by Eric Wuestewald
For the past few years, San Francisco residents have been inundated with stories about housing scarcity, rising property values, and Ellis Act evictions. Now it's reached the point that many of the organizations designed to protect the homeless have had to give up on sheltering them altogether.
As the housing shortage continues and the cost of living rises, more and more people are being displaced, with some forced into homelessness. However, as SF Weekly writer Rachel Swan reports, homelessness nonprofits themselves are being displaced, and many more are being forced to abandon the idea of providing shelter in favor of a policy focused on simply keeping the homeless alive. This follows on a recent announcement by the city's Homeless Outreach team that they are also switching to a "street medicine" model, rather than one geared toward shelters.
As Swan writes, "That's certainly noble, and apparently the same gambit has worked in other cities. Still, it suggests that San Francisco is so resigned to its housing scarcity that it's resorted to a kind of wartime triage."
Jason Albertson, a psychiatric social researcher for the city's outreach team adds "These are folks who are exposed to the elements for long periods of time." It's like "moving through a natural disaster."
Jackie Jenks, executive director of the Tenderloin nonprofit Hospitality House, says they've "lost 400 beds since 2007." She's seen "more encampments," "more families," and adds, "It's gotten so that our staff can't afford to live here."
The problem's grown so radically that, out of 6,436 people in need of shelter as of the 2013 homeless count, the Department of Public Health's outreach team said the city only has 311 temporary "stabilization rooms" to put them in, and many of these are currently occupied.
It seems that members of the city's outreach team who are being laid off because, as the Chron earlier noted, they don't all have proper medical training for the triage model are feeling plenty disgruntled at this thankless treatment after years of employment. It remains to be seen, after the "street medicine" team comes back online in late November, if some dent can be made in the population living on San Francisco's streets before the next census is taken in 2015 since that 6,436 figure was basically unchanged between 2011 and 2013.