SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A one-night count found that San Francisco’s homeless population dipped slightly in 2022 to roughly 7,800 people amid an unprecedented effort to get people off the streets during the coronavirus pandemic.
In a statement Monday, San Francisco’s mayor credited the decrease to an increase in shelter beds and transitional housing. The rest of the Bay Area’s nine counties are expected to release preliminary numbers Monday, highlighting the regional nature of a problem plaguing the state and the U.S. due to high housing costs.
Housing advocates say the point-in-time count mandated by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development is certainly an undercount, but critical to measuring homelessness across the country. San Francisco and other Bay Area counties were permitted to skip the count last year due to the pandemic. This year’s count was conducted in late February.
Alameda County, which includes the cities of Oakland and Berkeley, reported a 22% increase since 2019 for a total of nearly 9,800 people but says the uptick could have been much higher. Officials said much of the increase was driven by a nearly 40% rise in people living in vehicles, including cars and RVs.
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The San Francisco Bay Area “staved off a catastrophic increase in homelessness” over the last three years, said regional housing advocacy group group All Home in a statement released Monday.
“Bay Area governments and nonprofits played deep defense on homelessness during the pandemic and we have more or less held the line — but now we need to go on offense and end the suffering on our streets” said Tomiquia Moss, the nonprofit group’s founder and CEO.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom has made solving homelessness a priority of his administration, and launched projects to provide money to cities and counties to convert motels and other commercial properties to house people.
Last year, the Legislature approved his plan for $12 billion for new housing and treatment beds for the homeless and this year Newsom has proposed an additional $2 billion, largely for people who are both homeless and in need of help for severe mental health diagnoses.
The Feb. 23 count in San Francisco found 7,754 people living in shelters, vehicles or outdoors, down from 8,035 in 2019 but still more than the nearly 6,900 reported in 2017.
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