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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