While New York and Los Angeles have larger numbers of unhoused people, the Bay Area can claim the highest percentage of people with no shelter whatsoever. This latest data point comes as the Bay Area Council looks at homelessness at the regional level.
National media reports often imply that San Francisco's homelessness epidemic is uniquely terrible, but anyone who’s walked past a tent city at an Oakland overpass can tell you otherwise. A new Bay Area Council report released this morning takes a broader view of assessing homelessness across the entire Bay Area — not just an individual city’s point-in-time count that a few cities conduct — and estimates we have 28,200 unhoused people in the Bay Area. The report declares our regional "homeless crisis ranks among the worst in the United States."
Only New York and Los Angeles have higher homeless populations, but those cities do a far better job at providing temporary shelter and supportive housing. And the San Francisco Business Times glumly points out that “if the region builds as much permanent supportive housing as it did in 2017, all of today's homeless wouldn't have a bed until 2037.”
Their conclusion? “One city, one county alone cannot solve homelessness, but that’s largely how we’ve been approaching it,” Bay Area Council president Micah Weinberg said in a release.
The New York Times dug through the report too and adds that homelessness is starting to hit the smaller suburbs too, in the form of “mobile” unhoused people who are living out of their cars.
The report actually calls out San Francisco for being more effective than most Bay Area cities at addressing the homeless crisis. Our last point-in-time count (in 2017) shows the unhoused population down by 0.5% (but those numbers can be disputed). You may not know this, but San Francisco has more supportive housing per capita than any other city in America.
But it sure doesn’t feel that way, and we continue to see resistance to building more, as evidenced by the ongoing challenges to the Prop. C “homeless tax,” and the Embarcadero Navigation Center drama. Thankfully, both of those controversies have managed tap a new nerve of tech corporation philanthropy, which seems precisely the audience this report is trying to reach.
“The Bay Area has the brains, the brawn, the heart and the resources to end the scourge of homelessness,” Bay Area Council CEO Jim Wunderman said in a statement. “But it will take all of us working together at a regional level to do it.”
Related: Homeless Advocates, NIMBY Neighbors Launch Dueling GoFundMe Campaigns Over Embarcadero Shelter [SFist]