Proyecto Dignidad
Homeless encampment on Shotwell. May 2021. Photo by Lydia Chávez

While the overall rate of homelessness has decreased in San Francisco, it surged by 55 percent for Latinx residents, according to the final results of the 2022 Point in Time (PIT) survey count. 

The count was the first since 2019.  

% of city vs % of homeless population

45

40

35

Black people make

up only 6% of the

city, but 38% of the

homeless population

30

25

20

15

10

5

0

Asian

Other

Black

White

Latinx

Demographics

% of city vs % of homeless population

25

30

35

45

0

5

10

15

20

40

White

Asian

Latinx

Black

Black people make up only

6% of the city, but 38% of

the homeless population

Other

Chart by Will Jarrett. Data from the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing. Note that the Latinx population is calculated separately, so overall city and homeless populations will not equal 100 percent.

Using the 2012 supervisorial district boundaries, District 9’s homeless population remained consistent over the past three years. But the count of visible, unsheltered homeless people doubled here from 257 in 2019 to 522 in 2022.

Despite the sharp increase of homelessness in the Latinx community, the PIT results found that San Francisco’s overall homeless rate decreased by 3.5 percent since 2019. 

The count also found increases in both the number of sheltered homeless residents — those staying in emergency housing and transitional shelters –  and unsheltered residents — those sleeping in places not meant for human habitation. 

Citywide, there was a 47 percent increase in the number of sheltered homeless Latinx residents, and a 59 percent increase in the number of unsheltered Latinx residents. Most of the increase in homelessness in the Latinx community was in the adult population.

Homeless people

0

2,000

3,000

4,000

1,000

2019

District 1

2022

District 2

District 3

District 4

District 5

District 6

District 7

District 8

District 9

District 10

District 11

Homeless people

0

1,000

2,000

3,000

4,000

2019

District 1

2022

District 2

District 3

District 4

District 5

District 6

District 7

District 8

District 9

District 10

District 11

Chart by Will Jarrett. Data from the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing. Note that the PIT count took place before redistricting, so these are the old district boundaries.

Currently, Latinx residents are less likely to be sheltered than the total homeless population. The total homeless population is sheltered at a rate of 43 percent, while the Latinx population is sheltered at a rate of 36 percent.  

Francisco Herrera, co-director of the San Francisco Day Labor Program, said community advocates “have been telling the city for years that this is coming. Now the results are in. … It has a lot to do with policy and real estate influence, which is a pipeline to homelessness.”

He said different groups are addressing the issue, including the Latino Task Force and United to Save the Mission.

The Covid-19 pandemic just happened to be the tipping point.

Jennifer Friedenbach, executive director of the Coalition on Homelessness, attributed the increase in Latinx homelessness to a predominance of English-speaking shelters and a lack of housing pathways and culturally competent services for Latinx individuals.

Friedenbach also pointed to the high number of Latinx individuals living together without a formal lease, and the economic impacts of the pandemic.

The Latino Task Force issued a statement blaming the increase on housing policies that continue “to prioritize market-rate development over the needs of working-class BIPOC families.” 

The PIT count is a federally mandated survey of homeless populations across the country. The survey is conducted at a minimum of once every other year. However, due to the pandemic, the 2021 survey was delayed to 2022.

The PIT survey does not go into detail about why Latinx individuals are disproportionately affected by homelessness, but previous work by the Latino Task Force’s Street Needs Assessment Teams survey reveals that a significant number of Mission residents became homeless during the pandemic

Although the PIT count reveals important data on the state of homelessness in San Francisco, the survey also has its limitations. The survey is just a snapshot of one single night in San Francisco, meaning that it may not count people who were homeless for a short time, but then got back on their feet. 

The PIT survey also focuses on those who are living on the streets or in shelters, meaning that certain living situations, such as couch-surfing or doubling up, are not counted. This information is particularly crucial for not only understanding homelessness in Latinx communities, but also ensuring that these individuals get the services they need. 

“In our culture, many people find a way to not be on the streets. You live in a car or a garage or a yard,” Richard Ybarra, CEO of Mission Neighborhood Centers, said. Ybarra has seen the impact of what happens when people who are couch-surfing or living in garages, but are excluded from the definition of homelessness. 

When the housing units at 24th and Harrison streets opened, Mission Neighborhood Centers submitted a list of names of individuals who needed housing.  “Our staff submitted all these names, and none of them were accepted,” Ybarra said. 

He later found out that these individuals were rejected because they did not fit that property’s definition for homeless. “The criteria for that project was the same as it was citywide, which is that the first priority is given to people who are homeless,” Ybarra said. 

He thinks that, of the 25 individuals Mission Neighborhood Centers suggested, only around 13 were ever helped. 

As a result, Ybarra suggested to city officials last week that the city’s definition of homeless be expanded. 

Fitting into the city’s definition of homeless is not the only challenge unhoused Latinx individuals face. Advocates pointed to a lack of coordinated entry points: Access points that assess, prioritize and match people experiencing homelessness to housing opportunities. There are not enough in the Mission, they said.  

For much of the Latinx population in the Mission, the neighborhood is their home, regardless of housing status. As the Latino Task Force previously reported in its Street Needs Assessment Report, many choose to remain in the neighborhood, even if they are offered shelter or housing in other neighborhoods, such as the Tenderloin or SoMa.

Currently, the Mission only has a coordinated entry point for homeless families at Catholic Charities at 10th and Mission streets, but not one just for adults. A new coordinated entry point for adults will open in the Mission in the fall, which advocates see as crucial.

Advocates would also like to see a “no wrong door for housing” policy, which would allow individuals to go to any trusted organization in their community to get a pathway to housing. 

“It appears that we have enough resources dedicated to these purposes, but it’s not showing in the final results. I know we are incrementally improving in the city, but that incremental improvement is somewhat slow in coming,” Ybarra said. “My sort of personal bottom line is that, at some time, we have to not be okay that we have so many people homeless.”

Map by Will Jarrett. Basemap from Mapbox. Data from the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing.

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Intern reporter. Carolyn grew up in Los Angeles. She previously served as a desk editor for her college newspaper The Stanford Daily. When she's not reporting, you can find her going on an unnecessarily long walk.

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  1. How is it possible to have this conversation without addressing immigration? The Chronicle reported on this exact same issue and said in their report that the Latino focused shelter was 75% recently arrived migrants. How can we be responsible for housing and feeding everyone from a foreign country who makes their way to SF?

  2. “In our culture, many people find a way to not be on the streets. You live in a car or a garage or a yard,”

    Pretty sure this applies to all cultures…..

    No talk in the article about the sanctuary city being an attractive nuisance to draw in cheap labor and scare said cheap labor from leaving for fear of deportation. Come to San Francisco where you won’t get deported, but you will be forced to work for subpar wages and live in crowded unsanitary conditions. Allowing folks to live under the radar is not compassion, it’s exploitation.

  3. “Latino Task Force and United to Save the Mission”

    Are all city funded nonprofits. USM has been granted status by Supervisor Ronen to run the table over and above residents when it comes to matters of land use and approvals in the Mission.

    LTF celebrated that they effectively gave expendable Latino workers tylenol during the pandemic while doing nothing to mitigate crowded living conditions.

    The nonprofit class signed onto luxury condo upzonings that were about 7:1 luxe:inclusionary in order to access community benefits. They’d opened the door to turbocharged gentrification with paltry mitigations in order to keep their good thing going.

    How many more bites at the apple does this crowd expect? Oppressed constituencies are kept in a weakened state by these nonprofits so as to insulate city government from direct challenge. Empowering the oppressed would also risk the nonprofits’ good thing.

  4. It’s a perfect example of cognitive dissonance, that people who traveled 2,700 miles for allegedly a better shot at a good life, can’t bother to travel 90 miles to Modesto.

  5. The “homeless” are not “residents”, by definition you have to have a residence to be a resident. They are … vagrants. Progressives want to redefine everything with toxic and disastrous results for society. The guardrails have been removed and society can careen over the cliff, because vagrant enabling is impossible to stop. It just builds exponentially until vagrants and the drug addled are every where, no matter how many billions are spent. Even the housed former vagrants (26,000 of them) are still a big problem to manage, with their uncivilized behavior. Vagrant enabling kills cities ! San Francisco is now a dead city walking!