Why Are So Many People Homeless in San Francisco?

Mar 24, 2015 · 2 min read

There isn’t just one cause for homelessness in San Francisco, or across the US. Homelessness also isn’t just one thing, and can impact individuals, families, and youth differently. As we work together to create new solutions to poverty, it’s important to understand the complicated history.

At , HandUp CEO and Co-founder Rose Broome gave an overview of why there are so many people homeless in San Francisco. Watch the talk, and read more into the statistics, concepts, and policies mentioned by Rose below.

Myth busters

Myth: People don’t want help, they want to sleep on the street.

Truth: There is a serious shortage of housing in the Bay Area. Shelters and housing programs are completely full. On any given night there are over 6,500 people experiencing homelessness with under 1,200 available shelter beds.

Myth: People who are homeless in San Francisco aren’t from here, they move here for the services.

Truth: According to the Mayor’s Office, 61% of people in San Francisco became homeless while living and working in the Bay Area.

Myth: Homeless people all have substance abuse issues.

Homelessness isn’t one thing — it’s complicated. 80% of homeless people are actually homeless for a short amount of time. Only 10% of this population is chronically homeless, with a higher possibility of mental health and substance abuse issues.

General state of homelessness

There are 3.5 million people who experience homelessness every year in America.

46 million people live under poverty line, that’s $27,000 a year for a family of four.

In June of 2004, Gavin Newsom released the . 10 years later we saw a 28% reduction, but we are still nowhere near abolishing.

Why does homelessness exist?

US Mayors say top causes of homelessness are lack of housing, unemployment and poverty.

points to a concentration of wealth, their primary concern focused on how large corporations control the world in a way that disproportionately benefits a minority and undermines democracy.

and author of Capital in the 21st Century believes capitalism is the source of inequality across the world. It can only be reversed by a governmental imposed redistribution of wealth.

Some point to Reagan Era policy decisions like , and budget cuts in mental health care and other domestic programs.

New solutions to homelessness are within our reach

a school of thought or theory of change that focuses on providing those experiencing homelessness with housing as quickly as possible — and then providing services as needed.

— an event founded in San Francisco that brings homeless services together in one place on one day, four times a year. This model is now replicated in 200 cities across the country.

— donate directly to a homeless person or neighbor in need

a form of social security that grants an income unconditionally to all on an individual basis, without means test or work requirement.

Conscious by HandUp

Leveraging the power of technology and human relationships to alleviate urban poverty


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Direct giving to homeless people and neighbors in need.

Conscious by HandUp

Leveraging the power of technology and human relationships to alleviate urban poverty