San Francisco’s new Navigation Center is a pilot project physically located at an rennovated high-school at 1950 Mission Street between 15th & 16th. It’s a one-stop complex, the first of its kind in the nation. Besides a safe place to sleep and live with dignity, the center provides case management and key connection where guests are routed to healthcare, housing, entitlement benefits, rehabilitation, drug treatment, employment and other services crucial to keeping people off the streets.
It offers a new approach to providing shelter that is an evolution of our cities existing shelter system. Most notably, unhoused residents staying at the Navigation Center have considerably more autonomy. They must follow a set of rules and guidelines but they can come and go as they please and don’t have to stand on long lines to secure their bed for the evening. They are also permitted to bring their partners, pets and possessions; a huge difference in policy at the shelters. The center also offers case workers to help folks navigate the complex web of services offered by a variety of nonprofits and city organizations.
Our city has been suffering along with it’s unhoused residents. In coordination with the encampment resolution team, the navigation center supports it’s surrounding neighborhood.
The city of San Francisco spends $165 million each year on programs for its homeless population of 6,500+. There are many services that help these individuals find housing and this site is the result of a six month ethnography to capture the stories of homeless folks who received services at the center.
Over the course of several months, between March 2015 and October 2015 we visited the center to capture stories. We sat with many of the participants to snap portraits and record their stories in an unbiased effort to document the stories of folks staying at the Navigation Center.
The hope is to create awareness and education about the complexity of providing benefits and services to the over 6,500+ homeless people in the city of San Francisco. In most cases people don’t understand the circumstances or backstory behind why people become or stay homeless. This project seeks to demystify homelessness.
We are thankful that the participants have agreed to share their stories and given us access to their world to conduct this ethnographic assignment.