catherinejanem's picture

I've lived in this city off and on for about 15 years, and many of those years have been spent in various homes in Civic Center.  We have a number of programs that have developed over the years to address the problem, but it seems to me that we are a long long way from solving it.  Is this an issue that will mark San Francisco forever?  Would there be a better chance of solving the problem if we could reach homeless people within their first year on the streets? What would a targeted program look like?

km123's picture

Re: Homelessness

Homelessness is a growing problem - and it's an issue that too many politicians avoid and sweep under the rug like it doesn't exist.

What do you think about Sit-Lie? Could it really help or would it just create new problems?

I've talked to a few shop owners and they say that they spray the sidewalk with a hose every morning because then the drifters and homeless won't perch outside their door. Sounds like a pretty simple, short-term fix.

Nick Vojdani's picture

Out of sight, out of mind.

I think that the only way of truly addressing homelessness is to do it before people become homeless. There are structural issues that need to be addressed. Once people become homeless there is a lot less that can be done, it is much more difficult to rehabilitate someone at that point. The Sit-Lie idea doesn't really address anything beyond neighborhood aesthetics. No one likes homeless people sitting in front of stores, but I'm not sure making it illegal is doing anything to address the problem of homelessness. Also, I think trying to reach people in their first year of homelessness is good, but I'm not sure its early enough. 

Lefkos's picture


I don't think we can think of homelessness as one monolithic problem.  Having lived near 6th and Natoma now for a number of years it's clear that there are several populations that need different approaches.  First,  there are the obvious problems with individuals who are clearly mentally ill, addicted,  sleeping, defecating etc on the street and have no investment in their neighborhood.  I think this is a minority of the homeless population but obviously gets a lot of attention is just the most visible tip of homelessness..  The larger group is individuals who are struggling to keep a roof over their heads,  would like a safe environment for their kids and if lucky have jobs that probably pay less then living wages.  

For the first group-they are clearly not able to care for them selves and the city needs to provide a safe clean living environment that they are required to live in-sorry if that goes against personal freedom etc,  but as a citizen I think I also have a right to a clean safe neighborhood where I don't have to scrape poop and vomit of the sidewalk every morning.  And it would certainly be less expensive than repeatedly scraping folks off the side walk for emergency room visits .  As a City we need to say that it's not OK to live on the street-our homeless animals get better treatment then homeless citizens. This is the group that the Sit-Lie idea would probably be the most effective for.

For the second group,  subsidized housing, rent, child care and educational/vocational opportunities provided by the city would hopefully give people a chance to get on their fee and into the work force.  I would target resources primarily to this group as they are the ones most likely to be successful in getting out of the homeless spiral



Bradixp's picture

Used to have Empathy

I really used to have empathy for the homeless.  I would volunteer, help at shelters, let the guy have shelter in the doorway every now and again.  But after being spit on by a homeless guy in the financial district, cleaning up excrement by my house in the mission, and being cursed out by a woman sleeping on my car... I have just had enough.

I want a solution now, not some giant social change.  Put them in camps in the city, ship them out to death valley, or use them as barriers on the golden gate... I just don't care anymore.  Some people simply cannot be helped, why should we have to deal with them.


Get them out of the city or contained.

gcotter's picture

Take care of SF homeless --ONLY


San Francisco has one of the highest homeless populations in the country.  One reason is because we provide so many services - which is not a bad thing - but this encourages people from other parts of the country to come here when they become down and out.  Some come from the East or Midwest and some come from other parts of California.  

Each year SF publishes how many people have been gotten off the streets and into housing.  Yet, magically,  the number of people who are homeless never decreases.  Somehow, no matter how much housing is found and how many homeless are housed, the number of homeless seems to remain at 6,000 - 8,000 (depending on who's counting).  One would think that if we provide housing for 1,000 a year that in 8 years we'd have no more homeless.  But we can barely stay even.  

We are and should be responsible for taking care of homeless people who became homeless while they were living in SF.  But people who became homeless when they lost their job in NY, Texas, AZ, etc., should be utilizing the homeless services back where they lived when they became homeless.  It isn't fair to SF residents to be expected to take care of our homeless and the homeless from the rest of the country.

All of the agencies receiving any contracts or grants from the City (i.e., MY tax dollars) should have a process in place that validates that the homeless person being provided with food or services is really a San Franciscan.  Do they have any ID that shows they had a valid residence in SF before they became homeless?  Driver's license, old pay stub, rent receipt, utility bill? Sure, lots of people become homeless while living in SF and we should do our darndest to help them.  But, if they arrived in SF already homeless, the City will already give them a one way ticket home.


We need to help San Francisco's homeless, but we give money to too many different groups and we do not have any residency tests that enable us to help only SF homeless - instead we help homeless from all over the bay area, the state and the country.  Just because they manage to get to SF while homeless doesn't make us responsible for them.  Sorry, but if you were living in LA and became homeless there, it doesn't mean you are entitled to help in SF - other than a one-way ticket back to LA.

Cruel, heartless, yes.  Fair to SF taxpayers, also yes.  Lose your job, your apartment, your income while you are housed in SF and sure, we'll help you out, but I would cut the strings to any group that doesn't have a way to only help people who were residents of SF when they became homeless. 

And for those who want to help other homeless, then kindly donate your money to one of the churches or other groups that doesn't take any city funding.  City funding for city residents.  Only.

TomKelley's picture


How do you know these bums are really homeless or are just out panhandling for the day / night? The SOR's (single occupancy rooms) are full of bums in the Tenderloin, therefore y definition not homeless; just lazy bums. So, before you dignify a bum's existence by calling him / her "homeless," stop and ask if they really are ! Have a nice day. 

joe1967's picture

I was homeless

I was homeless.  I had been homeless for 20 years.  Kicked out of a dysfunctional house at the age of 17.  Life to me was homeless camps, soup lines, drugs and jails.  I was convinced I would die or be killed in this lifestyle.  I was convinced I was insane. I was convinced that my lot was my fault and that there was no way out.

At the age of 37 I was approached by the HOT team.  Homeless out reach team.  These folks  gave me a hotel room Set me up with medical and psychiatric providers.  Who in turn diagnosed me with severe PTSD.  It was here I learned that at the age of 7 there was nothing I could have done to deserve to be beaten with a leather belt to the point that blood welts were left on my body.  This is how my parents treated me.  My grandfather  did worse.  This is not the appropriate format  so I will not go into details.

Currently I am in therapy with a short term goal of going to City Collage next semester.  I live in a real apartment  I have hope that in 18 months I can be gainfully employed.  None of this would be possible with out the programs currently at work in the city.  The Homeless Outreach Team makes a difference with the city's chronically homeless.

Their is another program called The Forensic team They are from UCSF.  They work the mental health side,  I am forever in their debt. 

Bottom line there are programs that work well in this city.  I hope they are never given up on.

Lucy in the sky's picture

Teach a man to fish

Teach a man to fish and he'll never need a handout.

Daliyah's picture

help needed

All of us are in some state of brokenness, but the brokenness differs much for each of us as with each homeless person.  Our city programs need to look closely and with much care for each homeless person and deal with the different issues that need to be addressed.  This will take good case management.  Life is precious and we need to focus on what interventions can help save lives and make the homeless productive.

gcotter's picture

Send the Homeless Home!

In today's Chronicle there is a story about the cost of McDonalds being too high for the homeless.  It actually states:

"Still, people like Newhart, who moved from Tennessee to the streets of San Francisco five years ago, say they are often hungrier than usual."

Hello?  Anyone out there realize what is being said here?  These are NOT San Francisco's Homeless! These are the homeless from all over America who come here for our homeless programs. Let this Tennessee guy get his meals at a McDonalds in Tennessee!

I KNOW the City has - or used to have - a program to provide homeless with a one-way ticket home.  It was voluntary and the person needed to have family back home.  I think we should strengthen that program and send the homeless back to their real homes. period.  Let the state or city that made them homeless take care of them.

I am more than willing to contribute to those citizens of SF who became homeless while they were living here.  Education, job training, child care, housing, food - whatever it takes to care for OUR city's homeless.  But I draw the line there.  You lose your job and home in Tennessee, it's really sad.  But you should get your low cost Dollar Menu meals in Tennessee.  And your city sponsored programs and your subsidies and counseling and training and everything else in Tennessee.  

San Francisco is a generous, caring and compassionate city.  But compassion can only go so far, and taking care of our own needs to come first - charity begins at home.

One way ticket home - change we can count on!

hsparks's picture

gnerosity and humanity

g cotter, you are possibly the most vocal and uninformed person on this site-- you want to send the homeless home? Most homeless become homeless because to some degree or another they are escaping bad situations like physical and//or emotional abuse, cultural intolerance, and poverty in communities where there are no jobs.

This is a complex social problem in a city with one of the wealthiest populations in the world. This is a great town for fundraising for sexy causes, or causes that affect the privileged, and yet with all of the money in SF, very few fundraising efforts are directed toward supporting real services for the homeless.

Newsom cut vouchers after he campaigned with the tag line "services not vouchers". Where are the services? A doctor who works with SF General's Mental Health Wing, opens his home to throw fundraising parties that support mental health services for low income people and the homeless, but I know of no one else who does this in a city that loves to throw parties and celebrate it's wealth.

San Francisco could set an example for the rest of the United States, but unfortunately some San Franciscan's would prefer to stay insulated within their privilege, and criminalize the homeless rather than behave with generosity and humanity.

sunny's picture

Thank you so much for sharing

Thank you so much for sharing your story joe 1967.

gcotter's picture

To Sunny

I don't disagree with your goals or desires - I just disagree about who pays for them.  My references to donations out of the area was because you opined that people came here from other places because other places couldn't provide for them - my comment was meant to show that money can be donated to other areas so they can take care of their own.   As for San Francisco, I gave blood last week following the San Bruno fire because that took blood away from the city.  The same day I also dropped off cookies at the fire house to say "Thanks."  I delivered meals for Project Open Hand for 10 years, spent 3 years on the Board of the San Francisco AIDS Foundation, and I've done other volunteer activities and made many personal donations to local organizations.  Usually once a week I'm out painting over the graffiti in my neighborhood.  I can and have given to San Francisco as, I'm sure, you and everyone who posts on this site have done.

But the city has a budget problem.  There isn't enough money to pay for all the items you and I and others would like to see done.  We are a rich city but we also have one of the highest per capita budgets of any city in the US.  We used to have the highest but I think New York caught up.  Our per capita budget is over $8,000.   We have a city budget of $6,500,000,000 for a city of 810,000 people.  We must examine where our money goes and allocate it rationally.  

You and I may never agree on some aspects of allocation.  That's OK.  Each different cause each needs a cadre of passionate supporters or some important needs wouldn't be addressed at all.

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