City Continues to Search for Permanent Answers
San Francisco Mayor London Breed announced a plan on May 2 to purchase a 42-unit building on Folsom Street to house youths leaving homelessness.
The move comes as youth homelessness in the city remains a sticking point. The latest federal data shows that the number of unaccompanied youths—or people aged 24 years and under experiencing homelessness—has decreased by 6% since 2019, from 1,145 to 1,073 in 2022.
“We have been strategically working to prevent and end youth homelessness, and this new building will provide another key tool in that mission,” Breed said. “When we get to our young people quickly with housing and support, we save them from entering a lasting cycle of homelessness. This is key in our long-term strategy to build on our progress of reducing homelessness across our entire City.”
More Than 30,000 Unaccompanied Homeless Youth Nationwide
Youth homelessness is one of the most pernicious problems America faces today. Overall, there are more than 30,000 unaccompanied youths, with a vast majority of the group aged between 18 and 24 years, according to data from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. That total represents a 15% decline from 2019, which was the last year HUD conducted a full point in time count.
Meanwhile, data from the U.S. Department of Education shows more than 1.2 million students identified as homeless under the McKinney-Vento Act during the 2019-2020 school year, representing a 15% decline from the 2018-2019 school year. Students are considered homeless when they need to double up with friends or relatives, or they live in otherwise unstable housing such as a single-room occupancy motel.
San Francisco seems to follow nationwide trends as the city’s total number of unaccompanied youth and homeless students have declined. However, city officials acknowledge that more work must be done to stabilize these groups.
District 6 Supervisor Matt Dorsey said the city has a “responsibility to ensure everyone has access to safe and stable housing” and that purchasing the Folsom Street building is a step in that direction.
San Francisco has created more than 400 new housing and shelter placements for unaccompanied youths over the last two years.
“By providing not just housing but also wraparound services, we are creating a supportive environment that will help these young people build a foundation for a brighter future,” Dorsey said.
The Folsom Street Building will include several amenities to help its residents find stability. For example, city officials said the building will include 24-hour desk coverage, property management, and laundry services. The building is also conveniently located near public transportation so that residents can travel to work and other appointments.
But others say San Francisco is in a precarious situation as it attempts to address youth homelessness.
Richard Whipple, interim director of San Francisco’s Office of Civic Engagement and Immigrant Affairs recently told the San Francisco Standard that many of the city’s nonprofit partners are “well beyond their capacity” to provide needed services.
“We’re riding the very, very edge of our capacity limits,” Whipple said.
For youths experiencing homelessness in San Francisco, like Sage, who Invisible People met in 2020 when she was 23, waiting for long-term solutions can be costly.
Sage had lived in the Tenderloin District for about 2.5 years when Invisible People met her. She told Invisible People about wanting to go back to college and become a scientist. However, she said it’s been challenging.
“I think a lot of people take the homeless for granted and forget that they are your friend, your buddy, your neighbor who has fallen on hard times,” Sage said.
How You Can Help
The pandemic proved that we need to rethink housing in the U.S. It also proved that providing additional support and protections for vulnerable renters and households with students facing housing instability worked.
That’s why we need you to contact your officials and representatives. Tell them you support keeping many of the pandemic-related aid programs in place for future use. They have proven effective at keeping people housed, which is the first step to ending homelessness.