The number of homeless people in SF actually declined during the pandemic, and almost 20% more are in shelters

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San Francisco’s latest census, conducted in February 2022, shows the city’s first decline in homelessness in seven years, countering the age-old adage that homelessness is “worse than ever.” .

Everyone was very interested to see whether this year’s census of the homeless will show a massive increase in the number of homeless, which many have felt and complained about over the past two years. The early pandemic had some serious complications with shelters, especially after a couple of COVID outbreaks before it was well understood how the virus was transmitted through the air, and there was anecdotal evidence that homeless people came to the city in search of shelter in hotels – hearing about the SF hotel program in the first year of the pandemic.

Greater indulgence in tent camping, at least for several months of the pandemic, has also contributed to the perception of much more marked homelessness.

But now we have solid data from the first homeless census in three years – the two-year 2021 count was canceled due to COVID – and it arrives a few weeks earlier than expected.

The count shows that the number of homeless people in San Francisco as a whole fell by 3.5%. in the period from 2019 to 2022 from 8,035 to 7,754. And the number of people who were in the shelter at the time of counting, 3357, was 18% more than in the 2019 census.

In addition, the number of non-residents living in tents or cars decreased by 15% compared to 2019.

“We have a lot of work to do, but it is [data] shows that we are moving in the right direction, ”London Mayor Breed said in a release. “The investments we have made and will make, as well as our improved strategies for reaching and connecting people to resources are working together to help more people off the streets. The fact that we were able to make this progress during the global pandemic shows that if the city and our nonprofit partners work together, we can change the situation. But this is only the first step. “

For a long time, the census method was criticized at one point, citing many reasons that it constantly lacks the real homeless. But some advocates for the homeless have argued for years that at least comparing apples to apples every two years gives politicians an idea of ​​where things are going.

As shown in the chart below, the count in 2015 decreased slightly compared to 2013, but otherwise the number of homeless people included in the count has been steadily rising over the last decade. In 2011, 5669 people were counted, and by 2019 this number has grown by almost 42% to 8035.

Chart through the city of San Francisco

The count in 2019 would be even higher if the same methodology was used as in 2017 – defenders noted that the city began to meet federal standards in 2019 and no longer included people in prisons, rehabilitation facilities or hospitals, which, according to some, could number increased by 1,800 people.

How SF Business Times shows, the increase in the number of homeless shelters almost directly corresponds to the increase in the city’s shelters. Between 2019 and 2022, the city created 24% more affordable beds, including 998 hotel rooms that were still in use last week.

Emily Cohen, a spokeswoman for the Department of Homelessness and Sustainable Housing, said in a statement that the release of the data was “exciting” and she pointed to a 11% reduction in the number of chronic homeless people in SF. Chronic homelessness is defined as a person who either has a disability that has led to several episodes of homelessness, or someone who has remained permanently homeless for a year or more. That number has dropped from 3,030 in 2019 to 2,691 this year.

Other counts from across the bay were also reported on Monday. And we already know that There is a general increase in Alameda County in the homeless since 2019, with the number rising from 8,022 to 9,747, or 22%.

Previously: Details of the new report An interesting “algorithm” that decides who will receive housing for the homeless, depending on how many injuries they have suffered

Author’s photo Eric House on Unsplash

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