How many individuals are homeless in San Francisco? What does the info present right here


How many individuals in San Francisco are experiencing homelessness? It is a very tough query to reply.

Because the coronavirus pandemic and its associated influence continues to tear by means of San Francisco, consultants say that quantity is essential for folks to get housing and different support, however it’s also tough because the virus has stymied efforts to gather some information. was stopped.

There are a number of metrics collected by native, state, and federal companies that try and quantify homelessness. Whereas every of these measurements helps to tie collectively the state of homelessness within the metropolis, they’re all estimating a unique a part of the issue, and have drawbacks.

The newest greatest estimates of homelessness vary from round 8,000 to greater than 19,000, primarily based on all of the completely different items.

“All of us must have a greater approach to systematically assess whether or not individuals are experiencing homelessness,” mentioned Dr. Margot Kushel, director of the us Benioff Homelessness and Housing Initiative. “Every little thing we do proper now has its inaccuracies.”

A number of indicators, together with bits and items of information, level to a rising downside, made worse by the pandemic, which consultants say is an particularly pressing and essential activity to get an correct rely.

Beneath, we evaluate three main sources of information on folks experiencing homelessness in San Francisco and their efforts to resolve the issue, in addition to the strengths and weaknesses of these metrics.

High: Alan “AJ” Alexander ties a blanket right into a automotive as he packs his belongings earlier than being transferred from a homeless camp on nineteenth Avenue in San Francisco in August.

Above: Joel Yates (heart), a resident of Kelly Cullen Group Housing in Tenderloin, attends the point-in-time one-night homeless rely in February.

Scott Strazante / The Chronicle

PIT rely: Essentially the most “official” information regarding homelessness is the federally mandated point-in-time, or PIT rely – the variety of folks each different 12 months experiencing homelessness within the streets or shelters.

In keeping with town’s Division of Homelessness and Supportive Housing, the PIT calculation, which is required for federal funding to the U.S. Division of Housing and City Growth, is taken into account “the first supply of nationwide information on homelessness.”

A brand new PIT rely was speculated to happen in 2021, however COVID-19 postponed the method until this February. Preliminary information for the 2022 rely was launched in Might, exhibiting that about 7,750 folks have been homeless in San Francisco. It is a drop of three.5% from 2019. The variety of homeless houses has declined by 15%, whereas the variety of shelters has elevated by 18%, primarily because of a rise within the variety of shelter beds out there within the metropolis.

Information from earlier years confirmed that the homeless inhabitants was trending upward in San Francisco. In 2019, earlier than the worst results of the pandemic, PIT calculation information confirmed a rise in San Francisco’s homeless inhabitants to only over 8,000 folks – an almost 17% improve from about 6,800 folks in 2017.

In keeping with town’s Division of Homelessness and Supportive Housing, the PIT calculation, which is required for federal funding to the U.S. Division of Housing and City Growth, is taken into account “the first supply of nationwide information on homelessness.”

However the rely is prone to be decrease, in keeping with advocates and consultants who argue that it captures solely a fraction of individuals experiencing homelessness as a result of it retains folks from couch-surfing with pals or staying in accommodations. Misses who can result in homelessness and drift out. “The issue with PIT counting is that it is on the lookout for people who find themselves exhibiting up, and we all know that not everyone seems to be on the market, of their automotive or in a shelter on a regular basis,” Kushel mentioned.

Emily Cohen, a spokeswoman for town’s Division of Homelessness and Supportive Housing, mentioned the PIT rely will not be an excellent barometer of people who find themselves reasonably positioned or liable to homelessness.

It additionally gives a snapshot of just one night time, however “after all we all know that many extra folks will likely be homeless all year long,” Cohen mentioned. She could not say the precise quantity, however estimates it might be two or 3 times larger.

But PIT calculation info is the perfect information to assist analyze tendencies as a result of it makes use of the identical technique each two years. PIT calculation information is on the market for San Francisco since 2005.

PIT Counts has used volunteers with nonprofits and metropolis employees to gather the info, which some advocates criticized as probably much less correct. Dale Seymour, co-chair of town’s native Homeless Coordinating Board, mentioned “soccer mothers from No Valley” do not know the place to seek out folks experiencing homelessness or all the time get trustworthy solutions when requested.

For the primary time this 12 months the Division of Homeless and Supportive Housing didn’t use volunteers. Cohen mentioned the rationale for that is to restrict the variety of folks concerned due to COVID and to make use of individuals who already work on the streets and know the inhabitants and panorama. She mentioned “it labored extremely nicely” and “we expect this may give us a powerful rely.”

City workers put up signage outside the Tenderloin Linkage Center at United Nations Plaza before it opens in San Francisco in January.  The center provides treatment, housing and resources to people on the streets.

Metropolis employees put up signage exterior the Tenderloin Linkage Middle at United Nations Plaza earlier than it opens in San Francisco in January. The middle gives remedy, housing and sources to folks on the streets.

Stephen Lamm/The Chronicle

Public well being case administration information: One other approach to rely how many individuals are homeless is to take a look at what number of providers are used throughout the 12 months. The town’s public well being division does this by cross-checking information from its case administration system with individuals who have been seen or reported homeless by the Division of Homelessness and Supportive Housing.

The Chronicle’s earlier evaluation of that case administration information projected greater than 19,000 folks to be homeless in fiscal 12 months 2020. This quantity is far bigger than the PIT calculation as a result of it’s not a one-night snapshot, however quite captures individuals who could also be in a precarious housing scenario, and transfer out and in of homelessness.

The Division of Public Well being collects and maintains this information to tell its public well being insurance policies affecting that inhabitants, together with discovering out how many individuals it wants to achieve, a division spokesperson mentioned in an e mail. Is required.

Seymour of town’s native Homeless Coordinating Board needs this technique—a measure of how many individuals are experiencing homelessness entry providers by inhabitants—to additionally embrace folks accessing providers from different departments. That would occur within the close to future, as town is engaged on implementing a system that brings information collectively throughout departments, however the database will not be but absolutely adopted, Cohen mentioned.

Due to the year-to-year variation within the kind and breadth of providers supplied, this information will not be helpful for evaluating tendencies over time, particularly because the division transitions to a brand new case administration system.

A vehicle drives from a tent camp on Willow Street in Tenderloin, San Francisco in October.  The number of homeless people in the city is estimated at between 8,000 and 19,000.

A car drives from a tent camp on Willow Avenue in Tenderloin, San Francisco in October. The variety of homeless folks within the metropolis is estimated at between 8,000 and 19,000.

Stephen Lamm/The Chronicle 2021

Mayor Well being Streets Operation Middle: The Mayor’s Wholesome Streets Operation Middle collects a wide range of information associated to town’s efforts to scale back homelessness, together with the variety of tents, autos, buildings and campsites seen across the metropolis. Sam Dodge, director of Streets operations, beforehand instructed The Chronicle that these information units, that are publicly out there within the metropolis’s dashboard web page, present perception on the place assistance is most wanted.

“It is a observe that we developed a very long time in the past in order that we have been working to verify there was fairness the place the sources we’re bringing in.”

Calculations embrace publicizing town and making estimates primarily based on human observations. However in contrast to PIT calculations, no follow-up surveys are carried out, which signifies that the standard of the info will not be pretty much as good. The survey additionally didn’t estimate the variety of folks in these tents and buildings.

One energy of the info is that it’s collected and revealed extra regularly than different sources — tents, buildings, autos and camps are calculated on a quarterly foundation, Streets Operations says.

The latest information is from March 2022. Information reveals that extra individuals are homeless in San Francisco lately. Roads in operation in March 2022 counted 537 tents and buildings – 41% greater than in April 2019.

However these figures are additionally primarily based on what might be seen by means of the eyes of counters, and don’t account for every type of residing situations associated to homelessness, Dodge mentioned. They aren’t meant to signify the broader image of homelessness in San Francisco and ought to be used with warning in speaking concerning the common problem of homelessness.

UCSF’s Kushal mentioned many of those information – PIT rely, metropolis information and others – are sometimes simply snapshots of the complete image, or what folks must entry providers. Which means lots of people have been ignored. folks transfer out and in of homelessness; An individual who was homeless in some unspecified time in the future all year long will not be anymore.

He mentioned companies that present advantages or medical health insurance to everybody, from hospitals to varsities to authorities companies, have to be higher developed, however sensitively ask folks if they’re homeless, to trace that info. And sharing, she mentioned.

Extra on the homelessness disaster

Yuhyun Jung and Mallory Moench are workers writers for the San Francisco Chronicle. E-mail:,


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