The long-awaited 120-bed Navigation Center at 1515 South Van Ness St. opened Thursday, clearing Shotwell Street of a homeless encampment and admitting ten clients.

Some of the homeless residents had set up outside the center in anticipation of its planned opening on Monday, but that was delayed until today. At least one camper, however, was still undecided about the center.

“I’m just trying to convince her to come in,” said a man who called himself Crimewave, pointing to a woman nearby who was looking through her belongings spread out on 26th Street. He had already been admitted, but still had some of his belongings on the street.

A man who called himself Crimewave said he had already checked into the new Navigation Center. Photo by Lydia Chávez

Two homeless residents on Shotwell Street said they too had been checked in but were getting some fresh air and giving the center some time to organize.

Joshua, 41, said he had been homeless for more than 25 years and that this was his first time getting into a Navigation Center.

John, 38, said it was a first for him as well. He too has been homeless for years.

The city’s recent point-in-time count of the homeless showed that of the 7,449 homeless residents counted throughout the city, 2,138 are considered chronically homeless, having experienced at least four episodes of homelessness in the last three years. According to that count, the Mission has 510 homeless individuals.

A police officer, one of ten working with a community outreach team focusing on the homeless, said that getting people off the streets and into the center this morning had gone pretty well.

Chris, a neighbor who lives nearby the center said the encampments had been there for a year and had become increasingly troublesome in the last four months.

“I want to help rather than condemn these folks,” said Chris. He added that the streets behind the center already looked a lot better. Up until recently there had also been tents on 26th Street.

A woman monitoring the door of the center said there would probably be no more admissions today, but that new homeless residents would be incorporated until the center reached its capacity.

Those admitted to the Navigation Center will stay for 30 to 60 days. The center will operate for only a short time because construction for a 157- unit housing project is slated to begin at the site in early January.

The new Navigation Center at 1515 South Van Ness. Photo by Lola M. Chavez

Behind the new Navigation Center on Shotwell and 26th Streets is now clear of encampments. Photo by Lola M. Chavez