Learn why Box City residents are resisting 30-Day Stay at Navigation Center (and read about proposed solutions)

Learn what happened at the "Encampment Resolution" meeting at Box City (12/29/16)
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Learn why majority of Box City Residents are resisting offer of 30-Day stay at Nav Center; And what we can do about it.

The following e-mail was sent to elected officials, Dept. of Homelessness Staff, and Navigation Center stakeholders on January 3rd in order to support the best outcomes for the City's "Encampment Resolution" which starts in earnest on Friday January 6th. Read about 3 of the main challenges and SFHC's proposed solutions. This is all part of the learning process to further develop humane, outcomes-driven, and cost-effective strategies to address encampments.

Date: Tue, Jan 3, 2017 at 2:35 PM
Subject: Proposals to support successful transition to Navigation Center for Box City encampment residents

Dear Navigation Center Stakeholders and Elected Officials,

An "Encampment Resolution" is underway at Box City (7th and Irwin) through DHSH with a final move-out date set for 1/10/2017 (next Tuesday). As anticipated, the majority of the 20-25 core residents of Box City who I have been working with over the last 3 months through the Saint Francis Homelessness Challenge (SFHC) are dubious about voluntarily moving to the Navigation Center for only 30 days, because on day 31 (or shortly after) the majority will either have to transfer to a 90-day shelter bed if available (which as you know has challenging rules/environment) or exit to the street. There are also concerns about privacy at the Navigation Center and access to daytime activities.

I have been developing actionable proposals intended to mitigate Box City resident concerns and make the 30-day stay at the Navigation Center a more compelling voluntary choice. Although I would have preferred to pilot an on-site collaborative effort at Box City in order to best utilize resources and support positive outcomes, the path has been pursued by the City for "Resolution". Given the options, I would rather support Box City residents in receiving this opportunity for intensive case management and prevent the likelihood of residents merely scattering their encampment/community to different nearby neighborhoods.

Challenge 1Lack of Daytime Activity One of the current drawbacks of the Mission Street Navigation Center (and all shelters, including the 2016 Pier 80 temporary shelter offering) is that there is a lack of daytime programming available to residents. Box City residents have also asked how staying at the Navigation Center might help them get a job. Proposed Solution: At least 15 Box City residents have skills in repairing and building bikes (in addition to other construction, maintenance, and painting skills) and I have been exploring ways to create community-beneficial work and programming for encampment residents. I have a working collaboration with Nathan Woody of the Yellow Bike Project, who receives bikes from the SFPD to "re-legitimize". I propose that we could have a tented work area at the Navigation Center where bikes can be built/repaired through a pilot project with the Yellow Bike Project and SFHC. SFHC can raise donations and help manage for this project if need be. Bikes repaired through this process could be sold for donations to SFHC/ECS and we could in turn provide stipends or gift certificates to participants who work on fixing the bikes (we could also sweeten the deal to the community at large by offering steep discounts to people who have had their bikes stolen in SF).

Challenge 2: Lack of Privacy Another current drawback of the Mission Street Navigation Center (and all shelters, including the 2016 Pier 80 temporary shelter offering) is that there is a lack of individual privacy because their are 15 or so participants per bungalow. Box City residents have had their own individual structures for a while, and the prospect of sharing a big room with no privacy is naturally daunting. Proposed Solution: At the very least perhaps we could purchase privacy pop-up structures for Box City residents. SFHC could purchase these with our own funds if need be. SFHC could also provide up to 5 of our transitional sleep and storage structures to the Navigation Center (currently designed and built by Moksha Osgood with 5x8x10' dimensions, but we are open to collaborating on design components).

Challenge 3: Less Restrictive to More Restrictive Shelter on Day 31 As mentioned above, the biggest drawback to Box City residents is that they will have to leave the Navigation Center prior to receiving permanent housing. The vast majority of Box City residents initially listed the Navigation Center as a suitable transition goal, but that was under the assumption that it would be at least 90 days and lead to permanent housing. Proposed Solution: If at all possible, the Saint Francis Homelessness Challenge would like to find a location to work with the City to pilot an organized transitional sleep and service village that is in the middle-ground between an encampment and the Navigation Center. If the residents of Box City knew that they could exit the Navigation Center into a program that provides individual decriminalized shelter outside of a 90-day shelter they would be more likely to participate voluntarily in the transition.

Thank you for your consideration of these proposed solutions. I believe that we all share the goal of creating humane, outcomes-driven, and cost-efficient solutions to the complex challenge of addressing encampments and I hope we can further collaborate in 2017.

In community,
Amy Farah Weiss
Saint Francis Homelessness Challenge

"First do what's necessary. Then do what's possible. And soon you will be doing the impossible."

Transcript from the 12/29/16 Encampment Resolution Team meeting at Box City

The Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing "Encampment Resolution" Team came out to Box City on 12/29/2016 to provide information to Box City residents about the Navigation Center and upcoming removal process. SFHC recorded and transcribed the following portion of the meeting:
I’m a Social Worker with the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing. […] As we have seen in the notice that we have been distributing, the City and my Departments intends to create the best possible resolution for this encampment as of January 10th.

The next question I usually get asked is: ‘Does that mean we need to leave?”. My commitment to use is providing the information that I have when I have it and not telling you what I think you want to hear and not telling you what I think will get you to do what my or my department wants. […]
My Department Director [Jeff Kositsky] has said they will not break boxes and force people to leave. This is not like what happened on Division street. The police have said, we will not break boxes. This is not a forceful or violent in any way plan to relocation. The other departments that are involved in these efforts have varying degrees of agreement and varying degrees of disagreement with those principles, and at this date I can’t tell you how it’s exactly going to roll. What I do know, what I can tell you, is that there is a lot of planning going about making it so that this space can’t really sustain an encampment of this size in the future. Some of that includes placing physical barriers, and some of that may include police enforcement of laws that say you cannot camp in a public space. […]
We’re going to be here intensively starting on January 6th, probably with the Department of Public Works, and with a strong desire to assist people to whatever places of safety that are not an encampment that we can identify. We’ll be here on the 6th which is a Friday. We will not be here on the weekend. We will be here Monday and Tuesday, Tuesday is January 10th, that’s the very intensive day that we will be here. […]
We are able to bring people who want to come to the Navigation Center, as you are aware, it is a 30-day short stay triage facility, and Amy has been really good at communicating with me what I think are your concerns about what the heck can you get done in 30 days. We also have access to shelter and we can manage people’s shelter stay so that they can get on general assistance, and if possible resolve their circumstances by getting a shelter bed that won’t go away.

1.   How will staying at the Navigation Center for a maximum of 30 days help Box City residents with their goal of transitioning to permanent housing?  
“The problem is that the permanent housing solutions are very thin. For people who have been homeless for over 13 years there are additional options, for people who are veterans there are different options, For people who have HIV disease there are different options. We are facing an affordable housing crisis in San Francisco that makes the goal of tranisiton to permanent housing very difficult. One of the things is that we can do a lot of the work to get people ready for housing such as getting IDs, getting General Assistance, getting Social Security applications, those are things that we can work on, and we may see you again for another 30 days and pick up where you left off, that’s part of the goal. There’s nothing that says just because you do 30 days and you leave and we find you in the very next encampment doesn’t mean that you can’t come back in [to the Navigation Center].”
2. What specific activities can be accomplished in 30 days at the Navigation Center?
“Some of the support at the Navigation Center in that 30 days includes helping people get ID at no cost. We’ve outreached an immigration attorney at the Justice and Diversity project who has the funding stream to get people their green cards if their green cards are misplaced or lost or somewhere else. People can also apply for different kinds of housing opportunities that come up at the Navigation Center, sometime those opportunities come up in 30 days, sometimes they don’t, there are open wait lists. We can also link people to medical care, part of today’s effort out here for testing is part of that, we can get people to see a doctor, we can’t get people to have a doctor that is their own going forward. We can also assist people to dental care. Probably the most im[ortant thing about the Navigation Center is that it’s an opportunity to get out of the way of the train, it’s an opportunity to have consistent access to food, access to shower, to laundry, and to step down from the street to a place of safety. To build a relationship with a case manager, a person who can help, who can understand, and try to move forward with a good and unique service plan, which is work that is very hard for us to do out on the street.”
3.  How many former encampment resolution participants have returned to live on the street after staying at the Navigation Center?
“I don’t have an answer for that.”
4.  Where does the City want residents to go on Day 31 if they haven’t been provided housing or acceptable long-term shelter?
“The answer to that is that everyone who comes into the Navigation Center will have the option to a shelter bed that won’t go away after the 30 days. Everybody will have an option to be in one of our larger shelters, and possibly one of the smaller ones. Part of the process is that if you are not registered in the Changes database systems that manages the Shelter entry, the day that you go into the Navigation Center it will start the work to get you on the 311 waiting list, and start the work to get you into shelter so there is a secure exit. I get it, congregate shelter is not for everybody. I get that it may not be acceptable, but it is a guarantee that is out there that if you are willing to stay in shelter, a bed will be made available for you.
Obviously the City does not want people to re-encamp on the street. From the City’s perspective that is not an acceptable solution, partly because it violates the law, partly because it’s to some extent a difficult experience for the neighbors”
5.  How much does it cost per resident per day to stay at the Navigation Center?
“I don’t know what the billing rate is.”

Copyright © 2017 Saint Francis Homelessness Challenge, All rights reserved.

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