(Cindy Chew/S.F. Examiner)

Number of homeless veterans in SF declines by 4 percent

San Francisco’s population of homeless veterans has decreased by nearly 30 people since last year, according to the latest federal count released Thursday.

Throughout the nation, the number of veterans experiencing homelessness has declined by 5.4 percent since last year, for a total of 37,787, according to the annual count released by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Last year there were 40,020 reported homeless veterans. The data comes from a point-in-time count in January.

In San Francisco, there were 656 reported homeless veterans, roughly a 4 percent decrease from last year’s count of 684. This comes after the reported number of homeless veterans rose sharply last year from the 580 reported in 2016. In 2011, the reported number of homeless veterans in San Francisco was 919.

Jeff Kositsky, director of the Department on Homelessness and Supportive Housing, noted HUD’s veteran homeless count for San Francisco uses last year’s count for unsheltered veterans and only updates the number related to homeless veterans staying in shelters. That is because San Francisco only counts the unsheltered population every two years. HUD officials confirmed this fact.

The sheltered veteran homeless tally was 300, down from the 328 in 2017. The unsheltered homeless veteran figure is 356 in both 2017 and 2018.

Kositsky said that the decline shows that investing in the right programs works. “It would have been a lot more than 30 if we had more resources,” he said.

HUD secretary Ben Carson said Thursday morning that “our nation’s approach to ending veterans homelessness is working.”

”The total number of reported veterans experiencing homelessness decreased by more than 5 percent since 2017, falling to nearly half the number of homeless veterans reported in 2010,” Carson said.

In 2010, there were 74,087 reported homeless veterans in the nation.

He attributed the decrease to the agency’s targeted efforts to end homelessness for veterans and to the growing number of cities making it a priority.

Carson specifically highlighted the HUD-Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing, or HUD-VASH program, which provides housing vouchers along with medical services provided by Department of Veterans Affairs. He said last year this program benefited 4,000 formerly homeless veterans.

“To date, 64 local communities and three states, Virginia, Delaware and Connecticut, have effectively ended veteran homelessness,” Carson said.

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