In the Summer 2017 issue of the San Francico Public Press, we examine the city’s efforts to help homeless people through initiatives in place for years and ones that are expanding under the new Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing. Some are experimental, which can be challenging for the people seeking services and for those trying to administer them while working out policy kinks.
Two years after the city launched its navigation centers, fewer than a quarter of the nearly 1,200 people who have passed through have been placed in verified long-term housing, and more are returning to the streets, an analysis of city records shows. The most common outcome is a one-way bus ticket to another city.
The wait time for an emergency shelter bed for homeless San Franciscans has hit a record high, as growing demand outstrips availability, city records show. Among those waiting weeks on the list recently were someone 97 years old and three people in their 80s.
As San Francico police respond to more calls for “quality of life” volations, citations have declined sharply in recent years, and the courts have been throwing out warrants for violations, quietly decriminalizing homelessness citywide, an analysis of city records shows.
The California Legislature enacted the state’s first anti-vagrant statutes in the mid-19th century, targeting Native Americans and Mexican-Americans. Since then, policymakers and voters have regularly acted to rid city streets of people who are homeless or indigent. This brief timeline highlights some key years and actions.
The story of Box City reflects the city’s shifting approach to homeless encampments and the impact on their residents. Many believed the navigation centers — touted as a model of moving people from “street to home” — would lead to long-term housing. But they were left demoralized and jaded about the government’s ability to help them.
City officials quickly learned that not long after a homeless encampment was cleared, a new one would often take hold in the same area. So they quietly added a team to keep encampments from re-emerging.