Serving the Potrero Hill, Dogpatch, Mission Bay, & SOMA neighborhoods since 1970

COVID-Negative Shelter on the Embarcadero

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The Embarcadero Shelter Access for Everyone (SAFE) Navigation Center has operated as a COVID-negative congregate shelter since June. San Francisco Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing (HSH) had considered converting it to “post-COVID” accommodation last spring but pivoted to the more urgent need to offer refuge for people experiencing homelessness who tested COVID negative. 

Last month 87 guests lodged in the facility, which has a 200-bed capacity, but is capped at 88 to ensure physical distancing. The Embarcadero Navigation Center reached a peak occupancy of 137 guests in February but dropped to 65 in March after the City’s Department of Public Health issued a directive restricting gatherings. 

During last month’s virtual meeting, the Embarcadero SAFE Navigation Center Advisory Group (ESNCAG) – comprised of community members and City officials – elected to shift to quarterly assemblies, though if public safety concerns arise or there’s a need to troubleshoot problems ad hoc gatherings can be scheduled. ESNCAG had last met virtually in March; with the City in all-hands-on mode, April, May, June and July meetings were canceled. 

ESNCAG co-chairs Rick Dickerson and Alice Roger, president of the South Beach Rincon Mission Bay Neighborhood Association, acknowledged that it’s difficult to hold monthly meetings during a pandemic, and there’s no pressure to do so from residents near the Embarcadero Navigation Center. 

“We want to be cognizant and not take up too much of their time when they’re already putting in a lot of extra time,” Dickerson said. 

“We haven’t seen any increase in volume of queries, no real big issue queries coming through the ESNCAG email,” Rogers said. “In the beginning, we’d agreed that if things were going smoothly, we might scale back. The most important thing the meetings are doing are reporting the data.” 

Quarterly reports reveal trends better than monthly data, San Francisco Police Department staff told attendees. 

“We are continuing to operate an incentive program to keep guests inside the shelter. We do temperature checks when folks come into the shelter, every single time,” Steve Good, executive director of Five Keys, the nonprofit that operates the Embarcadero Navigation Center, reported to ESNCAG. 

Outbreak prevention in the shelter includes having guests wear face masks, wash hands, and maintain physical distances. Despite fewer lodgers, there’ve been no staff cuts to provide increased facility cleaning. Staff are tested for COVID-19 twice a month. Guests who show symptoms are put into a separate room and City officials notified.

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