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SF’s homeless population breaks 8,000

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Mayor announces new funding plan in face of grim tally

A man stands outside his tent on Division Street in San Francisco.
Photo by AP Photo/Eric Risberg

The initial estimate of San Francisco’s most recent Homelessness Point-in-Time Count, conducted in January, reveals that SF’s homeless population swelled by more than 500 persons since 2017, for an overall estimate of more than 8,000.

The last count two years ago yielded a homeless population estimate of 7,499—6,986 adults and 513 minors.

SF reported a smaller figure of 6,585 to the Department of Housing and Urban Development for 2017, owing to the fact that the federal government employs a more narrow definition of homelessness than the city.

Either way, the Department of Homelessness’s new initial figures, released Thursday, revealed a high 2019 count of 8,011 persons, a disastrous increase of between 6.8 and 16.8 percent, depending on which 2017 figure its compared to.

The 2015 count was 7,539 persons, and 2013’s was 7,350.

There was a little good news: The department found a 10 percent reduction in homeless youths compared to 2017, as well as a 14 percent decline in homeless veterans on SF streets.

“While I am pleased that we saw reductions in Veteran and youth homelessness, we are saddened that there are more people living without housing in San Francisco,” said Director of the Department of Homelessness Jeff Kositsky on Thursday.

Two years ago, Kositsky predicted that the 2019 count would “see a noticeable decrease.”

In response to the figures, Mayor London Breed announced that she will commit another $5 million in “homelessness prevention investments” in this year’s budget plans.

A full report on the homeless count won’t be available until July.

The biennial Point In Time Count employs hundreds of volunteers who travel San Francisco streets on one night and record how many apparently unsheltered residents they observe.

This is not necessarily the most reliable way to estimate the homeless population, but Department of Housing and Urban Development [HUD] mandates it every two years, and the results, for better or worse, significantly shape homeless policy.