[Hpn] Second Count Finds More S.F. Homeless

chance martin streetsheet@sf-homeless-coalition.org
Mon, 06 Nov 2000 09:20:07 -0700


Second Count Finds More S.F. Homeless
Citywide census shows nearly 5,400
Edward Epstein, Chronicle Staff Writer
Monday, November 6, 2000
©2000 San Francisco Chronicle


San Francisco -- San Francisco's second homeless census counted almost 5,400
people, some 1,300 more than were included in the first census last May,
results disclosed yesterday showed.

City officials said the 5,376 people found on the night of Oct. 26 doesn't
necessarily mean that there are more homeless in San Francisco. Rather, said
George Smith, director of homeless programs for Mayor Willie Brown, the
increase represents a more successful effort to find and count homeless
people, on the streets, and in shelters, hospitals, jails and treatment

``We covered more of the city and we covered more programs,'' Smith said.

Critics of the census say the idea of a one-night snapshot is faulty and
will inevitably result in an undercount of the city's homeless population.
Smith disputes that contention, pointing out that after the Oct. 26 census
he spent a week checking with a host of treatment programs, jails and
hospitals looking for people to add to the count.

After the first count last May, Smith initially reported a total of 3,610
people on the streets and in shelters. He later revised that upward to 4,100
after adding in people found in the jail, hospital and treatment.

``I think we'll get better as we go along and do more counts,'' added Smith,
who plans to keep doing the semi-annual censuses.

The volunteers who did the October count found 2,033 people living on the
streets, a 12.6 percent increase from the May census. The shelter count
totaled 1,504 people, down 16.7 percent from May, when the winter shelter
program was still operating.

This time, Smith's 200 or so volunteers who went around the city from about
9 p.m. to midnight for the count, covered all 11 of the new supervisorial

Not surprisingly, the biggest number of people on the streets was found in
District 6, which includes the Tenderloin, South of Market and the Civic
Center. It had 1,004 people. Second was Bayview-Hunters Point in District
10, with 412.    

Smith said the latest census reinforced the findings of the first count last
spring. More resources of the $60 million that San Francisco spends annually
on homeless programs have been moved to the Bayview, where a new drop-in
center for the homeless has opened.

It provides them with hot meals, showers, lockers and counseling.

Smith said the city is also convinced that it needs more transitional
housing to get people off the streets. The city has started a master-
leasing program at some low-cost hotels in the Tenderloin and other
neighborhoods, where it takes over the buildings and runs supervised housing
for the homeless.  

The Coalition on Homelessness said again yesterday that the city's census
undercounted by a large degree the number of homeless people. But the
coalition, which says the true figure is closer to 12,500, says the city is
getting closer to the truth.

``I think they've listened to a lot of our criticism,'' said Chance Martin,
editor of the coalition's newspaper, the Street Sheet. The coalition said
after the first count that people in shelters, the jail and hospitals should
be counted if they didn't have permanent home addresses.

``The higher number reflects a lot of good effort by the city and the
volunteers, but it is still an unconscionable squandering of resources by
the mayor's office when they know the count will be faulty from the start. .
. . We should be directing resources to getting people off the street,''
said Martin.    

He pointed out that the evening of Oct. 26 was rainy, so a lot of homeless
people were off the streets, either riding BART or the Municipal Railway or
doubling up with friends who have housing.


On the streets: 2,033    In adult shelters: 1,504    In family shelters: 505
Women and children in women-in-crisis shelters: 60    Jails and hospitals:
658    Substance abuse and mental health programs: 616    Total: 5,376

District 1 (Richmond): 3    District 2 (Pacific Heights): 46    District 3
(North Beach, Chinatown, Russian and Nob Hill): 80    District 4 (Sunset): 9
District 5 (Western Addition, Haight): 136    District 6 (Tenderloin, South
of Market): 1,004    District 7 (West of Twin Peaks): 9    District 8
(Castro, Noe Valley): 113    District 9 (Mission, Bernal Heights): 205
District 10 (Bayview Hunters Point, Potrero): 412    District 11
(Excelsior): 9    Unsure of location: 7

Source: October Homeless Census

E-mail Edward Epstein at eepstein@sfchronicle.com.

©2000 San Francisco Chronicle   Page A19


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