San Francisco recently released the results of its 2019 point-in-time homeless census conducted in January, and the news appeared nothing less than disastrous, as SF’s homeless headcount increased by the hundreds despite the city’s seemingly ceaseless efforts to provide relief.
However, the San Francisco count alone does not provide the whole story. The 2019 homelessness spike in SF came amid a tide of similar baleful results across the Bay Area.
Five out of nine Bay Area Counties—i.e., all of those not located in the North Bay—saw their homeless counts spike during the same period, with each other county showing worse homelessness surges than SF:
- To review, San Francisco’s report to the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development cited a count of 8,011 homeless persons, an increase of 6.8 percent from 7,499 in 2017. Note that the city’s own internal count is higher (at more than 9.700 persons) because SF uses a broader definition of who counts as homeless. Since that standard is unique to San Francisco, it’s hard to compare the figure with other counties. [Correction: The count submitted to HUD for 2017 count was 6,858, making for a 16.8 percent increase over two years. The 7,499 figure was the local count.]
- San Mateo County’s homeless count spiked up to 1,512, more than 20 percent more than the 1,253 count from two years ago, and up from 1,483 in 2015.
- Santa Clara County reported a count of 9,706 for 2019. In 2017, the count was 7,394, making for an increase of more than 31 percent. But in 2015, the homelessness estimate was 6,556. Note that although Santa Clara County has a higher homeless population than SF it also has about double the general population of SF County, at more than 1.9 million.
- Alameda County’s figure came in at 8,022, up 42.5-plus percent from 2017’s figure of 5,629. On a slighter longer timeline, the increase is even worse, as this latest count is nearly double that of the 4,040 in 2015. Like Santa Clara County, Alameda has a larger homeless population but also more people in general, meaning that SF’s per capita homelessness rate remains the highest in the Bay Area.
- Contra Costa County saw a similar surge, spiking up to 2,295. That’s 42.8 percent more than the previous count of 1,607, although that count was down significantly from 2,030 in 2015. Since Contra Costa County conducts its counts annually, we see from the 2018 report that almost all of that rise happened between 2017 and 2018 when the figure was 2,234.