SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) — A huge tent for the homeless has appeared in smack dab in the middle of a busy freeway on-ramp in San Francisco on Caltrans property where South Van Ness connects to U.S. Highway 101.

It’s a permanent shelter that the city hopes will be a better option for homeless on the streets, the first time a permanent shelter has been opened on Caltrans property.

For years the city has been trying to keep the homeless off its property. You may remember when public works cleared out a homeless encampment along the Cesar Chavez/Highway 101 interchange and installed boulders to prevent people from coming back.

Well now, a twist. The city is building its own homeless shelters on Caltrans property, thanks to legislation passed by San Francisco Assemblymember Phil Ting.

Ting did not want to talk about the projects Thursday; neither would Mayor London Breed’s office nor Caltrans.

But it was Ting’s legislation that made the shelters possible authorizing the state to lease Caltrans property to the city for $1 per month for the purposes of an emergency shelter or feeding program.

The so-called navigation centers – serving as low-barrier shelters that welcome homeless people who might be turned away from other shelters due to their belongings, partners or pets.

The centers offer intensive counseling for drugs or mental illnesses and are ultimately intended to help find folks permanent housing.

There are at least four temporary navigation centers in the city but this is the first of at least two permanent facilities slated to open this summer on Caltrans property.

According to city data, the existing navigation centers have served over 1,150 homeless people since 2015, with 72 percent of people leaving the shelters for housing.

The new permanent center can hold up to 126 people. It will be officially inaugurated with a grand opening on Friday.

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