San Francisco's homeless population has swelled by 17% in two years, with most of that growth coming from people living out of their cars


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  • A preliminary one-night tally of San Francisco’s homeless population taken in January was cast at 8,011, up 17% from two years ago according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
  • A key reason for the increase is a 45% rise in people in the city living out of vehicles, such as RVs.
  • The increased street count shows how San Francisco’s long-standing homelessness crisis is worsening.
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San Francisco has long dealt with a homelessness crisis, exacerbated in part by the region’s technology boom and housing shortage, but a new street count of the city’s homeless shows just how bad it’s gotten.

An early summary of a one-night tally taken in January cast San Francisco’s homeless population at 8,011 — up 17% from two years ago, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. A key cause of the increase is a 45% rise in people living out of vehicles in the last two years.

But even the 8,011 count may not tell the whole story.

Federal guidelines are used to calculate these preliminary totals, not city guidelines, which include more nuanced classifications of homelessness, according to the Chronicle. So the actual count will likely be higher — like it was in 2017 when a preliminary street count of 6,858 preceded a more complete total of 7,499.

There were, however, a few positive changes in the preliminary report — the number of homeless veterans decreased by 14% and the number of homeless youths went down by 10%.

Nevertheless, the data is a grim reminder that San Francisco’s homelessness problem is not improving, especially at a time when another wave of wealth is expected to soon wash over the city. Multiple tech companies, including ride-sharing giant Uber, are gearing up for their 2019 IPOs, which could potentially result in a widened existing income inequity gap.

San Francisco has drummed up a number of solutions in recent years to battle its homelessness crisis. A bill passed in November, Proposition C, is expected to raise $300 million for homeless programs by raising taxes on tech companies. And plans for a 200-bed homeless shelter is in talks to go up along the city’s Embarcadero, angering some nearby neighbors who are protesting its construction. 

The state of California as a whole is also grappling with a homelessness problem — 24% of the total homeless population in the US lives in California.

SEE ALSO: San Francisco’s housing crisis is so out of control that one of the city’s last districts seized by big tech boasts ‘cheap’ homes priced at $800,000 — here’s what the neighborhood is like

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