As seen on 18th and Bryant, 2017. Photo by Lydia Chávez

An intriguing poll released yesterday by the nonprofit Tipping Point Community should provide some ammunition for politicians and community leaders fighting to expand homeless services and housing across San Francisco. 

The poll, conducted by EMC Research in late 2019, queried just shy of 1,200 San Franciscans. And, counter-intuitively, a full 69 percent of respondents favored “building housing with supportive services in my neighborhood to house up to 100 people experiencing homelessness.” (emphasis ours)

The poll finds 72 percent support for simply giving homes to the homeless — everywhere: “providing homes and services for people experiencing homelessness in every San Francisco neighborhood.” Providing Section 8 rental vouchers for homeless people met with 76 percent approval. 

The goal of this polling, said Tipping Point communications manager Matt Menezes, was to “activate neighborhood support for housing in every district of the city — specifically in housing people in homes that already exist and helping them afford rent and helping with whatever supportive services they need.” 

This polling, he continued, “demonstrates support for this type of solution is widespread” and can help “overwhelm and outweigh any neighborhood opposition by activating this larger silent majority.” 

Tipping Point in 2017 put $100 million into an ongoing effort to reduce chronic homelessness by half — the largest donation of this kind to date.

Homelessness was, far and away, the No. 1 concern of respondents in the 2019 Tipping Point poll. A whopping 97 percent of city residents were “concerned” and 90 percent were “very concerned.” Accordingly, 91 percent were concerned about “cost of housing” and 90 percent were concerned about “cost of living” (73 percent and 70 percent, respectively, were “very concerned” about those issues). 

Public safety trailed far behind as a concern, with 80 percent overall and 46 percent “very” concerned. Other worries included transportation (78 percent concerned, 39 percent very concerned); education (62 percent concerned, 31 percent very concerned) and the economy and jobs (45 percent concerned, 19 percent very concerned). 

While support for building or otherwise providing homes for the homeless was lower in the city’s more residential districts, “it wasn’t by as much as you’d think,” noted Menezes. 

The 69 percent tally among San Franciscans asked if they’d support the construction of supportive housing in their neighborhoods is a blend of residents from across the city. But the variances weren’t wildly apart. In the south (districts 10 and 11) 72 percent said yes; in the northeast (Districts 2, 3, 5, 6) it was 70 percent; in the west (Districts 1, 4, 7) it was 68 percent; and in the central (Districts 8 and 9) it was 64 percent. 

The message to anyone pushing for such housing in their neighborhood, says Menezes: “You are super not-alone.” 

The poll results were particularly gratifying for Supervisor Matt Haney, who has penned legislation to mandate a Navigation Center in every city district.

“I think this means that people are ready for solutions. Sometimes we get stuck on this narrative that people are opposed to everything in their backyards. That’s often not true,” he said. “This makes me feel like we’re on the right path. I hope the mayor sees this. I hope the Department [of Homelessness and Supportive Housing] sees this. And I hope my colleagues see this.”

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Managing Editor/Columnist. Joe was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left.

“Your humble narrator” was a writer and columnist for SF Weekly from 2007 to 2015, and a senior editor at San Francisco Magazine from 2015 to 2017. You may also have read his work in the Guardian (U.S. and U.K.); San Francisco Public Press; San Francisco Chronicle; San Francisco Examiner; Dallas Morning News; and elsewhere.

He resides in the Excelsior with his wife and three (!) kids, 4.3 miles from his birthplace and 5,474 from hers.

The Northern California branch of the Society of Professional Journalists named Eskenazi the 2019 Journalist of the Year.

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  1. 69 percent… haha. This is a misleading poll. Poll must be amended with:
    Are you willing to see occasional defecation and drugs around your block,
    and periodic yelling, fights, as well as semi permanent tents, with possible bicycle dismantling,
    And a lot of litter, old clothes, tarps, food trash etc around the streets you love
    All of these we’ve seen where homelesses flock

  2. Did the poll ask if people were OK with semi-permanent sidewalk tent camps in their neighborhood?

  3. I don’t read the poll’s text “building housing with supportive services” as the same thing as building a navigation center (which is more like shelter, rather than housing) and conjures up images of masses of homeless milling about outside with carts of various and sundry possessions — so Haney had better not be surprised if he doesn’t get support for navigation centers in every neighborhood.

    1. Everyone should be supporting navigation centers in every neighborhood. As far as navigations centers having “masses of homeless milling about” – I live around the corner from where the navigation center was (and still should be) at 26th and S. Van Ness. I *never* saw people hanging around outside on that corner. People would camp along 26th St before the navigation center opened but it was kept clean and clear when it was operating. Real shame that it’s not still open since that building has been sitting empty for at least a year now.

      1. It is highly ironic that the city keeps the area around Nav Centers free of other homeless people.