City of San Diego ousts homeless service provider, which said Navigation Center was unworkable

By GARY WARTH

SAN DIEGO — The city of San Diego has terminated its contract with the service provider running its Housing Navigation Center downtown.

City officials said they will take it over next month and rename it and they will base its homeless services on programs they said have been successful in the temporary shelter in the San Diego Convention Center.

Family Health Centers of San Diego, which had run the Housing Navigation Center for about a year, is not leaving quietly.

Last month the organization’s CEO, Fran Butler-Cohen, lambasted the city’s handling of the center in emails to Mayor Kevin Faulconer, saying the city’s involvement with the facility was more about public relations than a real commitment to housing homeless people.

“After much consideration, we’ve come to the unfortunate conclusion that we cannot be successful in the Housing Navigation Center given the shortcomings in systems, lack of understanding of the root causes of homelessness, and conflicting bureaucracies outlined in the enclosed documents,” Butler-Cohen wrote in a three-page email to the city.

Aimee Faucett, chief operating officer for the city, issued a pointed response Thursday in an email to The San Diego Union-Tribune.

“The allegations made by the CEO of Family Health Centers are laughable given the progress the San Diego region has made to reduce homelessness over the past three years, and even more so during a global pandemic,” Faucett wrote.

“She created a toxic work environment, resisted basic oversight on a high priority initiative, and made ridiculous demands that were out of the scope of the contract. City and Housing Commission staff went above and beyond to make the relationship work.

“Given the constant struggle of working with the CEO, we have decided it’s in the best interest of everyone to part ways,” Faucett wrote.

Officials from the San Diego Housing Commission and the Regional Task Force on the Homeless said they want to move past this. They predicted a bright future for the Housing Navigation Center under its new name, the Homeless Response Center.

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