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San Francisco homelessness reaches 10 year low, tents down 41%

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San Francisco’s latest homeless count shows the consolidated city-county’s street homelessness at a 10 year low, with earlier reports finding there are 41% fewer tents than in July 2023. The city found 2,912 individuals living on the streets, a 13% decrease from the year before, suggesting the city’s efforts to move individuals inside is yielding results.

“We are working every day to move people off our streets and into shelter, housing, and care,” said Mayor London Breed in a statement. “This is safer and healthier for people on our streets, and it is better for all of us that want a cleaner and safer San Francisco.”

In March, San Francisco voters passed a measure to require substance abuse screening and treatment to receive cash welfare and allow officers to pursue suspects of felonies and violent misdemeanors, including retail theft. These measures, along with proposed economic reforms such as proposing to removing San Francisco from California Coastal Commision oversight to increase housing production, and cutting the “Overpaid Executive Tax” by 80%, seem to be making a difference; new U.S. Census Bureau data says San Francisco has ended its years-long population decline in 2023, slightly growing after falling from 874,000 in 2020 to 808,000 in 2022.

Challenges for the city still remain,as homeless individuals refuse six out of ten offers of shelter. These “service resistant” individuals could soon be forced into treatment for substance abuse or behavioral or mental health issues under SB 43, a bill championed by California Governor Gavin Newsom. SB 43 expanded conservatorship, or when the state appoints someone to make decisions about a person’s care and needs, to include individuals unable to provide for themselves due to severe substance abuse or mental health issues.

Newsom is supporting a United State Supreme Court case currently under review that could end the 9th Circuit’s rulings restricting anti-camping ordinances in areas that do not have shelter beds available for their entire homeless populations. If the 9th Circuit’s rulings are overturned as Newsom hopes, cities would likely be able to enact greater restrictions on where homeless individuals are allowed to set up encampments on public property.