Myth: Homeless people in San Francisco come from elsewhere.
Fact: 69% of people had housing in San Francisco before they became homeless and 72% of those people have been in San Francisco for at least five years.
Myth: There are significantly more homeless people in San Francisco than there were just a few years ago.
Fact: The total homeless population in San Francisco is slightly smaller than it was three years ago (7,499 in 2017 down from 7,539 in 2015). It can seem like there are more homeless folks now because there are fewer places for them to live peacefully due the current construction boom and more laws specifically controlling where they can and cannot rest in public.
Myth: Homeless youth don’t work and need to get jobs.
Fact: 68% of homeless youth surveyed in the 2017 San Francisco Point In Time Count were working or enrolled in school. 67% of ATC clients are currently working and 76% of our long-term counseling clients have improved their legal income. In a rental market where the median price for a studio is more than $2,000, youth who work minimum wage jobs ($15 per hour) find it difficult to secure stable housing.
Myth: Homelessness is the result of personal failure and bad decisions.
Fact: People become homeless due to a combination of economic, social, and health-related factors. Once someone loses stable housing it’s extremely difficult to build and sustain a healthy life, but long-term unconditional support can make this more accessible. More than 90% of ATC’s counseling clients achieve one or more of their goals, including finding stable housing, addressing substance use issues, improving their health, or finding employment.
Myth: The situation is hopeless.
Fact: Homelessness is a complex issue but it is far from hopeless. There are dozens of local organizations working to support people who are currently homeless as well as working to prevent homelessness in the first place by addressing its systemic causes. At The Crossroads focuses on supporting disconnected homeless youth and working with them to build healthy and fulfilling lives. Other agencies focus on goals like empowering incarcerated people to earn high school diplomas (Five Keys Charter School), making medical and mental health care more accessible (Homeless Youth Alliance), caring for chronically homeless veterans, providing mobile shower facilities (Lava Mae), working on public policy at the local and state levels, and there’s even a group that provides pet food for the companion animals of homeless folks (Project Open Paw), just to name a few.
Myth: There is nothing I can do.
Fact: There are so many ways to get involved and make a difference. Donate money or volunteer with an organization supporting homeless folks. Educate yourself on the systemic causes of homelessness and on laws that impact the homeless population. Last but not least, get to know the homeless people in the neighborhoods where you live and work. As Mary Howe, Executive Director of Homeless Youth Alliance says, “The gift of acknowledgment and a little conversation has the power to give people their value back that has been taken from them by being ignored day after day.”