SF claims homeless individuals decline shelter 60% of the time but some say that's inaccurate

Luz Pena Image
Wednesday, December 13, 2023
SF claims homeless individuals decline shelter 60% of the time
San Francisco Mayor London Breed claims homeless individuals decline shelter 60% of the time when offered but some say that's inaccurate

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- San Francisco Mayor London Breed is reporting that in November 60 percent of the time when the city's Street Outreach team offered shelter to homeless individuals they were rejected.

ABC7 News reporter Luz Pena went to the Tenderloin where some disagreed with the claim and wanted the city to do more.

In San Francisco's Tenderloin, we met Jimmy Thomas. He's been homeless for two years. Thomas and others have turned two tents on Turk Street into a shared home where at least 10 people sleep every week.

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"We all take turns sleeping in a tent. It's a lot more of us too. We come and go," said Thomas.

Mayor Breed said city data shows that in November, 60 percent of the time unhoused individuals were offered shelter they refused to accept help and move indoors.

Pena: "Have you been offered shelter out here?"

Thomas: "No, no. I've been looking for shelter and housing because I've been trying to find resources."

The mayor went on to expand on city data saying, in October, shelter was refused in 65 percent of the encounters. In September, 60 percent.

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Sam Dodge, is the Director of SF Street Response team. They go out twice a day to the city's homeless hot spots offering shelter and keep track of who rejects it.

"Right now we have more shelter available than ever in the history of San Francisco. We have over 3,000 shelter beds available every night," said Dodge.

Pena: "If you have so much shelter why are people still out here?"

Dodge: "We have a lot of shelter but we have more people that are homeless than we have shelter beds. That is a reality. "

During our town hall ABC7 Take Action San Francisco, Mayor Breed blamed the homeless crisis in part on a lawsuit by the Coalition on Homeless.

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"After the Ninth Circuit court decision happened and there was clarity from that case, because we were not able to move people the way that we are able to move people now, so we offer someone shelter or any type of housing so they are no longer involuntarily homeless. What we are doing is being as aggressive as we can to get people off the streets and get them an ultimatum," said Mayor Breed.

Jennifer Friedenbach, Executive Director for the Coalition on Homelessness disagrees with the latest numbers.

"The overwhelming majority of people that the mayor is saying are refusing shelter they actually did not have a shelter bed for them. The other folks is because it's not accessible from a disability perspective. It is not the correct gender. Someone has a severe mental health illness," said Friedenbach.

The city's outreach team confirmed that when people are offered a type of shelter they don't want they are counted as rejecting shelter that day.

"Every time we do an encampment abatement operation we bring more than enough shelter beds so that everyone has a shelter option. It's legally and morally right that we have that when we are engaging people," said Dodge.

Smiley has been homeless for six years and has refused shelter in the past.

"I don't do shelters. I've heard too many horror stories of people going into shelters. So, I just choose not to go," said Smiley.

Despite the city saying they have the highest number of shelter beds available, currently, there are 436 people on the shelter waitlist.

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