Descriptive Title: Unsheltered homeless population

Geographic Unit of Analysis: Supervisorial District

Supervisorial District  Neighborhood Street Homeless Count (2011) Total Population (2010) Street Homeless Per 1,000 Persons % of Total Street Homeless Population in District
1 Richmond, Laurel Heights 106 68,296 2 3%
2 Marina, Presidio, Cow Hollow, Pacific Heights 35 68,251 1 1%
3 North Beach, Chinatown, Russian Hill, Nob Hill, Downtown 188 69,040 3 6%
4 Outer Sunset, Parkside 83 71,586 1 3%
5 Western Addition, Haight-Ashbury, Cole Valley 180 69,828 3 6%
6 SOMA, Rincon Hill, Civic Center 1,001 95,073 11 32%
7 Merced, Inner Sunset, Forest Hill, Lakeside 36 70,051 1 1%
8 Castro, Noe Valley, Dolores Heights, Diamon Heights, Duboce Triangle 108 70,071 2 3%
9 Mission, Bernal Heights 124 64,733 2 4%
10 Potrero Hill, Bayview Hunters Point, Visitacion Valley 1,151 78,898 15 37%
11 Excelsior, Mission Terrance, Ingleside, Oceanview, Merced Heights 69 79,507 1 2%
City of San Francisco Unspecified or confidential location 27 N/A N/A 1%
Citywide Totals 3,108 805,334 4 100%

Why Is This An Indicator Of Health and Sustainability?

High housing costs relative to the income of an individual or household result in one or more outcomes with adverse health consequences: spending a high proportion of income on housing; living in overcrowded conditions; accepting lower cost substandard housing; moving to where housing costs are lower; or becoming homeless.

Without available safe and affordable housing, people can find themselves homeless or living in unhealthy temporary housing that often lack safe drinking water and hot water for washing; have ineffective waste disposal; have insects and rodents; and often have inadequate food storage. All of these factors contribute to the spread of infectious diseases.Also, women and men living in temporary shelters have several times the death rate of the general population, even taking into account and adjusting for age.b While patterns vary across different demographic groups, mental disorders and substance abuse are prevalent among homeless populations. The risk of being homeless is 10 to 20 times higher among individuals with serious mental illness compared to the general population and alcohol use disorders are widespread.c,d Additionally, children living in homeless shelters have been found to suffer from depression, have a behavioral problem, or severe academic delay.e Providing access to housing that is safe and affordable can help alleviate the negative physical and mental health impacts of homelessness.

For additional information on the connections between housing and health, visit: The Case for Housing Impacts Assessment by SFDPH, Program on Health Equity and Sustainability. Accessed online on October 19, 2006:

Interpretation and Geographic Equity Analysis

The map illustrates the proportion of street homeless by supervisorial district which is calculated by dividing the number of street homeless within the district by the total street homeless population.  The table details the number of street homeless, the total population, the number of street homeless per 1,000, and the percent of total street homeless per supervisorial district. District six and ten have the largest total number of street homeless as well as the highest percent of street homeless population in the city. The neighborhoods within these two districts include South of Market Area, Rincon Hill, Civic Center, Potrero Hill, Bayview Hunters Point and Visitacion Valley. Conversely, districts two and seven have the smallest count and percentage of street homeless. 

Homeless count reports indicate that the number of street homeless people has decreased in San Francisco.  Reasons for the estimated decline in the homeless population are controversial. Mayor Gavin Newsom attributed this decline to the homeless programs initiated as part of the 10-Year Plan to Abolish Chronic Homelessness which was adopted in 2004 ( Homeless advocates voiced concern that the methodology used reflects an undercount.  Some also note the simultaneous increase in homelessness throughout nearly all other San Francisco Bay Area counties as an indication that homeless people are being driven out of San Francisco.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) requires counties to do a homeless count every two years in order to receive federal funding. The HUD definition of homeless only includes those individuals who lack shelter. San Francisco expands the definition to include both unsheltered and sheltered homeless, as described above. HUD defines chronically homeless as: "an unaccompanied individual with a disabling condition who has either been continuously homeless for a year OR who has had at least four episodes of homelessness in the last three years."

 The 2011 homeless count for San Francisco included the following components:

  1. Unsheltered Count: A visual point-in-time count of unsheltered homeless persons living outdoors, in vehicles, in makeshift structures or encampments, and in other structures or areas not intended for human habitation, conducted over a four-hour time window (8 p.m. to midnight) on the night of January 27, 2011.
  2. Sheltered Count: Per HUD requirements, an enumeration of homeless individuals residing in emergency shelters and transitional housing on the date of the count. In addition, San Francisco counted homeless individuals temporarily living in jails, hospitals, and mental health and drug treatment facilities on the night of the count.
  3. Survey: A survey of homeless individuals followed the count, taking place over a three week period in February. A trained team of paid, currently and formerly homeless survey workers and unpaid community volunteers administered a comprehensive survey to self-identifying homeless individuals, primarily in outdoor locations throughout the City. The survey elicited information about the homeless population’s demographics, history of homelessness, living conditions, barriers to overcoming homelessness, and use of homeless services. The survey team employed a random selection process, approaching every third person they considered to be eligible for the survey. Overall, 95% of individuals approached agreed to participate in the survey. The survey team successfully completed surveys with 534 individuals encountered across all of San Francisco’s supervisorial districts.

The survey results indicated that:

  • 73% of respondents reported that they were living in San Francisco right before they became homeless. 53% of survey respondents were experiencing homelessness for the first time.
  • 29% of respondents reported that they were continuously homeless for the last three years.
  • Of the homeless persons surveyed, approximately 33% can be considered chronically homeless using HUD criteria for chronic homelessness.
  • The loss of a job was the most frequently cited response (25%) for the causation of homelessness; 20% of respondents identified alcohol or drug use as the primary cause of their homelessness; 2% cited incarceration and 3.5% cited eviction as the primary event that led to their homelessness; 3.3% reported that mental health issues had precipitated their homelessness; and 8% reported that they became homeless due to domestic/partner violence or abuse.

For more information, visit the San Francisco 2011 Homeless Count Final Report at:


The number of street homeless per 1,000 was calculated by dividing the number of street homeless within each supervisorial district by the total population of that district and multiplying by 1,000.


There is criticism that the current methodology for counting homeless leaves many individuals uncounted and does not capture the extent of the homeless problem. Homeless advocates have noted that the count misses people living in cars and does not count families living in single room occupancy hotels (SROs). In addition, one advocate noted that "half the hospitals failed to report" the homeless count (

Data Source

2011 San Francisco Homeless Point-In-Time Count & Survey: Executive Summary & Comprehensive Report. Available at:

Population data from: Census 2010.

Table data is presented at the level of supervisor district. Detailed information regarding geographic units of analysis, their definitions, and their boundaries can be found in the SCI at the following links:

  1. US Conference of Mayors

  2. Barrow, SM, Herman, DB, Cordova P, Stuening, EL. Mortality among Homeless Shelter Residents in New York City. American Journal of Public Health. 1999; 89: 529-534.

  3. Hwang SW. Homelessness and health. CMAJ. 2001 Jan 23;164(2):229-33.

  4. Stergiopoulos, V, Dewa, C, Durbin, J, et al. Assessing the Mental Health Service Needs of the Homeless: A Level-of-Care Approach. J Health Care Poor Underserved. 2010 Aug;21(3):1031-45.

  5. Zima BT, Wells KB, Freeman HE. Emotional and behavioral problems and severe academic delays among sheltered homeless children in Los Angeles County. American Journal of Public Health. February 1994 Vol 84: 260-264.