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From the Office of the Mayor: San Francisco Conducts Bi-annual Count of Homeless Population

From the San Francisco Chronicle: Fewer homeless people on streets of San Francisco — 28% drop since fall of '02, but other counties report higher numbers

Outrageous Undercount of Homeless People in San Francisco

Press Release: Coalition on Homelessness

Contact: Juan Prada, Chance Martin (415-346-3740)

February 14, 2005. San FranciscoThe Mayor’s office released a count of homeless people today, claiming a 42% decrease in the street count, and the overall number of homeless people in the City dropping from 8,640 to 5,642. Homeless advocates are up in arms, as this number is impossibly low. 

“This outrageously low number is either politically motivated or a result of gross incompetence.” According to Jennifer Friedenbach of the Coalition on Homelessness, “There is a lot of pressure on the Mayor to demonstrate success in solving homelessness, and to say this number exaggerates that success would be an understatement.”

The Coalition on Homelessness sent volunteers on the street count to observe the undertaking. Our reports state volunteers were instructed not to enter parks, not to talk to people, nor to enter abandoned buildings. (Supposedly, Red and Park staff counted homeless people in the morning but this could not be verified.) There were many neighborhoods that were not covered. In addition, it was raining, which makes it particularly difficult to count homeless people. 

The City is able to account for part of the decrease in the numbers of homeless people, through housing several hundred homeless welfare recipients, but this accounts for only a portion of the 1,880 decrease in homeless street count numbers. Homeless advocates find this discrepancy troubling. 

The Department of Human Services is also claiming great victory — more than 73% decrease in the single adult homeless welfare caseload. However, they have no documentation regarding what happened to the homeless people when they left welfare. The Department of Human Services is making baseless assumptions that homeless people left town. 

The Coalition on Homelessness conducted a comprehensive analysis of Care Not Cash, based on data gathering from the Department of Human Services and interviews with homeless people and service providers. We found mixed results. While there was success in getting some homeless people housed, other homeless welfare recipients reported increased hunger and non-welfare recipients reported displacement from stable shelter as a result of Care not Cash.