According to a new report requested by Supervisor Mark Farrell, there are (at least) 915 homeless youths on the streets of San Francisco these days, and that number may very well be higher in any given week since a lot of this population can be transient. Meanwhile, the city is spending $165 million a year on homeless shelters and services to serve our population of approximately 6,400 homeless people (as of a January 2013 count), and only a small fraction of that budget is devoted specifically to homeless youth, who as we discussed last year have different needs from the adult population.
According to Larkin Street Youth Services, the youth number is likely much higher than 915. They say that 5,700 homeless young people between the ages of 12 and 24 pass through the city every year, many of whom fleeing abusive homes or discrimination based on their gender identity or sexual orientation. San Francisco has become a particularly popular destination for the LGBT homeless community for obvious reasons.
The homeless population count has remained relatively steady over the last decade while cities like Los Angeles and New York have seen 13 to 15 percent increases due to the Great Recession. Experts say that's due in part to the fact that San Francisco has invested so much (over $80 million a year) in supportive housing and services, otherwise our count would have gotten higher as well.
But there's some evidence to suggest that the youth population in particular is on the rise, and this came up last year with some growing tensions particularly in the Castro, where a recent uptick in the number of young homeless on the streets has appeared in the last couple of years. At the time, the city's Director of Housing Opportunity, Partnerships and Engagement (HOPE) Bevan Dufty cited a new youth-oriented shelter that had been built in SoMa to house 44 people, and two more buildings are set to open this year. In total, there are about 350 beds available each night specifically for homeless youth in San Francisco, so about a third of what's needed.
Supervisor Farrell is going to be holding six hearings on homelessness in the coming weeks during which he hopes to determine how and where the city could be better spending its money on the problem and if more funding is needed.
Perhaps you should consider attending one of those hearings if you have an opinion on this pressing, important matter.