Friday, February 20, 2015

Mother Jones on SF homeless count

Good story in Mother Jones (How Does a City Count Its Homeless?), a first-hand account of the city's homeless count last month:

...Dr. Rajesh Parekh, the former director of the homeless outreach team, who has been doing the count for a decade, says the count is more about revealing trends. "No count is 100 percent accurate," he says. "The trends have been downward and they stabilized. Even with the bad economy, the numbers didn't drop further. To me that's a win."

A 10-year plan implemented in 2004 by then Mayor Gavin Newsom doubled the budget for the city's Human Services Agency for Housing & Homeless, which as of last year was up to $102 million. It also put new emphasis on a strategy known as "housing first," which has proved effective at drastically reducing chronic homelessness. (See "Room For Improvement," our March/April cover story.) In those 10 years, nearly 2,700 new units were created in San Francisco, and more than 11,300 homeless were placed in housing.

City officials anticipate that this year's numbers—which won't be released until summer—will show that the investment is paying off. The past two counts, in 2013 and 2011, suggested a stable street population of around 3,000. "'Housing first' is the way to go, but you need to scale it up," Parekh says...

See also the excellent blog by Kevin Drum for Mother Jones.

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At 1:37 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

My question is, how do we count what I would characterize as "street people"? Those who do not wish to move into housing or to even enter shelters because they are not allowed to do drug or drink while in shelters? I do understand there are real homeless and my opinion is to take families, then single women, then single that order. But that still leave the Street People. How do we respond to them?

At 8:50 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Weird, I keep feeling I see more homeless than ever before. My street is riddled with them, mostly in tents. They get shuffled around but eventually come back. Division Street was real bad, but that got recently cleaned up as well, though I imagine they were just pushed off to someplace else.

What I always ask is, "What's the plan?" You can put someone in an SRO, but then what? Will they be provided work, and a living wage? Would they still be allowed to loiter on street corners, transit stations, and parks, doing whatever they want?

At 11:35 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

These are not new questions, Anon. I've been blogging about homelessness here for more than ten years, and those questions are still being asked and answered, more or less, by city agencies every day.

Homelessness is here to stay. It's a problem for every city in the country. All the city can do is mitigate it as best it can with aggressive outreach.

The problem is marginal, potentially homeless people continue to arrive in SF.

My favorite city homeless program is Homeward Bound, which gives a bus ticket to homeless people to go back whence they came. That program has gotten more than 7,000 people off city streets in the last ten years.


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