A tent stands to the left of a pile of charred debris under the charred bottom of an overpass.

What Reporters Learned Mapping Encampment Fires

Fires in encampments, tents and other makeshift shelters occurred more frequently in recent years, reporting from the San Francisco Public Press and Mission Local shows. But incident counts alone do not offer a clear explanation of what is happening on the street.

A man in a plaid shirt holds a fire extinguisher.

Grassroots Nonprofits and Homeless Communities Create Their Own Fire Prevention Solutions

Encampment fires are a fact of life due to the exposed conditions homeless residents live in, but the 77th Avenue Rangers’ camp demonstrates that there’s hope for controlling these incidents without official intervention.

One key to their success has been fire preparedness, including measures like installing smoke alarms and keeping fire extinguishers on hand.

Two beds sit on either side of a window at a navigation center for transgender homeless people.

SF Launches First Navigation Center to Serve Homeless Transgender People

On March 9, the city’s first navigation center to specifically serve transgender and gender-nonconforming people opens in SoMa.

It will fill a gap in homeless services that has excluded a highly vulnerable population. Transgender people are 17 times more likely to experience homelessness than the average person, and 70% of those who have stayed in shelters report having experienced harassment, according to a study conducted by the National Center for Transgender Equality.

Hear Why Hundreds of Homeless San Franciscans Wait Months as Rooms for Them Sit Empty

A recent investigation from the San Francisco Public Press and ProPublica indicates Hanson is not alone in her frustration. But the problem is not that there is nowhere for people to go. Rather, hundreds of units of permanent supportive housing — rooms in hotels or full apartments intended to get people experiencing homelessness a roof over their heads and connected with services — are sitting empty. Meanwhile, more than 1,600 people have been approved to move into them, and more than 400 people on the streets have been waiting to be housed for more than a year.  

An illustration with 25 panels depicting calendar pages alternating with experiences of people living in homelessness or temporary shelter while waiting to be assigned to permanent housing.

In San Francisco, Hundreds of Homes for the Homeless Sit Vacant

As of early February, the city’s Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing reported 1,633 homeless people approved for housing and awaiting their turn to move in. Yet records provided by the department show 888 vacancies in its permanent supportive housing stock as of Feb. 22. Filling those empty rooms would not just cut the waiting list by more than half. It would be enough to house roughly one in every eight homeless people in the city. The homelessness department said it cannot talk about individual cases, but officials acknowledged that at least 400 people have been waiting more than a year, far beyond the department’s professed goal of placing applicants into housing 30 to 45 days after they’re approved.

A young Black man stands on a San Francisco sidewalk. Down the sidewalk behind him sit tents and strewn clothing.

SF Fires Linked to Homeless Surged as Pandemic Set In

Fires associated with homeless encampments in San Francisco rose by more than two-thirds during the first year of the pandemic, according to a Public Press analysis of the narrative texts from San Francisco Fire Department reports.

Fires are an ever-present fear for people living on the streets, where an errant spark could send flames ripping through a tent or other temporary shelter, sending its contents quickly up in smoke. Unhoused residents who have suffered through this experience report receiving little of the help available to those assisted after fires in buildings.

Photographer Captures Homelessness Crisis in ‘Division Street’

In search of a project, photographer Robert Gumpert started wandering around San Francisco. He began talking with and photographing people he encountered who were living on the street and in shelters. The resulting book “Division Street,” named after a street in the city where homeless people have often established encampments, will be released this year.  

Public Works eorkers in vests work to clear an encampment.

Report Calls SF’s Homeless Sweeps Practices Illegal

On Thursday, a damning report dropped, offering new data on San Francisco’s practice of sweeping encampments. Authored by the Coalition on Homelessness, the report alleges the Healthy Streets Operation Center regularly fails to offer an adequate number of shelter beds to people on the streets during its cleanup operations and is illegally discarding people’s belongings. The practices create serious legal risk for San Francisco.

Two doctors protest outside Mayor London Breed's house on April 30, 2020, calling for more hotel rooms to be opened for people experiencing homelessness to safely shelter during COVID-19. The one in front holds a sign reading "this is a public health nightmare."

As COVID Cases Surge Among SF’s Homeless, Shelter Options Narrow

As cases of COVID-19 surge in San Francisco, advocates question whether the city can prevent another outbreak in the homeless community. Between June 30 and July 31, confirmed cases among homeless people quadrupled from 18 to 78. But as the delta variant of the coronavirus sweeps across the city, there is a growing shortage of safe places for homeless people to go.