gave his name as Wesley and lives in a five- tent encampment behind the new center.
Because admittance to the center is based on a person’s location rather than circumstance, Wesley said he hopes to get in when the time comes.
“I can’t wait to get into it. I’m tired of being out here,” he said. “The police want us moved. Every officer I’ve talked to – they are for this.”
Police have told those camped out around the center that they will have to leave, but did not say when. Kelley Cutler, a human rights organizer with the Coalition on Homelessness, was out on Monday distributing fliers to make sure the campers understood their rights.
“We heard that they will be implementing the tent ban [to move people off the street and into the center] which is something we fought against last year,” said Cutler.
That initiative – Proposition Q – passed and the homeless campers can be removed but must be give 24-hour notice.
Moreover, she said, all property removed by Public Works cleaning crews must be tagged and stored in the city’s storage facility through a “bag and tag” process, so that campers who are discharged from the center after a few months are able to retrieve it.