The North Mission community and advocacy groups have been working for several years on the question of how best to serve the homeless and those at risk of becoming homeless in their community. There was much brainstorming and in that time frame the mayor was opening drop-in centers in other parts of the city.
There was a large meeting in 1999 with community groups, the community, DHS, and other groups, when the model changed from a drop-in center to a resource center. The idea was to offer resources to people living on the streets, SRO tenants, day laborers, sex workers, and other very low-income people. These resources would be offered on site so that it would not become just another place to go to get referred to another place. The idea was that this center would be user friendly, and that the users of the center would be extensively involved in the policies of the center.
There were also discussions on how to involve the rest of the community. The way that homeless issues have been historically dealt with in the North Mission was with the police.
As a result of those early meetings and much community outreach, the Mission Neighborhood Health Center in collaboration with Mission Council on Alcoholism, Mission Mental Health, the Mission SRO Collaborative, and Quan Yin Healing Arts Center put forward a proposal with DHS to make the center a reality.
Community outreach was a very important part of this because, originally, neighbors displayed classic symptoms of ‘NIMBY-ism’. It was only after much discussion about what was going to happen at the resource center, that these folks started to come around. At first it was said that it would increase homelessness in the neighborhood, or import homelessness. The truth is that the situation is already in the neighborhood.
Basic services, or survival services, to be offered are: access to bathrooms, shower facilities, laundry facilities, voice mail, and lockers.
The facility, located at 156 Capp Street (between 16th and 17th Streets) will be open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 1 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Saturday. Also, food distribution and a kitchen will be used once the proper permits are obtained. There are also recreational areas at the center. In terms of non-basic services, the center will offer substance use counseling with links to detox centers and methadone for people who use heroine, and that would also include harm reduction counseling for those folks who are not willing or ready to go into treatment.
Case management with a mental health focus will be available. All this counseling will be clinically supervised by Mission Mental Health. The center hopes to have available psychological and psychiatric counseling, but funding is not yet in place for these services. There will be outreach to the population that can use these services. Acupuncture will be offered three times a week. Because the Mission Neighborhood Health Center has an HIV clinic, HIV counseling and testing services will be offered on site at the Resource Center. The Resource Center is currently in negotiations with the Native American Health Center, which is right across the street, to collaborate around dental services. The Resource Center has funding in place for these services. Medical services will be available one half day, Monday through Friday.
In the beginning this will probably take the form of urgent care, wound and abscess treatment. Both medical and dental services are provided with funding from a ‘Healthcare for the Homeless’ grant.
According to Laura Guzman, director of the center, an advisory board has been selected with the exception of seats that will be taken by participants of the center, and it is this advisory that will decide what other services to offer. She offers thanks to the coalition of people who have been going to what seems like endless meetings to plan for the opening of the center. There will be a grand opening block party on May 18th, from 11 a.m. till 3 p.m. She is hoping that the center will be open for business on May 20th, but as of the time of this interview that date is not concrete, and can be off by as much as two weeks. The hiring process for staff is underway as of this writing (April 20th). After more than two years of struggle, it looks like this much needed resource for a neighborhood that is so much in need is going to be a reality.