S.F. homeless numbers flat but more living on streets 

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  • Cindy Chew/2008 S.F. Examiner file photo
  • The homelessness survey showed 3,401 people living on city streets.

There are more people with mental illnesses, substance-abuse problems and physical disabilities on San Francisco's streets than there were two years ago, according to new city data.

Last week, the Human Services Agency released its biannual homeless count. Earlier this year, some 334 volunteers canvassed The City's streets, parks, alleys and shelters to compile the tally. The count indicated that the number of homeless people, including those in shelters or transitional housing, remained roughly flat at 6,436. The 2011 count was 6,455.

However, of those counted, 3,401 were living on the street, an increase of about 300 since 2011, city officials said.

Also, 63 percent of the total number of homeless counted reported having a mental illness, addiction or debilitating physical condition as opposed to 55 percent two years ago, officials said.

About 40 percent of the homeless people were homeless before they came to San Francisco, with 17 percent saying they came to look for work and 14 percent for social services.

Strides have been made in recent years to address the chronically homeless population, said Bevan Dufty, the mayor's point person on homelessness.

The percentage of chronically homeless people dropped from 62 percent in 2009 to 33 percent in 2011. It's now at 31 percent, city data show. Also, the percentage of military veteran homeless reportedly decreased from 17 percent to 11 percent since 2011.

Despite the successes, San Francisco continues to draw outsiders who, according to Dufty, were hurt by the recession and have been searching for work.

"Homelessness is a national phenomenon, and it's a population that moves around," said Trent Rhorer, executive director of the Human Services Agency.

But technological advances and vastly improved case-management services are helping to get more of these people in shelters and back on their feet, Dufty said.

In the upcoming budget, Dufty said, Mayor Ed Lee is continuing to support programs "that have made a difference for the chronically homeless," along with additional investments.

The largest percentages of homeless counted were in District 6 (44 percent), which includes the Tenderloin and South of Market, and District 10 (26.3 percent), which includes Bayview-Hunters Point. The lowest numbers were in districts 7 and 2 (0.3 percent), which respectively include Parkmerced and Twin Peaks, and the Marina and Pacific Heights; and District 11 (0.7 percent), which includes the Excelsior and Outer Mission.

For the first time, this year's homeless population also was surveyed on sexual orientation. Twenty-nine percent of both youths and adults identified as LGBTQ, Dufty said.

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