Although San Francisco's total population of homeless people hasn't changed much since the Human Services Agency last did their census in 2011, the agency included additional details in the demographic survey for the first time this year and found that many of the city's homeless residents are new to life on the street and nearly one-third of them identify as LGBT.
The census, which was conducted in January although the results were just released on Friday, counted 6,436 homeless people this year. That's a small drop from the 6,455 found in 2011, but now more than half of those are living on the streets rather than in shelters or transitional housing.
According to Jennifer Friedenbach, executive director of the Coalition on Homlessness, this year's census also reveals a queer issue with San Francisco's system, which she says is "not particularly gay-friendly" and rife with homophobia and transphobia. As Friedenbach told the Chronicle, transgender people are three times as likely as straight folks to experience abuse in a shelter. 29 percent of the homeless people surveyed during the population count said they identify as gay, compared to 15 percent of the general San Francisco population.
Homeless advocates say, anecdotally at least, that the high percentage of homeless gays is due to young runaways or teens who have been kicked out of their homes, as well as older survivors of the AIDs epidemic who have long been cut off from their families. To acknowledge the shift, the city plans to reserve 24 more shelter beds for LGBT folks this year.
According to Bevan Dufty at the Mayor's office of HOPE, the percentage of the population that is chronically homeless has dropped dramatically in recent years from 62 percent to 31 percent now. (Friedenbach tells the Chronicle, 50 percent of people say they are newly homeless or without shelter for the first time.)
Finally, there aren't many surprises to be found in the geographic breakdown of the census data: the overwhelming majority (44%) of San Francisco's homeless are in the Tenderloin and SoMa. More than a quarter are in Bayview-Hunters Point, while District 7 (Twin Peaks to Park Merced) and District 2 (the Marina and Pac Heights) combine for less than one percent of the city's homeless population.