SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF/AP) — A federal count shows the number of homeless people increased by double-digit percentages in three San Francisco Bay Area counties over the last two years.
More than 25,000 people were counted as homeless during an overnight tally conducted in San Francisco, Alameda and Santa Clara counties in January. Detailed reports are expected later this year.
In Santa Clara County, the homeless population increased 31% to about 9,700 this year; with a 42 percent increase in the city of San Jose to 6,100 people. In Alameda County, which includes the city of Oakland, the homeless population increased 43% to more than 8,000 people this year. In San Francisco, the number of homeless people jumped 17% to more than 8,000 in 2019.
The homelessness point-in-time count is conducted every two years. It is required by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
The San Francisco Bay Area is grappling with a homelessness crisis driven in part by too little housing stock and a raring tech economy that has widened the inequity gap. In San Francisco, the median price of a two-bedroom home is $1.3 million and a family of four earning $117,400 a year is considered low income.
“We have an affordable housing crisis throughout California,” said Jen Loving, executive director of the nonprofit Destination: Home in Santa Clara County. “It’s not a surprise for those of us doing this work,” she said. “We need more extremely affordable housing. It’s not magic.”
“We’re losing the battle and the war when it comes to housing,” said Pastor Scott Wagers of the CHAM Deliverance Ministries. “The gap is widening. They’re not closing the gap. They need to change their strategy and change their approach to see the homeless problem as a symptom of the overall problem in the valley. A few people are benefitting, most people are not.”
“Despite our collective efforts to house more than 6,900 homeless neighbors in the last three years, for every person we bring in from the cold, the economy pushes three more out the door,” San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo said in a news release.
Liccardo unveiled a proposal Wednesday to create subsidies for accessory dwelling units in an effort to fast-track the supply of affordable housing, part of a series of efforts from the city and county to tackle the housing crisis from multiple angles.
“We have to think differently about this challenge,” said Liccardo who actually helped take the census of homeless last January.
Liccardo says cities can’t just build their way out of the problem on their own. He says the city and county have added 7,000 low-income housing units, but neighborhood attitudes have to change to build more.
“The only way we’re ever going to solve this crisis is by embracing the responsibility we all have to house our homeless in our own cities, in our own neighborhoods,” Liccardo said.
“The initial results of this count show we have more to do to provide more shelter, more exits from homelessness, and to prevent people from becoming homeless in the first place,” said San Francisco Mayor London Breed.
Homelessness is an issue that has riven the Bay Area for years, with elected leaders pledging to do more to address it. However, controversies continually erupt over where to build homeless shelters. Residents of a wealthy San Francisco neighborhood, for example, are fighting the city’s plans to erect a shelter along the waterfront Embarcadero area that is popular with tourists.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom has proposed giving cities and counties up to $650 million to build and expand emergency homeless shelters. He’s also proposing $10 million to help public colleges and universities house homeless students and $20 million for legal aid for people facing eviction.
Len Ramirez contributed to this report.
© Copyright 2019 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press and Bay City News Service contributed to this report.