This year brought some welcome news for the city of San Francisco: Preliminary data from the city’s 2022 Point-In-Time (PIT) count shows a 15% decrease in unsheltered homelessness across San Francisco since the 2019 count.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) requires communities that receive federal funding for homeless services to conduct regular counts of people experiencing sheltered and unsheltered homelessness. These counts provide a helpful basis for comparison across communities, but there are also limitations to what the counts can capture. For one, PIT counts are a one-night snapshot of people estimated to be experiencing homelessness. PIT counts do not provide an annualized estimate of the number of people who cycle in and out of homelessness. For another, PIT counts hew to HUD’s definition of homelessness, so they center around a visual, street-based count and a shelter census on a single night. The counts do not include people who are living in overcrowded or doubled-up conditions, as many families do. The counts also tend to miss families and young people who are “hiding in plain sight” (e.g., families who are living in vehicles but doing so in more hidden locations). In San Francisco, the PIT count usually counts about 200 families experiencing homelessness, the overwhelming majority of them living in shelters on the night of the count.
Other findings in this year's PIT Count include a 3.5% decrease in total homelessness, as well as decreases in youth and family homelessness. The number of people staying in shelters increased by 18% from 2,855 to 3,357 people. Furthermore, 43% of the homeless population was sheltered, an increase from 36% from the last PIT count, reflecting new investments in urgently needed shelter programs.
To be sure, the City has invested heavily in reducing unsheltered homelessness over the past two years, using Proposition C funds alongside federal pandemic relief money, which funded the operations of shelter-in-place (SIP) hotels for people experiencing homelessness during the pandemic. The 2022 preliminary PIT Count results “show that investments work, and change takes time,” according to Compass Director of External Affairs and Policy, Mary Kate Bacalao. It will take some time to see impact from the parallel investments the City is making in permanent housing and behavioral health.
As Compass and other organizations work alongside the City to continue to address these issues, it is important that investments be sustainable for the service providers operating essential programs. “Program expansions must be funded at cost, and public grants and contracts must support a Bay Area living wage for frontline workers who show up every day for unhoused residents with complex health and mental health needs,” says Bacalao.
Compass continues to work with City leaders on our shared goals to find a permanent long term solution to homelessness, by fulfilling the individual needs of all of the families we serve and, in the process, making San Francisco and the Bay Area a better place.