SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- One of San Francisco's most pervasive and pressing problems might be getting a little better.
According to data released Thursday from the latest point in time count, the number of people experiencing homelessness in the city dropped from over 8,000 to about 7,750 - a 3.5 percent decrease.
Much of that drop, experts say, can be attributed to the massive amount of resources the city received during the pandemic.
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"Cities haven't gotten much help from the California government or the federal government until this just happened. So that obviously makes a difference," said Randy Shaw, of the Tenderloin Housing Clinic.
Of those counted, about 57 percent were unsheltered and living on the street - a decrease since 2019.
While the racial and ethnic makeup of those experiencing homelessness either declined or stayed relatively the same, Latinos were a noticeable exception.
Over the past three years, homelessness in that community shot up 55 percent - an example of the toll COVID has taken.
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"Many of the Latinx folks who became homeless during the pandemic lost jobs. And even before the pandemic were living in insecure housing situations," said Ian James, from the Coalition on Homelessness.
While the latest report might offer some hope, many say it's important to remember its limitations.
"It's a snapshot of a single night. It doesn't capture a lot of people who experience homelessness for short periods of time that don't happen to be in the streets or in the shelter that given night," James said.
However, data from the "Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing" estimates as many as 20,000 people in San Francisco may become unhoused this year -- even if only for brief periods.
For every unhoused person that gets help finding housing, the city estimates another four people will become homeless.
Experts say access to affordable housing remains the biggest obstacle to overcoming homelessness in San Francisco.
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For decades, the city simply hasn't built enough.
"San Francisco has the slowest housing approval process in the United States of any city. And we make it extremely difficult to build housing and very expensive," Shaw said.
And until that changes, those on the front lines say people's views on the issue will continue to lag reality.
"What I've learned about homelessness, the numbers don't matter, it's perception. And the perception is it's getting a lot worse even though the numbers are going down," said Shaw.
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