Reluctant homeless may perish in cold

The reluctance of The City’s homeless to seek shelter could result in unnecessary deaths this winter, according to Mayor Gavin Newsom.

Despite an extended cold spell, many homeless are not taking advantage of housing opportunities offered by The City, the mayor said.

Around 130 beds in San Francisco were available to the homeless Wednesday morning, which is about what The City might tally on any given day during the summer, said San Francisco homeless czar Darius Kayhan.

“I fear we can lose some people to the elements, particularly in the next few days, when you add not just this cold but the rain,” Newsom said.

Newsom voiced the concerns at a Project Homeless Connect event Wednesday morning at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium.

The event provides a one-stop location for the estimated 6,000 to 12,000 people who sleep on San Francisco’s streets each night, providing services such as housing, medical care, substance abuse treatment, HIV testing and a bus ticket to a home outside The City. According to the Mayor's Office, 1,975 homeless were served Wednesday at Homeless Connect.

Newsom reiterated frustrations in trying to convince the hardcore homeless in Golden Gate Park to use city services.

The problem: some of them just don’t want to be helped, the mayor said.

Also, about 44 percent of those on the streets have been in The City less than 90 days, Newsom said.

They mainly come from Texas, Washington and Oregon, he said.

They may come because The City is more compassionate to them than other locations, but “that’s part of the soul of our city,” the mayor said.

“We pay a price because people complain about it,” Newsom said.

Other possible reasons The City’s beds aren’t being taken is that the homeless, particularly young people, may travel south for more warmth during the winter months and also may return to families during the holidays, Kayhan said.

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