Starting yesterday with an open letter to the city, more than 70 publications have begun to release focused, extended coverage on the issue of homelessness in San Francisco. While we framed some questions of our own today about the rhetoric surrounding media reports on the homeless going back three decades, many outlets are already providing valuable insight ahead of tomorrow, June 29, when the preponderance of pieces will be released.
One bit of data mining that will be particularly useful going forward is likely to be the Chronicle's reassessment of the homeless count itself. "How many people live on our streets?" reporter Joaquin Palomino asks? "San Francisco’s Department of Public Health maintains a robust database that accounts for every [different] homeless person that uses medical, mental health or substance abuse services in the city," Palomino writes, and accordingly, "In fiscal 2014-15, Public Health’s CCMS reported 9,975 homeless individuals in the city, a figure nearly 50 percent higher than the biennial homeless count’s estimate (32 percent higher when including the supplemental youth count)."
Meanwhile, the Coalition on Homelessness's Jennifer Friedenbach puts the count, which would include individuals who pass through the city for periods of time on their way elsewhere, and those who are crashing on friends' couches, closer to 13,000 "over the course of an entire year."
Though the debate about the count is likely to continue, the piece has more figures that are also worrying ones: More than half of that group, for example, had a history of depression or psychosis, and roughly 60 percent had a history of involvement with alcohol and or drug abuse. However, consider this figure, too: "In 2007," Palomino writes, "the city health department recorded nearly 12,000 homeless individuals." That would mean a significant decrease in the overall numbers of homeless people, at least those who came into Department of Public Health contact.
Meanwhile Mission Local got homeless folks to weigh in on a tent ban for themselves, and the results are worth looking at. “That’s straight up robbery,” 30-year-old homeless woman Mia Dowell tells the publication in a familiar cry from the tent community. "They use DPW as a tool to steal our belongings to begin with," Dowell added.
63-year-old Andre Davis, who is also homeless, objects to the wake-up calls in particular. “Then you got nowhere to go, not even the liquor store,” he says of waking up early. “I have a problem with people telling me what to do, I have a problem with authority.”
Others rely on their belongings or shelter for safety. As one woman who remained anonymous told Mission Local “I’m a woman, I’ve already been raped once, I need my shelter."
Finally, in KRON4 there was a lighter, moving portrait of a homeless man who dances for donations. Or, rather, others call it dancing, but that's not how the man who lives on the streets of the Mission and is known as Yusuf thinks of it.
"Everybody says it’s dancing, I just call it boogie,” he tells the news station. "I don’t dance, I boogie.”