By Lisa Martin
Last month Mayor London Breed announced a proposal for opening a 225 bed homeless shelter on the Embarcadero by the end of this summer.
The shelter will be a safe navigation center that will provide 24 hour services meant to guide unsheltered residents into stable living situations. This model allows people to bring their pets, partners and belongings with them and has no restrictions for coming or going.
The proposed site is Seawall Lot 330, a plot of land — currently a parking lot — owned by the Port Authority next to a luxury condo building. According to Rachel Alonso from the Public Works department, the site is ideal due to its size, proximity to transportation, projected development costs and “publicly owned” status. The city would lease the space for about four years.
Vocal opponents have already emerged from the community of this affluent neighborhood. Over $90,000 has been donated to a GoFundMe campaign to hire a lawyer to fight construction of the site.
A counter GoFundMe campaign was created in support of the navigation center (with proceeds going to the Coalition on Homelessness) and has raised over $160,000.
Those opposed said they are sympathetic, but argue that District 6 already hosts more than its fair share of homeless outreach services and that new navigation centers should be opened in other neighborhoods instead.
They expressed concerns that the center would bring additional homeless people to the neighborhood and that issues with cleanliness, crime and public drug use would increase, making the area unsafe.
According to the Department of Homelessness and Supportive housing, there are already 179 people living unsheltered within .75 miles of the site. Spaces at the navigation center will be prioritized for them.
This is my neighborhood. People already live on the streets here. I’ve seen drug users shoot up outside. Bushes along Delancey St. can smell like the piss of one hundred dogs when it’s hot. Along Seawall Lot 330, rats run through the bushes at night and, yes, sometimes past tents as well.
I love this neighborhood, but sometimes I feel like the people who live here thinking the dollar value of their apartment must mean this neighborhood is a “luxury,” and ought to be reminded that things look different once you step outside. City living means city problems.
This is an opportunity to help make a difference in one of the city’s most pressing issues by welcoming and supporting the new Embarcadero navigation center. Working to prevent it or move it to another location will only create an unnecessary delay in providing needed services to our local unsheltered populations.