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The Navigation Center starts up in San Francisco

The Navigation Center starts up in San Francisco

More than a shelter, and more than a one-stop intake center, The Navigation Center will convert a former high school in San Francisco into transitional housing with a full range of services. It will attempt to replace outdoor encampments — “dogs and couples and tents and all” — with safe transitional housing until permanent housing is found.

The Navigation Center is one of the most innovative homeless-help experiments being undertaken in the U.S. — meaning that when it opens the week of March 16 at an old high school at 16th and Mission streets, it will be watched not just by every homeless camper in the vicinity, but by aid agencies around the nation.

One-stop help centers exist all over the U.S. — in San Francisco, there’s Project Homeless Connect, a 10-year-old effort to refer the homeless to job training, substance-abuse counseling and other programs that can pull them off the streets.

But what has never been tried is moving full encampments under one roof — dogs and couples and tents and all — and housing them there until permanent housing is found. The Navigation Center will be doing this as a pilot project for eight to 18 months, depending on its success.

The whole thing is a gamble of sorts, its creators admit. But for now, hopes are high.

Episcopal Community Services will be the lead nonprofit agency overseeing the eight to 18 months pilot project, along with the city’s Human Services Agency, along with about a dozen other governmental and non-profit organizations.


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