Do what's necessary. Do what's possible. Innovate for the greater good.

Challenge yourself and your city to develop and implement humane, outcomes-driven, and cost-effective interim strategies to address our encampment and shelter/housing shortage crisis.

Thanks for taking the time to learn about the Saint Francis Homelessness Challenge. SFHC organizes with encampment residents, neighbors, volunteers, & City services to: (1) Assess and address health, sanitation, & safety conditions to increase livability and reduce pain points for people who live (or work) in and near encampments until adequate shelter/housing options are developed; and (2) Develop, pilot, and lobby for interim secure shelter structures & transitional villages that support the current programming and needs of the City/Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing (DHSH)

We'll get started by sharing facts with you about the current homelessness landscape in San Francisco. Read through them one by one and let us know how knowledgable you were about each stat before reading it here. 

* 1. Source: San Francisco's 2015 Point-In-Time Count and Survey
Adults living on the street of SF: 2,962
Unaccompanied youth under 25 living on the streets of SF: 1,363
People in families living on the streets of SF: 33
Total: 4,358

Adults living in SF emergency shelters: 1,194
Unaccompanied youth under 25 living in SF emergency shelters: 68
People in families living in SF emergency shelters: 337

* 2. Source: San Francisco's 2015 Point-In-Time Count and Survey
District 6 (Tenderloin, SOMA, Mission Bay, Civic Center) is where 4,191 (over 55%) of sheltered and unsheltered homeless residents live in SF.

* 3. According to the Human Wasteland mapping project of 311 reports for human feces on the streets of San Francisco, you can see that the Tenderloin, SOMA, and the Mission have the highest concentrations of reported human feces via their heat map.

* 4. Source: San Francisco's 2015 Point-In-Time Count and Survey
71% of survey respondents reported they were living in San Francisco at the time they most recently became homeless, an increase from 61% in 2013. Of those, nearly half (49%) had lived in San Francisco for 10 years or more. 11% had lived in San Francisco for less than one year.

* 5. Source: Coalition on Homelessness 2015 “Punishing the Poorest” Report
"Quality of Life" citations for anti-homeless offenses (such as sleeping, sitting, camping, and begging) have increased over threefold since 2011.
  • Parks citations for sleeping and camping have grown sixfold from 165 citations to 963 between 2011 and 2014.
  • SFPD citations for sleeping, sitting, and begging increased threefold from 1,231 tickets in 2011 to 3,350 in 2013

* 6. Source: National Institute of Health.
Sleeping is a basic human need, like eating, drinking, and breathing. Sleep deficiency is linked to many chronic health problems, including heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, stroke, obesity, and depression.

* 7. Source: Coalition on Homelessness 2015 “Punishing the Poorest” Report 
“Quality of life” citations (for homelessness related activities such as sleeping, sitting, and begging) affected the majority of unhoused respondents.
  • 69% of respondents were cited in the past year.
  • 22% of respondents received more than five citations in the past year.
  • 90% of respondents were unable to pay the fine for their last citation. In San Francisco this results in a $300 civil assessment fee being added to the base fine, an arrest warrant, and suspension of one’s driver’s license.

* 8. In August 2015, the Department of Justice issued a statement arguing that it is unconstitutional for cities to issue citations to homeless residents who sleep in public places when there is insufficient shelter space. 

As stated by the Justice Department in its filing, “[i]t should be uncontroversial that punishing conduct that is a universal and unavoidable consequence of being human violates the Eighth Amendment. . . Sleeping is a life-sustaining activity—i.e., it must occur at some time in some place. If a person literally has nowhere else to go, then enforcement of the anti-camping ordinance against that person criminalizes her for being homeless.”

* 9. "A Right To Dream Too" is a project approved by Portland Oregon's local government that operates a "refuge and a safe space to rest or sleep undisturbed for Portland’s unhoused community who cannot access affordable housing or shelter." 

Their mission is "to awaken social and political groups to the importance of safe and undisturbed sleep.  Our purpose is to create a place where unhoused people can rest or sleep without being rousted by police or private security and without being under the constant threat of violence." 

* 10. Sources: Budget and Legislative Analyst Report "Homelessness and the Cost of Quality of Life Laws" 6/2016

San Francisco's Budget and Legislative Analyst found in 2016 that using SFPD officers and citations as a tool to deter homelessness was too expensive and that unsheltered homelessness actually increased when ticketing increased.
  • "The City incurred approximately $20.6 million in 2015 for sanctioning homeless individuals for violating quality of life laws."
  • "One of the main goals of quality of life laws was to preserve public spaces in the City. However, the number of homeless individuals considered to be unsheltered has increased from 3,016 in 2011 to 3,505 in 2015, an increase of 16 percent,
    limiting the effectiveness of quality of life laws."

In a nutshell, we have thousands of unhoused neighbors living on our streets in the midst of a shelter and subsidized housing shortage crisis. The stress and strain of living on the streets is magnified by the fact that sleeping and camping are criminalized activities in San Francisco. And the criminalization of homeless residents only perpetuates costly misery. 

The status quo isn't cutting it. So what do we do? "First do what's possible. Then do what's necessary. And soon you will be doing the impossible". Inspiring words from Francis of Assisi, the namesake of our city and Bay Area. 

Now it's time to turn that knowledge into action so that we can collaboratively, creatively, and strategically repair a costly and broken system. Are you game to try? If so, continue on to Page 2 (just 10 more questions left).