SF official: Homelessness more visible now, but not worse

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Jeff Kositsky, director of the San Francisco Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing, discusses why homelessness may appear to be on the rise, and addresses what the city is doing about tent encampments. (KGO-TV)

Every night about 7,500 people are homeless in San Francisco, according to Jeff Kositsky, the first ever director of the city's Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing. He spoke to ABC7 about what the department is doing to try to reduce that number.

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The department is "focusing on data" and "being a lot more organized," Kosistky said. That means coordinating nonprofit organizations that provide homeless services with city agencies. It's because of these efforts that in the last two years homelessness has gotten "slightly better," Kosistky said, though it might not seem that way to residents.

"People are being squeezed more into the central part of the city, as there's more and more development, especially on the eastern waterfront. We're seeing places where homeless people used to sleep becoming offices and housing," Kositsky said. Because of that, "the problem has gotten much more visible."

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When asked whether the city has been cracking down on tent encampments, Kosistky defended his department.

"I don't think that 'crackdown' is the right word. We've been working to resolve tent encampments for the past two years now. We've helped resolve 32 encampments. In those encampments there were approximately 1,300 people and about 800 of them accepted shelter and many of them moved on to housing," Kosistky explained.

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"Just coming in and cracking down or sweeping people is not effective. We have to remember there's people living inside those tents. And for us to address the tent problem we really need to address the problems of the individuals who are inside those tents," he said.

ABC7 News has teamed up with other media outlets for the San Francisco Homeless Project, a joint effort to address the homelessness crisis. For our ongoing coverage of the issue, click here.
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