San Francisco is the nation’s 14th largest city but it’s second in the country (after New York) in terms of homeless people per capita. That’s one in 200 people sleeping on the streets.
The situation has become so dire that last month on June 29, dozens of area media outlets coordinated a tsunami of coverage so that anyone logging onto the Internet, turning on the radio or TV or picking up a newspaper would have to hear about one of the country’s most intractable problems.
Why? Let's start with this fascinating overview of the problem as sketched out by the San Francisco Chronicle. We read that the bulk of the street people are chronically homeless and that at least one third are mentally ill. If they pose no threat to anyone, no one can force them to take shelter.
Today, despite the efforts of six mayoral administrations dating back to Dianne Feinstein, homelessness is stamped into the city so deeply it’s become a defining characteristic.
San Francisco initially responded by providing temporary, spartan shelters. Now, it permanently houses thousands of people salvaged from the streets through multimillion-dollar residential and counseling programs. But still, the city remains home to sprawling tent cities, junkies squatting on blankets shooting heroin, and all manner of anguished destitute people and beggars holding out hands.
The city’s last official count, in 2015, put the adult homeless population at 6,686, though many officials and advocates for homeless people say the number is much higher.
When you click here to see the list of stories on homelessness in every outlet from Mother Jones to Buzzfeed, you may notice there’s one thing left out.