This year during Black History Month, like many people, I find myself more focused on Black futures than history. Perhaps it is my pride at being part of an HSH leadership team that renewed its commitment to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, backed with positions, funding and designed to implement real change. Or maybe it’s HSH’s longstanding partnerships with Black led organizations and our new Navigation Centers, that are being managed by Black led nonprofits: The new Lower Polk Transitional Age Youth Navigation Center by Third Street Youth Center and Clinic and Success Centers, and the Bayview SAFE Navigation Center by Bayview Hunters Point Foundation.
The 75 bed Navigation Center in Lower Polk is the first of its kind for youth experiencing homelessness in San Francisco. In addition to shelter, it will provide medical and mental health services, workforce development support, and connection to paid career training opportunities. According to the 2019 point-in-time count, 83% of homeless Transitional Age Youth in San Francisco are living unsheltered. Nearly half of all homeless Transitional Age Youth identify as LGBTQ, and homelessness disproportionally affects Transitional Age Youth of color. And, while African Americans make up approximately 6% of the San Francisco population, 29% of homeless Transitional Age Youth are African Americans.
Third Street Youth Center and Clinic, under the bold leadership of Joi Jackson-Morgan, is an organization that believes each group of youth have their own culture, needs and experiences that is real and valid. Those of us working with youth must adjust to meet new challenges in order to serve the youth here and now and those coming in the future.
For nearly 40 years, Success Centers has positively impacted the lives of thousands of individuals, helping them to obtain employment, complete their education, and tap their creative power. Success Centers’ CEO, Liz Jackson-Simpson, and her team demand change from within the system and won’t stop as long as inequity persists.
These two organizations have come together, in partnership with HSH, to create a powerful vision for the TAY Navigation Center, creating a program where young BIPOC can thrive in an ecosystem of acceptance for all. This dynamic team sees filling beds as a beginning for new futures with endless possibilities.
The Bayview Hunters Point Foundation, HSH’s nonprofit provider partner for the Bayview SAFE Navigation Center, believes people should be treated with dignity, respect, fairness, and consideration in environments, such as Navigation Centers, that are safe and comfortable and support individual advancement. They envision a future where every individual served will have the opportunity for growth, recovery, and inclusion in their community; access to culturally competent services and supports of their choice; and enjoy a quality of life that includes family, friends, and community engagement.
These Black led Navigation Centers advance the City’s Homelessness Recovery Plan and efforts to reduce homelessness in San Francisco. Through Rising Up, funding from Proposition C, and the Homelessness Recovery Plan, more permanent exits will be made available to people experiencing homelessness.
This year, Black History/Black Futures month just feels different; intentional and inclusive with a spirit demonstrating that you can look back and honor the past while still moving forward.
By Dedria Black, MBA, RAS, CCDS, FAC, CSC, SSGBC
Deputy Director for Programs, San Francisco Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing