Homeless person in front of San Francisco City Hall.

A homeless person sleeps in front of San Francisco City Hall. Photo courtesy San Francisco Chronicle.

SF Homeless Project Aims to Change how Homelessness is Viewed — and Resolved

This week, Wear Your Voice is joining 70 other media organizations around the San Francisco Bay Area to dedicate coverage to the region’s homelessness problem. Our coverage will include essays from women who are currently or formerly homeless.

This massive project is being spearheaded by the San Francisco Chronicle in an effort to put pressure on leaders and other officials to fix institutional problems that have left so many vulnerable people on the streets, living in cars or couch-surfing.

The Chronicle’s Kevin Fagan, who has spent a great deal of time among San Francisco’s homeless, wrote in the newspaper yesterday that although the city’s official homeless population count is roughly 6,700, many believe the number of unhoused people in the City by the Bay is much larger. “Whatever the case, homelessness in San Francisco doesn’t look much different than it did 10 years ago. Or 20,” he writes.

Related: Dear San Francisco Bay Area: Our Homelessness Problem Is Unconscionable. Let’s Fix It.

Mayor after mayor has tried to throw money and solutions at the problem. These efforts have indeed resulted in more people being housed, but depressingly large numbers of people remain homeless.

“There’s a mythology that you can, quote unquote, end homelessness at any moment,” former mayor Gavin Newsom said in 2014. “But there are new people coming in, suffering through the cycles of their lives. It’s the manifestation of complete, abject failure as a society. We’ll never solve this at City Hall.”

Fagan writes:

The situation could be dramatically improved through new private-public funding models, cheaper forms of modular housing, and streamlining techniques for helping people move out of supportive housing after they’ve been stabilized.

If the city’s shelters were expanded by hundreds of beds, and fashioned more along the lines of the 15-month-old Navigation Center, they could finally become the routing tools into housing that Agnos envisioned a quarter-century ago. The center at Mission and 16th streets takes in street campers with their partners, pets and gear and surrounds them with case managers to help them get their lives together quickly. The city is already moving toward change: A second center is scheduled to open at Market and 12th streets this week, and the Board of Supervisors has voted to open five more Navigation Centers over the next two years.

Time will tell whether it will be enough.

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