Homelessness Surging In Blue City Despite Doling Out Hundreds Of Millions

(REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton)

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Will Kessler Contributor
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The number of homeless people in San Francisco jumped compared to two years ago, despite the city spending hundreds of millions of dollars to address the issue, city data shows.

The total number of homeless people in San Francisco rose 7% to 8,328 in a one-night measurement in January 2024 compared to the same in 2022, reversing the 3.5% decline recorded from 2019 to 2022, according to the city’s Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing. Funding for homelessness from the city increased to $676 million in the 2022–23 fiscal year, up from $284 million in 2018–19, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. (RELATED: California Restaurants Are In Crisis As Regulations, Inflation Cost Owners)

Despite the total number of homeless people rising, the number of unsheltered people fell 1% in January compared to the same time in 2022 as the city prioritizes providing housing, increasing the number of beds available by 28% since 2019, according to the department. The number of people living in their vehicles in January has jumped 37% since 2022, and the number of people living in shelters has spiked 39%.

“We are working every day to move people off our streets and into shelter, housing, and care,” San Francisco Mayor London Breed said in a press release following the survey. “This is safer and healthier for people on our streets, and it is better for all of us that want a cleaner and safer San Francisco. Our City workforce is dedicated to making a difference, and we will keep working to get tents off our streets, bring people indoors, and change the conditions in our neighborhoods.”

Breed is facing a tough reelection bid coming up in November later this year, holding just a slim lead over her more moderate opponents, according to The San Francisco Standard. The mayor’s unfavorability numbers are currently high and could rise higher if homelessness remains an issue.

San Francisco had a smaller jump in homelessness than the state of California as a whole, which had a 20% increase in the total number of homeless people compared to 2019, according to the department. California voters narrowly approved $6.4 billion in funding across the state for the construction of housing and treatment beds to accommodate homeless people with mental illnesses.

The increase in funding for homelessness follows a new business tax that was approved by San Francisco voters in 2018 and is specifically designed to provide funding for new housing units, rental subsidies and mental health services, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. An individual or family needs to earn $51.25 per hour to afford a one-bedroom apartment in the city.

To address low housing availability and high costs, Breed has launched an initiative called “Housing for All” that aims to build 82,000 new homes over the next eight years through expediting housing approvals, reforming housing regulations and more. The city approved just seven new housing permits in the first two months of 2024, well behind what it would need to reach its goal.

There were just 2,024 new housing units built in all of 2024 in the city, the worst gain in a decade and a 30% drop from the year before, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. High interest rates and elevated construction costs are among the reasons for the slow growth.

San Francisco has relied heavily on non-profits to combat homelessness despite concerns about how effectively the funding is being used, with the city’s attorney in early May accusing one nonprofit, the Providence Foundation, of stealing $100,000 of public money meant to address the issue. The Providence Foundation has received around $100 million in contracts from the city.

The city has faced recent criticism for piloting a “Managed Alcohol Program” costing $5 million that gives free beer, wine and vodka to the homeless to help recovering alcoholics.

Breed’s office deferred the Daily Caller News Foundation to previous statements.

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