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Will San Francisco see the writing on the wall?

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Neil Taylor, a homeless San Francisco resident, sits at the corner of Brannan and Division streets. He returned to find this note from a friend after Public Works crews swept away his belongings. (Jessica Christian/S.F. Examiner)

To the city and people of San Francisco:

Like you, we are frustrated, confused and dismayed by the seemingly intractable problem of homelessness in our city. Like you, we want answers — and change.

We see the misery around us — the 6,600 or more people who live on the streets of San Francisco — and we sense it is worsening. We feel for the people who live in doorways and under freeways, and for the countless others who teeter on the edge of eviction. We empathize with the EMTs, the nurses and doctors, the social workers and the police. They are on the front lines of this ongoing human catastrophe.

Numerous noble, well-intentioned efforts by both public and private entities have surfaced over the decades, yet the problem persists. It is a situation that would disgrace the government of any city. But in the technological and progressive capital of the nation, it is unconscionable.

So beginning today, more than 70 media organizations are taking the unprecedented step of working together to focus attention on this crucial issue.

We will pool our resources — reporting, data analysis, photojournalism, video, websites — and starting Wednesday, June 29, will publish, broadcast and share a series of stories across all of our outlets. We intend to explore possible solutions, their costs and viability.

Though this is a united effort, we do not claim to speak with one voice. There are many lenses through which the issue of homelessness can be viewed. However, we do not intend to let a desire for the perfect solution become the enemy of the good. We want to inspire and incite each other as much as we want to prod city and civic leaders.

Fundamentally, we are driven by the desire to stop calling what we see on our streets the new normal. Frustration and resignation are not a healthy psyche for a city.

Our aim is to provide you with the necessary information and potential options to put San Francisco on a better path. Then it will be up to all of us — citizens, activists, public and private agencies, politicians — to work together to get there.

The SF Homeless Project


SF expanding program that has bused 10K homeless residents out of town in past decade

Since February 2005, The City has provided nearly 10,000 homeless residents Greyhound bus tickets — also a $10 per travel day allowance for food — to cities across the United States under Homeward Bound, the bus ticket home program, according to data compiled by the San Francisco Examiner through the Freedom of Information Act.

Searching for solutions at Project Homeless Connect

People at a recent gathering in the Bayview District bandied about possible solutions to homelessness, among them a guaranteed income and stronger tenant protections.

Amplifying the voices of homeless people

T.J. Johnston is a freelance journalist who covers homelessness and other political issues. His work appears in such publications as Street Sheet, Street Spirit and the San Francisco Public Press.

Dueling SF ballot measures emerge over homeless tent encampments

Supervisor Mark Farrell last week placed on the November ballot a measure that would ban homeless tent encampments and authorize The City to remove them within 24-hour notice after offering shelter, while Supervisor Aaron Peskin introduced Tuesday a counter to that measure that would create a process for the removal of encampments under existing laws.

SF opens second Navigation Center for homeless residents

San Francisco celebrated the opening of its second Navigation Center on Tuesday, marking the addition of 93 beds that will serve as temporary shelters for homeless residents.

GLIDE Goods provides pricey hygiene products for free

Go to a corner store and try to stock a bathroom with toiletries all at once. Add camping gear and an emergency kit. It could cost you quite a bit. Enter the Tenderloin’s GLIDE Memorial Church’s GLIDE Goods program, a pop-up store that launched in May to distribute these goods, most as sample sizes, free of charge to homeless and low-income residents.

What happens when SF takes homeless people’s ‘stuff’

It was a sunny day last Friday as I walked under Interstate 280 looking for Neil. From the old Dolby Laboratories across Division Street, a gold glint caught my eye. Someone had scrawled on a nearby freeway pylon, “Neil, the cops came and took everyone’s stuff, sorry.”

Taking a tour of SF’s storage yard for homeless people’s stuff

At Public Works’ maintenance yard on Cesar Chavez Street, some items taken from encampments that are identified as “valuables” are held in the hopes that one day they’ll be claimed.

Struggles shared by undocumented immigrants, homeless

There seems to me to be much similarity between being an undocumented immigrant and being homeless. It’s about being in crisis mode, being displaced and being alienated by society. And both situations are driven by poverty.

EDITORIAL: Joining with SF Homeless Project

The premise of the SF Homeless Project is that, collectively, media outlets shining a bright multi-angled light on the problem of homelessness at this moment can compel change. We, as project participants, felt it was time to say in one chorus — a collection of multiple voices — that what has been tolerated up to now is no longer tolerable.

Interactive map of all bus trips

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  • Paul Bearer

    Sorry homeless folks, but banning Styrofoam is much more important to city leaders.

  • sffoghorn

    Where will we find the $5,000,000,000.00 or so to actually create the infrastructure, housing, mental health and substance abuse treatment into which homeless people can be navigated from these navigation centers?

    Until that kind of money is identified, then the navigation center approach is a dead end.

  • sfmission

    San Francisco already has services for the homeless and low income immigrant population. There is even Veterinarians on wheels who go to the homeless so they don’t have to get up and do anything remotely responsible. In any other city the govt would have enforced common laws already available to them. San Francisco Supervisors want to give 30 days notice to tent dwellers who leave dirty HIV infested needles everywhere along with the wonderful San Francisco stench of urine and feces. It does not frustrate me. I take solace in knowing that San Francisco Govt. will continue to enable homeless well into the next decade. In doing so the 6,000 now will be 12,000 in ten years and every one of them will be miserable because San Francisco City Govt. will continue to allow them to do what ever they want including shooting up and dying. This may sound terrible but its a fact.

    For those of you with job offers in the city I trust they’re careers that you love and can support you and/or your family because that happy new glisten in your eyes from living in Famous San Francisco will dissipate quicker than you think.

    San Francisco is one giant toilet bowl.

  • sfmission

    Its not that Styrofoam is more important. It’s just a much easier project. It is solved by passing a law– while enforcing the current laws for homeless is something city govt. pretends to not know. One has immediate success and gratification while the other is requires work and city govt. does not want to work.

  • sffoghorn

    San Francisco is one giant toilet bowl.

    You are free to flush yourself out of your misery at any time.

  • Paul Bearer

    Banning vending machines that sell junk food on city property will also help the homeless situation.

  • Promontorium

    This is moronic. These people aren’t homeless because San Francisco failed them. They were already homeless, most have chosen that lifestyle, and they came to San Francisco because everyone in America knows San Francisco gives out the most free crap. Those people in tents weren’t former start-up employees. They have no desire to work or do anything for themselves, let alone others. They only want your money and your services. They will never give anything to this city.

    San Francisco is the peak of a metropolis. It doesn’t stand alone. Anyone, and I mean 100% of everyone who loses housing in San Francisco can move to another city and enjoy a massive reduction in costs. At this point living in San Francisco is a luxury. It’s a status symbol every snooty little 22 year old holds over his or her friends. How many months you’ve lived in San Francisco is a badge of class for the nouveau riche who have found it a perfect marker of conspicuous consumption. This and the city refusing to build more housing and by more I mean enough, means I’m not weeping for a damn one of the residents. The homeless are enjoying this too. Million dollar property they plop their tent down. Milk tourists and “locals” alike for enough money to make out better than a minimum wage worker, exploit all the free food and healthcare from the city, and live rather comfortable happy lives doing all the drugs they want, going wherever they want, and an entire city cradling them.

    The only people the city has no time for are hard working people. People who can’t code or engineer so they can’t exploit the cornered market that is massively overpaying these little bastard imports who have taken over the city and bay area. You know, everyone else in society who actually does something more substantive than makes pretty graphics on a useless app. Those people have been driven from the city. Those people would love to contribute. Pay their way. Help boost the city. Make it beautiful and diverse. But instead you’ve allowed to become a single class, single subject upper crust neighborhood of the Bay Area metropolis and out of sheer comedy seem to think giving away massive amounts of free stuff and letting homeless people sleep in doorways and urinate and defecate on financial buildings, that redeems the city somehow?

  • Promontorium

    But you can’t deny it’s true. I’m sure you have enough money to sleep and work above the stench line, but you have to intentionally ignore it when transiting among the vulgar.

  • sffoghorn

    There is more feces on the streets here in SF than any other city I’ve been to, but the City is not “One giant toilet bowl.”

    The SFPD contains the offense to certain neighborhoods.

  • Sar Wash

    It is not the responsibility of the working taxpayers to support people who refuse to support themselves. Period.

  • Morton Octavius Branderslab

    I can see from the comments here thus far that callous disregard and brain-dead classism are alive and well among The Examiner’s readership.

  • BFlatlander

    This is NOT a local problem. This is a FEDERAL EMERGENCY, and I demand that my FEDERAL tax dollars be put to work. And YOUR FEDERAL Tax dollars too. It is time that those who cannot make it on their own be put under the care of Uncle Sam. That means FEMA camps. I suggest OUR Bay Area FEMA camp be built in Benicia.