Beyond Homeless

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An insightful white paper on how we can more effectively address the homelessness problem in San Francisco

By Mary L.G. Theroux, Adam B. Summers, Lawrence J. McQuillan, Jonathan Hofer, Hovannes Abramyan and Scott Beyer. Edited by Adam B Summers

Homelessness is such a complicated and frustrating problem because it has so many different causes. And even when resources and successful programs are available, some portion of those experiencing homelessness will not choose to take advantage of them. Too often, people will say that it is just a substance abuse problem, just a mental illness problem, or just a housing problem. Too often, some homelessness reform advocates and politicians place their faith in finding a silver bullet and myopically try to enforce a one-size-fits-all policy. It is a mistake to think that placing people in housing will end homelessness, as many of them will end up back on the streets, especially if the underlying causes of their homelessness are not addressed. It is precisely because people are different, face different challenges, and begin—and continue—to experience homelessness for different reasons, that a multifaceted and individualized approach to the problem is necessary.

The Cold Hard Stats

San Francisco has seen a 17% increase in homelessness since 2017 (31% if you use a broader definition that includes those in jails, hospitals, and residential treatment centers). During that time, homelessness has jumped 40% in San Jose, and 47% in Oakland.
Chart visual
Surge in California Homelessness 2017–2019
Since 2012, the City of San Francisco spending on homelessness has increased by 132%, while the numbers of people experiencing homelessness has increased 52%
Chart visual
Why are we spending more — while the problem just gets worse?
A Tale of Two Cities. Between the years of 2009 and 2019, the Homeless population in San Antonio, decreased -11.2%, while the homeless population in San Francisco rose +79%.
Chart visual
2009—2019 San Francisco vs. San Antonio
Homelessness has decreased across the country, from 647,000 in 2007 to approximately 568,000 in 2019 (a decline of more than 12%), it has continued to increase in California, from about 139,000 to more than 151,000 during the same period (a rise of nearly 9% percent).
Chart visual
Homelessness Across the Country

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