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San Francisco Buries the Real Data on Homelessness

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There’s a big difference between 17 percent and 30 percent. That difference can have a detrimental impact when it represents human beings. For the first time in years, the latest point-in-time count of San Francisco’s homeless population neglects to include a large portion of people who depend on vital resources.

The city officially counts and reports the unsheltered population every two years, as was done Jan. 24. However, this year’s count relied on a federal definition of what constitutes homelessness as opposed to the traditional city count, which includes those in hospitals, rehabilitation centers and jails.

The numbers dictated by U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development reflect that San Francisco has a homeless population of 8,011. When that count includes people in hospitals, rehabilitation centers and jails who would otherwise be homeless, the picture is a lot more bleak, with the count totaling 9,784 people.

When compared to 2017 data, the more inclusive count indicates the city’s homeless population has risen by 30 percent, which is an enormous jump that requires a hard look at how and why.

Photo by JOSH EDELSON/AFP/Getty Images

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As the San Francisco Examiner points out, the report issued by the city buries the real total in an appendix, making it seem like San Francisco is in a better position than it truly is. It is slightly boggling why they would choose to mislead the public on a topic that requires public support for solutions.

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors approved a $600 million housing bond measure Tuesday to be included on November’s ballot. The bond would allocate significant funds for low- and middle-income housing development, as well as housing solutions for senior and the city’s public school teachers. The measure’s success will require two-thirds of the vote.

It would be useful to provide voters with real data that reflects the severity of the homeless population as they cast their ballots and decide the fate of what would be the city’s largest housing bond measure to date.

It is impossible to divorce the housing crisis from the city’s growing homeless population and there is no doubt that dumping $600 million into housing solutions will make at least a dent in the overall problem. However, it won’t make any difference at all if voters choose to reject the measure. Misleading the public about the velocity of the issue may backfire at the ballot box, unless that’s really the point.




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Nik Wojcik - East Bay Editor

Nik Wojcik - East Bay Editor

Journalist, editor, student, single mom to a pack of wolves, foodie, music lover, resident smart ass, and champion of vulgarity and human kindness.