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Supervisor Gordon Mar proposed amendments Thursday that would offer more flexibility in districts where the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing cannot find a suitable vacant parcel for a navigation center.

During a San Francisco Board of Supervisors Government Audit & Oversight Committee meeting, Mar introduced the changes to Supervisor Matt Haney’s legislation requiring at least one navigation center be established in every supervisorial district.

Mar suggests alternate options for some districts where HSH is unable to procure a suitable navigation center location as defined in the Administrative Code. The options include permanent housing, transitional housing facilities and SAFE parking lots for individuals living in their vehicles. 

Haney’s original proposal is aimed at improving geographic equity for homeless services citywide.

Ching Wong/SFBay Supervisor Matt Haney speaks during a press conference at the Embarcadero SAFE Navigation Center in San Francisco, Calif., on Tuesday, December 17, 2019. (Ching Wong/SFBay)

Mar said:

“I believe with my amendments we can pass legislation that is both bold and achievable.”

The committee approved Mar’s amendments 2-1.

Haney, who opposed Mar’s changes, introduced his own amendments that expand the original completion timeframe from 30 months to 36 months. However, he left in tact the requirement that HSH establish navigation centers in two districts within six months of the bill’s effective date.

Additionally, all city departments would need to produce and submit a list of available, suitable property sites for alternative homeless shelters within 60 days of that same date. HSH would then submit a funding and implementation plan to the Board of Supervisors, according to the legislation language.

The committee voted unanimously on Haney’s amendments, excepting the alternative shelter requirement in lieu of Mar’s proposals. 

Haney said while he appreciated Mar’s amendments, he wants to remain focused on navigation centers. 

Ching Wong/SFBay Shelter beds are seen at the Embarcadero SAFE Navigation Center in San Francisco, Calif., on Tuesday, December 17, 2019. (Ching Wong/SFBay)

The centers, first initiated in 2015, are low-barrier shelters that provide a number of services to homeless individuals that eventually lead to permanent or supportive housing.

While individuals are working with case managers, they will be provided a bed, a place to wash up, meals and are able to bring pets, partners and personal items into the centers.

The bulk of centers have to date been established in Districts 6, 9 and 10.

Haney said:

“The idea that other elected officials of other parts of The City will continue to rely on sending folks into our district rather than stepping up and having that clear responsibility and mandate, I think is very unfortunate and ineffective.”

The supervisor pointed to a recent San Francisco Chamber of Commerce Dignity Health CityBeat poll where 69 percent of respondents said they would support building a navigation center or shelter in their neighborhood.

Jerold Chinn/SFBay The Bryant Navigation Center officially opened its doors in the South of Market neighborhood in San Francisco, Calif., on Wednesday, January 9, 2019.

Supervisor Rafael Mandelman, who was filling in Thursday for Supervisor Aaron Peskin, said Mar’s amendments would help alleviate negative impacts, but that he was still concerned about the overall proposal.

Mandelman said:

“Because of the costs involved in pursuing this policy and centering geographic distribution as the goal our homeless policies, I am concerned that it will displace resources from permanent supportive housing on the one hand and for more immediate cost effective ways to get people sheltered on the other hand.”

HSH’s Director of Strategy and External Affairs Abigail Stewart-Kahn said at the Feb. 6 committee meeting that Haney’s proposal would reduce the department’s flexibility by focusing on just one component of homelessness response.

The committee will again vote on the bill with the new amendments before the legislation is brought to the full board for a final vote.

Jerold Chinn
Jerold Chinn covers transportation and City Hall in San Francisco. Jerold is a San Francisco native who works out of City Hall and rides Muni every single day to work. Email: jerold@sfbay.ca. Twitter: @Jerold_Chinn

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