San Francisco's biennial census of the homeless population gets released today, and the numbers are predictably depressing. Though the overall number of homeless people went down by a paltry 60 (from 6,514 in 2009 to 6,455 in 2011), the number of single homeless people (those without families) shot up 48%, from from 1,269 in 2009 to 1,882 in 2011.
You'll recall that there was some ballyhooing of Gavin Newsom's record on housing the homeless as he was leaving office, which talked up the supportive housing created under his tenure as Mayor and the number of people who got off the streets. That trend is continuing, at least in terms of the chronically homeless (defined as those homeless more than a year), but it doesn't alter the numbers much in a shitty economy. For every Tenderloin homeless person given shelter and counseling, another two show up in their vans, blankets over the windows, and parked permanently in the Bayview. The homeless count in the Bayview has shot up 159%, from 444 in 2009 to 1,151 in 2011. In many cases, these are people arriving from out of town looking for work, and in some cases finding it and continuing to be among the "vehicular homeless." (This seems to reverse a trend from 2009, when the out-of-town migration of the homeless was down 16%.)
The number of homeless families has gone up slightly, and according to President Obama's homelessness policy director, Barbara Poppe, this pattern is typical across the country right now: upticks in homeless families, slight decreases to the chronic homeless population.