Number of homeless living on SF streets remains unchanged despite $150M in programs

SAN FRANCISCO (KTVU) - The number of homeless people in San Francisco has not gone down despite the city spending more than $150 million in homeless programs.

According to the City of San Francisco, the latest count revealed there are 6,686 homeless people without a place to live in the city. That's about a four percent jump from the last count in 2013.

"I'm not saying it is disappointing. I understand the challenge. It is serious," said San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee.

The survey also shows the percentage of older homeless people has grown, making it more difficult to help them.

KTVU asked one man who says he has been homeless for the past 12 years. The man says he suffers from mental illness and would like to move indoors. "They never say sure here's a room," he said.

The survey shows the city is making inroads with homeless youth, homeless veterans and homeless families. All categories showed a decrease from two years ago.

"Once we focus on that a get everybody and get all the support mechanisms, we are going to end family homelessness in the next five years. I am absolutely sure of it," said Lee.

The city has begun moving some encampments into a service center. But residents notice tents popping back up in the same areas.

"We haven't rebuilt our housing infrastructure. We haven't made sure we have the social safety net back in place. We're not making sure people have access to living wage jobs, education and all the things that need to happen to abate poverty," said Jennifer Friedenbach, executive director of the Coalition on Homelessness.

San Francisco spends some $167 million a year on homeless programs. That's about $4 million more than the entire recreation and park budget.

The city says it has gotten thousands of people off the street. Meanwhile, new people take their place.

"I have to look at - are there other cities that have a better answer. And I find they're all looking at us," said Lee.

It's a problem that has confounded the last five mayors over the past 30 years and counting.