Embarcadero Navigation center draws push-back from neighbors

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Building a new Navigation Center for the homeless along the Embarcadero has been met with a lot of protests from neighbors who are trying to stop it from going up.

There are currently five centers in San Francisco, with two more on the way. Besides being mostly unpopular, there are exceptions.

The Dogpatch neighborhood to the east of Potrero Hill calls their center a good neighbor.

The Central Waterfront Navigation Center is quietly nestled in an industrial area. Because it's isolated, people don't seem to know it's even there.

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The owner of a mini food truck parks her vehicle just two blocks away and is there five days a week.

I had to explained to her what it was.

When I asked her if she had seen it, she said no.

Local businesses don't seem bothered, either, by the existence of the center.

"They are not a problem," said Sean Camp, manager of Ajax Auto.

Why has this navigation center been successful?

It's a distance away from homes, unlike the navigation center that will soon open along the Embarcadero.

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It's also the smallest, with just over 60 beds. The Embarcadero one will have 200.

The Central Waterfront Navigation Center is also operated by Episcopal Community Services, which has experience with shelters in the city.

The people who live at the center can come and go as they please, but are made aware that they too are members of this community.

"This community has been an incredible example of what we can accomplish," explained Abigail Stewart-Kahn, director of Strategy and External Affairs at the San Francisco Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing.

Just as important, she says, is the relationship between the center and neighbors.

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"It takes our staff working hand in hand with leadership in the Dogpatch neighborhood to hear their concerns, to understand their concerns, to respond as quickly as we possibly can," Stewart-Kahn added.

And that relationship has grown.

In a letter written by the Dogpatch Neighborhood Association, the DNA says "It would welcome a second three-year lease term at the current site."

In the next paragraph the association says "Since opening, the Central Waterfront Navigation Center has been a good neighbor, well-maintained and an invaluable resource in addressing encampments in our neighborhoods."

Neighbors have realized that this center is a viable way to keep people off the streets.

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