San Francisco Opens First Navigation Center for Homeless Young Adults

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San Francisco officials on Feb. 3 unveiled the Lower Polk TAY Navigation Center at 700 Hyde Street, the city's first multiservice shelter for young adults, aged 18-24. (Anna Vignet/KQED)

San Francisco officials on Wednesday unveiled the city's first multiservice homeless shelter for young adults.

The Lower Polk TAY Navigation Center, located at 700 Hyde Street, will eventually offer 75 beds to young people ages 18-24, known as "Transitional Age Youth." Due to COVID-19-related restrictions, however, it will initially only fill 43 beds, with the first guests set to arrive next week, officials said.

Navigation centers have a lower barrier to entry than other kinds of homeless shelters, allowing guests to bring in pets and cohabitate with partners. There's no curfew or set meal times, and the site is staffed 24 hours a day.

Mayor London Breed said the new center is part of the city’s strategy to end youth homelessness. Breed launched a campaign in 2018, called Rising Up, to raise $35 million that will provide rental assistance and other support to youth after they leave the shelter.

San Francisco Mayor London Breed at Wednesday's unveiling ceremony for the Lower Polk TAY Navigation Center, the first in the city to serve homeless young adults. (Anna Vignet/KQED)

"This is hope for a better future for young folks here in SF," Breed said. "If you want an opportunity, you should be able to have one."

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According to the city's biennial survey of homeless residents, there were 1,091 18-to-24-year-olds experiencing homelessness in San Francisco on any given night in 2019. That's nearly 14% of the city's total homeless population.

Of those young people who were homeless, about 83% spent their nights outdoors, in tents, cars or RVs, the survey found.

While 15% of San Francisco's general population is Latinx, 27% of its homeless youth identify as such, according to the survey. Similarly, it found that 24% of all homeless youth are Black, even though Black residents make up less than 6% of the city's total population.

The survey also found that nearly half of all homeless youth identified as LGBTQ.

The new navigation center "prioritizes improving outcomes for the city's most vulnerable youth," Abigail Stewart-Kahn, the interim director of San Francisco's Department of Homeless and Supportive Housing, said in a statement.

The new navigation center will open its doors to as many as 43 young adults starting next week.

The 3rd Street Youth Center & Clinic will manage the new navigation center, providing health services and help with accessing public benefits, mentoring, paid career training and housing assistance. The nonprofit Success Centers will also help guests complete or continue their education and find and retain employment.

Both are Black-led organizations.

"It's just different," said Joi Jackson-Morgan, the executive director of 3rd Street Youth. "There’s a cultural aspect that we’re hoping to bring to these services that will help folks of color, and black people in particular, get on track."

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In addition to dormitories, the three-story building will include community and dining spaces, meeting rooms, clinic space, a laundry area and an outdoor lounge.

Jackson-Morgan said young adults experiencing homelessness informed the design of the space, and as a result, the idea was to make the shelter feel a bit like a college dorm.

"It's kind of like that work study vibe," she said. "We're just trying to give them a piece of adulthood and what it would be like to be on a college campus."