Aug 19, 2022 - Politics

SF estimates up to 20,000 people will experience homelessness this year

A makeshift shelter for a person experiencing homelessness.
Photo credit: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Homelessness has slightly improved in San Francisco since 2019, but the city estimates that as many as 20,000 people may still experience homelessness this year, according to the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing.

  • That's roughly 2.5% of the city's population.

Driving the news: San Francisco's HSH on Thursday released its full report on homelessness in the city.

  • Its unhoused population has decreased by 3.5% since 2019 to 7,754 in 2022, according to data collected on one night in February. This represents a single point in time, while the 20,000-person estimate takes into account annual projections and a variety of data points.
  • For every one person a city program houses, an estimated four will become unhoused because HSH has "not been able to keep pace with inflow of people who become newly homeless or return to homelessness throughout the year," the report says.
  • Meanwhile, the city's unhoused population has increased about 35% since 2011, according to the SFHSH.
Data: Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing; Chart: Axios Visuals

Why it matters: Addressing homelessness is among the top issues troubling San Francisco and its leaders, who are spending millions of dollars to improve and increase housing options and address affordability issues.

State of play: The city has almost tripled its HSH budget since launching in 2016.

  • Since 2019, the city has added resources including navigation centers that connect people to housing resources, hotel-based shelters and vehicle triage centers where people can sleep in their cars.
  • From January 2019 through January 2022, HSH says it helped at least 8,000 people find housing.

The big picture: Lack of affordable housing, economic inequality, systemic racism and other factors contribute to San Francisco's ongoing homelessness crisis.

Of note: SF residents must earn an hourly wage of $61.50 — the equivalent of 4.1 full-time jobs at minimum wage — to afford a two-bedroom, fair market rent apartment, according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition.

By the numbers: District 6, which includes SOMA, had the city's highest number of unhoused people (3,848), this year's count showed.

  • District 10 (Dogpatch, Bayview-Hunters Point, Visitacion Valley, etc.) had the second-most unhoused people with 1,115.
  • 71% of SF's unhoused population previously had residences in the city.
  • People of color experience homelessness at disproportionate rates in SF. Black people, for example, make up 5.7% of the city's population, but 38% of its unhoused population. Latino people made up 30% of the city's unhoused population compared to 15.7% of its population.
  • 28% of SF's unhoused population identifies as LGBTQ+.

What they're saying: "Our work is far from done," Nils Behnke, CEO at Tenderloin-based homeless and community services organization St. Anthony's, said in a statement to Axios. "A new approach is needed to sustainably reduce this number. We need a multiyear commitment to each individual human experiencing this situation, not more programs."

What's next: HSH sees the overall decline in homelessness since 2019, as an indicator the city is moving in the right direction.

  • San Francisco's $14 billion budget for fiscal year 2022-2023 includes funding for the operations of 410 new shelter beds for adults, housing subsidies for transgender and gender non-conforming people and other services.
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