SF Homeless Shelter Opens at the Center of South of Market
It’s no secret that San Francisco, amid its beauty, has a big homeless problem and the city has been working on doing something to house its unsheltered residents.
Recently, on January 9, 2019, the Bryant Navigation Center officially opened its doors in South of Market, to the chagrin of SoMa property owners who invested millions on their real estate properties.
Photo: JEROLD CHINN/SFBay
“The facility has 20 beds for women, who will have a separate living and sleeping area,” said Kathy Treggiar, Director of Programs with Episcopal Community Services, which operates the SoMa facility.
Tech giant Google had donated $3 million dollars to help with the construction costs of the facility.
The homeless shelter is a fruition of Mayor London Breed’s commitment to open 1,000 shelter beds in San Francisco by 2020. The goal is to transition homeless persons into permanent housing, which seems to be working, since as of December 2018, 621 homeless persons had already transitioned into permanent housing, another 121 into temporary housing, and another 1,234 were reconnected with their family members with help of the city’s Homeward Bound program.
“We have to places to go where they are able to stay for 24 hours and not be told that they have to leave in the morning,” said Mayor Breed.
Many hands worked together to make this happen. Even Caltrans had leased to the city the land where the shelter currently sits in SoMa at an affordable rate.
However, not all are on board on the existence of these shelters. Private property owners, condo owners, and investors in SoMa, specially, are worried of the possible decline of their property values due to what they consider as an encumbered presence.
Photo: The Fiscal Times
So, What Happens When a Homeless Shelter Opens in a Gentrifying Neighborhood?
Safety concerns, lost business proliferated, possible derailment on efforts to transform SoMa into an artsy, diverse area that is also a tourist haven and entertainment district. “The shelter might bring down the area” is what’s on the minds of homeowners.
This is not unique to San Francisco, of course. Back in 2016, a shelter opening in East Williamsburg, Brooklyn, had residents in the area outraged. What followed were innumerable community board-meetings held between the residents and city officials.
“There’s this idea that the homeless all really dirty, they’re drinking all the time, they’re partying all the time, they’re urinating in the street,” Councilman Antonio Reynoso said, whose district covers Bushwick, Williamsburg, and Ridgewood (Queens).
“There are almost 70,000 homeless people in our system. If that were the case, our city would be a disaster. It would be falling apart at the seams. But it’s not, because the majority of homeless people are just ordinary people who are down and out on their luck or circumstance and are trying to find their way back to normalcy.”
New York city officials pointed out that the district already has a number of homeless shelters, including a 400-bed men’s facility run by a nonprofit group called the Doe Fund, which operates residential work and training programs.
“I would ask anyone in the district to name those shelters and where they are,” Reynoso said in a phone interview. “I would be hard pressed to find one person who can do so, because they’re seamless,”said Councilman Reynoso.
Three years later, the result is clear. The shelters in Queens and Brooklyn remain at their locations and are virtually unnoticed, blended in their environment. The local residents have also since moved on to focus back on other pressing issues in their fast-paced New York lifestyles.