Start the Conversation: What Are Your Ideas For Addressing Homelessness?

Harold Pyne has lived at the Navigation Center on Mission Street for a year. The Navigation Center is one way that San Francisco is trying to help homeless people get into more stable housing. The city plans to open six more in the next two years.

Harold Pyne has lived at the Navigation Center on Mission Street for a year. The Navigation Center is one way that San Francisco is trying to help homeless people get into more stable housing. The city plans to open six more in the next two years. (Deborah Svoboda/KQED)

This week KQED is sharing stories of homelessness, and efforts to help ease the problem.

We want to hear from you.

What ideas do YOU have for addressing homelessness and the housing availability crisis in the Bay Area?

What’s happening in your community?

Share your ideas and stories with us by clicking on the Comments button below.

  • storiesbehindthefog

    Stories Behind The Fog (

    We are revealing stories of people affected by homelessness in the bay area and inspire storytellers to connect with the people we feature and take their narratives further, through any form of art.

    SBTF challenges the single-minded view of homelessness. When ‘the homeless’ become a generic label in our minds, we have a hard time seeing the individuality—the unique and complex story—of every single person living on the streets. In a metaphorical way, this stereotype blocks our perception of the countless nuances of homelessness, just like the iconic fog of San Francisco shrouds the city from onlookers.

    We believe these stories have the power to make the public connect with one of our most critical domestic issues, and to add to the dialogue on homelessness held by politicians, public and private agencies, educators and activists.

    Follow us:
    FACEBOOK: @storiesbehindthefog
    TWITTER: @storiesfog
    INSTAGRAM: @storiesbehindthefog

    • kuldip shodhan

      I have a crazy idea. I have invented a BABO product line which can be easily made by a homeless person provided some one is willing to come up with the product order. This scenario can help as an ad to develop the market also. It has huge global market. I have developed this product line and I have US Patents recently. At present, I am willing to show how easy it is to make this product against the order by an individual who is homeless or student buried under a student loan or similar situation. I am looking to convert into lucrative business proposal to help them.
      Think out of the box.
      The product line is

  • Marta Quinn

    The short music documentary attached, Where Are We Going? ~ Homeless in Sacramento, is a musical composition I created extemporaneously on the piano to reawaken the hearts and minds of people to the growing pervasiveness of homelessness in our cities and communities. Videographer, Madeline Rackerby, creates the visual context for which one may experience the music and message through the filming of scenes in California’s capital city, Sacramento. The project is a stream of musical consciousness captured on film.

    After reading numerous articles in the Sacramento Bee newspaper about homeless people storming the steps of City Hall to seek shelter and permission to put up tents, I was overwhelmed and took to the piano to create the music. The title for the film, “Where Are We Going?”, I believe, to be perfect for the project. People without homes need to ask themselves every day, “where are we going?” to find food, shelter and clothing. Additionally, as we see from the statistics, as a city and country, we do not yet know where we are going to solve the problem of homelessness and its associated issues of addiction, mental illness, and disabilities. And, as the film so eloquently presents, people do not see homelessness; or, if they do, they often look away, and keep heading where they are going.

    This is a film without answers, but it is our hope for reawakening the spirit for solutions. The film was accepted for submission into the Chagrin Documentary Film Festival in Chagrin Falls, Ohio yesterday. Sincerely, Marta Quinn

    • storiesbehindthefog

      Hello! Great piece. Do you think any of our stories from will inspire you to create something beautiful?

      • Marta Quinn


  • Arturo

    Homeless folks fall into various categories- mentally disabled should be institutionalized in psychiatric facilities, criminal and drug users should be jailed, and the social and government resources used to help those families and folks find homes who are on the street because of financial problems. In other words, kick the perennial and permanent homeless of the streets and into places where they belong – hospitals or jails, and just help good folks find places to live.

  • Kathy Ocean

    How about using decommissioned military bases to create multi-faceted communities with an array of services and housing options that can meet each individual where they are.

    Ideas: Barracks for shelters; Cafeteria (that provides work opportunity as well as food); Lockers to secure possessions; open land for camping for those who don’t want to be “managed”; Onsite mental health and addiction services; Onsite transitional housing counseling; “Life skills” mentoring; GED program; Onsite job training and work opportunities (naturally occurring in the inherent need to maintain the property); the list could go on . . .

    Bottom line: we could re-imagine decommissioned land to create humane, thoughtful environments that provide basic needs and security while providing genuine support and opportunity to help folks break out of the cycle of chronic homelessness.

    • Skip Conrad

      Military bases are contaminated. You have to do the toxic cleanup first.

  • csorko

    In Sonoma County we have one of the highest rates of homeless per capita in the US. We offer excellent resources for the homeless for food, clothing, and medical care–but housing? Not so much. The waiting list for both family shelters and singles shelters is month’s long. Low income and section 8 housing is a dream away. As “Blue” as this area is, NIMBYism is alive and well here in gorgeous and wealthy wine country. Everyone seemingly wants to end homelessness, but NOT in my neighborhood.
    In my volunteer job administrating triage at a 125 resident family shelter, I have the unenviable job of sending would be residents away–with a smile of hope and sympathy–but no shelter. What to do in the meantime? I suggest disaster relief “tent cities”.
    We have much county owned vacant and underutilized county controlled land here. Rather than disparage make-shift tent communities, why don’t we set up “refugee” type organized communities with portable restrooms, showers, security, case managers, medical help, activity areas, etc.? The good citizens of Sonoma County, especially in the downtown areas of our cities and their neighborhoods don’t want to actually see homeless people pushing their shopping carts and begging on street corners. So why don’t we build “tent cities” that we can control rather than have to deal with random illegal trash and excrement filled camps along our creeks and vacant lands. We have literally thousands of homeless living this way in our community with no end in site–only pipe dreams. Let’s act now, stop the hypocrisy and the delays, accept what is and be pro-active until we–you and me–manage to acquire the political, moral, and compassionate will to actually fix the mess we’re in.

  • Edda Mai Johnson

    I have recently become physically disabled in SF. My experience has been grueling. As a former Handicap Student IEP representative I was able to use my knowledge of the system to advocate for my benefits. Repeatedly on both the Federal and CA state level database input errors were made! I was literally in tears begging human services to correct there mistakes so I could access my benefit’s!!! How can a sicker, financially impoverished individual advocate for themselves???? They cannot!!!! Outdated Inefficiency of the CA state disability system is putting marginal patients on the street! There is NO housing support for the disabled in SF as in Portland, LA, NYC etc!!!!! In is a rapid slippery slope for the SF disabled into homelessness! Subsequently there is no way poor health can be safely managed on these streets!!! Disability housing is the only solution!!!!

  • Jill

    First things first. Cities should NEVER be authorizing projects that demolish affordable units in order to push through luxury projects that will take two years to build. Not right now. Not until we get a handle on this crisis. The Mayor and entire city council voted on February 23 of this year to demolish a 216 unit rent controlled building that was 100% occupied with families. They ALL will be getting eviction notices in December of this year and building on a luxury complex will take two years to complete. My idea for reducing homelessness? PREVENT EVICTIONS during this crazy insane no vacancy San Jose!!! The only vacancy there is, is the luxury type and the people being evicted do not make 3x the rent to get into those units. Hello san jose council!!! What were you thinking? NO DEMOLITIONS NO EVICTIONS right now! Once a person gets an eviction notice, they are doomed. If they absolutely have to evict 216 families, there should have been a Home to Home specialist to make sure that Greystar relocated AND PAID FOR every family to be relocated. Homelessness begins quite often when being involuntarily displaced, especially out of a rent controlled unit. WAKE UP SAN JOSE MAYOR AND COUNCIL. Prevention is key!

    • De Blo

      Evict 100% of people who refuse to buy a house or get a better job. Do no t encourage people to be lazy. If you can afford to live in San Jose, you are free to move to Detroit, Omaha, or Stockton. Not a single person who is unwilling to pay a fair market rent should be allowed to remain in San Jose.

      • Shannon

        I wonder if De Blo has ever needed a hand in life in any way. How is it possible to be so blind to the needs of fellow human beings?
        I run a small non-profit arts center in downtown Palo Alto and we have partnered with Downtown Streets Team to provide art classes to individuals who have recently been rehoused. When folks are put into housing, it offers many benefits, but it also means they lose community. Having a safe and creative environment in which to bond and share ideas helps prevent those struggling with anxiety and depression from falling into deep depressive states and gives a meaningful purpose to each day.
        All of us are better off because of these kinds of interactions with others. Consider yourself lucky, or merely hard working for not being faced with the same hardships, but let go of the hatred and mean-spirited attitude.

    • De Blo

      Homeowner-funded rent control and taxpayer-funded subsidized affordable housing are complete failures and need to be banned completely. Homeowners invest in and support out community. Renters do not, especially if they are not paying a fair market rent.

  • Issues of homelessness are long and complicated. Should it not be up to our local and state elected officials to put in place active solutions?
    The navigation center set up in SF seems to be working.
    What we do know is homeless populations are growing everywhere. I like the simple solution offered below by Kathy Ocean, using decommissioned military bases to create multi-faceted communities, or the tiny house idea being developed by Laney College. The not in my neighborhood mentality changes depending on where you are. Urban areas across the world suffer from homelessness it is our own individual reactions and local and state officials who will serve to make change happen. It is a state of emergency. KQED and all the other news organizations focused on this topic, should stay with it, and not let this week be the end of the, “story”.
    It is not a just a story, homelessness, it’s a real problem.

  • Pat Franks

    Homelessness is a global problem. Look at what works in other communities where outcomes of approaches, programs, and services have been evaluated. Allocate funds for outcome evaluations in SF Bay Area communities before making decisions to replicate programs and services. Avoid using a Housing First model where there is inadequate long-term supportive housing. Set realistic goals. Adopt a comprehensive, coordinated, community-wide approach. Remember that homelessness is a quality of life issue for everyone in the community.

  • Carla Javits

    Of course, people who are struggling with homelessness need affordable and supportive housing. In fact, I spent 20 years working on that, first as part of the City’s human services agency, and then at the Corporation for Supportive Housing.

    But I also knew then, and I believe more strongly than ever today that while housing is essential, it is simply not enough. People also need (and want!) jobs. Social enterprise is a proven, cost-effective approach that helps people overcoming employment barriers, including homelessness, earn income, find stable housing and become self-sufficient.

    There is a misconception that people who are homeless cannot or will not work. The reality is that there are thousands of people struggling with homelessness in the Bay Area who are willing and able to work. Just ask them. Of course they need a place to live. But they also want the dignity and self-sufficiency that a job offers. They just need a chance – an on-ramp back to the mainstream workforce. Social enterprises help people find long-term jobs that create much-needed economic stability and mobility for people to move forward and out of homelessness.

    I now lead REDF, a San Francisco-based venture philanthropy that invests exclusively in the growth and effectiveness of social enterprises―double bottom-line businesses dedicated to helping people who otherwise would be shut out of the workforce, get jobs, keep jobs, and build a better life. REDF has supported social enterprises like San Francisco’s own Community Housing Partnership, which offers people who are homeless housing, and jobs and training in its lobby-services business so they can build their resumes, hone the soft-skills required to be successful in the workforce, and receive individualized support services while they make this life-changing transition.
    Independent research by Mathematica Policy Research shows that social enterprises generate a 123% return to taxpayers and society and enable participants to triple their housing stability. It also produces a 268% increase in income for those employed and reduces their reliance on government benefits.

    We need to move the conversation around homelessness beyond lamenting the problem or theorizing about solutions. The reality is that there are proven approaches to homelessness that achieve results in the Bay Area today. Let’s double down on what is working, and provide an opportunity to those who want to go to work.

    Carla Javits, President & CEO

    • Pat

      Thank you, Carla, and congratulations on funding and championing a social enterprise approach that is proven to work to change lives and benefit individuals and the community right here in the Bay Area. I value and appreciate your long-time contributions and your leadership. Pat

    • Dogtown Redemption

      “There is a misconception that people who are homeless cannot or will not work.” Absolutely, Carla. Thank you for this comment. This is exactly what we’ve learned from the recyclers we spent time with for over seven years. We hope you get a chance to see the film if you haven’t already. Would love to connect with REDF on this.

  • jurgispilis

    Repeal the Sanctuary Ordinance.

  • scott

    Many programs and organizations already exist and can be effective in various ways and for the most part can be effective at relieving the symptoms. However, I see the problem as far more entrenched in society. Since “trickle down economics” policies began to get implemented the ability of our society to maintain itself has diminished. It is far more difficult to get an education now than it was 20 years ago and the gulf between the rich and the poor widens. This alongside trade agreements that remove blue collar jobs regressive tax policies and corporations only filing their “fiduciary duty” leaves our society the land of haves and have nots. By all measures homelessness is increasing and will likely increase until a more fundamental and societal change occurs, that is to say we need to be a lot less greedy and create a society where everyone gets a chance. The “your on your own” plan has gotten us to where we are today.

    Corporations especially need to look at their role. They need an educated work force that is stable and content. The basis of which is family and community. But most companies see their responsibility as being only to their investors. Companies complain about taxes but it is these same funds that create an environment for the company to prosper. As companies give less and less back to the community in which they operate, the community continues to break down.

  • Ofer Ben-Shachar

    We should not punish people for being poor instead we should provide a support-net that with minimal living conditions including housing and food to every person. The bay area is one of the richest parts of the richest country on earth. We can easily afford this if we decide to.

  • Toni Doyle

    My thoughts: I think it’s crucial to separate out mentally and physically ill individuals who are homeless from those who essentially are sufficiently able-bodied to work after comprehensive– and mandatory — job training. The former population should be evaluated for appropriate treatment services; the latter should be given the option of obtaining and retaining a job, or be given a voucher for transportation back to the city, county, or state of origin. I no longer can accept that my hard earned taxable income should be used to underwrite this group of malingerers.

    • ken matsumoto

      Hi Toni, how do you determine who is or isn’t a “malingerer”? Is that the person who chose to be born into a family that had no father? Or perhaps it’s the person who chose to be born black or brown? Or they chose to be born to a mother who was abused physically, sexually? My point is, Toni, that some people are less fortunate than others through no choice of their own. more often than not choice is not an option. Consider your life. How was your childhood? the old pull themselves up by their “bootstraps” doesn’t really work when one has no boots. Consider yourself fortunate because there but for fortune go you or I. I mean we are a Christian country after all. You have taxable income? How wonderful for you. Is that how you measure one’s worth? Is someone with no taxable income worth less?

      • Toni Doyle

        “Toni, that some people are less fortunate than others through no choice of their own. more often than not choice is not an option.” I agree with you, Ken, but I also believe through my own personal experience that people do have choices. My childhood background included violence, abuse, mental illness, alcoholism, and other addictions. 40 years ago I started down the same path, eventually lost everything, and tried suicide, and ended up in a locked psych ward on a “5150” hold. There I was told that I had a chance to live if I chose to seek help and support to make radical changes to improve my chances of staying clean and sober. I did and I am extremely grateful to those initial guides and to those who continue to support me in my recovery today. My prayer is that others with a history like mine will seek the various forms of help offered in our community.

        • ken matsumoto

          Hi Toni,
          My point is that by saying people have choices implies that their condition is their own fault. That they made the wrong choice/s at some point and as a result they are on the street. I am glad that you have realized your own good fortune by finding your way to the help that you needed at the time you needed it most. Not everyone is so fortunate.

          • Toni Doyle

            I agree, Ken, and I am grateful each day for the help I received and continue to benefit from. I will keep that in mind when I am tempted to make harsh judgments in the future. Thank you for the wake-up call.

  • I took this heartbreaking shot of a woman living on 24th St in the Mission. The view of her lying on an old mattress with her hand up against the wheel of a parked car struck me as awfully sad.

    • reason > id

      We need a background story. We don’t know where she’s from, the choices she’s made, and what she deserves.

      • Dawn De La Fuente

        I agree that context is important to better understand how this happened, but no one ‘deserves’ this.

  • Jerry Robbins

    Let’s hear from the people who have succeeded in overcoming homelessness and found jobs and housing. Perhaps they can identify the strategies that work.

  • Toby Lieberman

    I have been working in the affordable housing field for more than two decades. Things have changed over time. We have many people of all types living on the streets, in shelters, in cars or on friends’ couches. There are those in need of emotional and physical care. More recently, the local and national communities have become very fond of “Housing First” the idea being to get people off the street into a place of their own and then offer them services. I believe in this approach. However, we can’t provide the housing fast enough and so funding has diminished for more temporary types of housing for those in desperate need because these other housing types – most notably shelters – have failed to get people off the street. I believe we need to think outside the box and listen to the people who are homeless. We must do this for the sake of these people who have little or no choices and no voice. We must work to help people who are on the streets as though each one was our mother or our father – or our child. We should stop using the words “homelessness” or “homeless” as these are depersonalizing. These are human beings who for so many different reasons need our help and our love.

  • Gina Carmen Palmer Turley

    We need to make housing more accessible by allowing different types of buildings. In San Luis Obispo county it is a huge problem and getting bigger as the area is hounding in popularity. The codes for building are incredible. You have to get permits for everything. Tiny houses, yurts, Cobb houses, etc., are only a few of inexpensive options that are not allowed here. Also, I think if you can take taxes out for other things, we can take taxes out to create affordable housing. If people want to rent houses for outrageous prices, fine. Capitalism can still exist. But with that, we need to tax everyone to create affordable housing. And with that, we need to create small communities instead of big communities. Apartment complexes of 15-20 not 100 or more. Community can build in a more positive manner if it is smaller.

  • Emanuel Brisker

    A world that is great, Is what we are,It is very difficult,To be a star,without a place to live. I have this feeling,Inside Of Me,Of what our world,
    Wants to be, A Home For The Homeless. Thank you Holly and KQED for your vision,compassion and persistence. By Emanuel Brisker

  • John Rhodes

    I became “Homeless” about the time the word “Transient stopped being used around 1976. I was introverted with schizo-affective disorder and spent a lot of the time getting put on Thorazine (Thorazine Shuffle). This would create an automatic revolving door as I would never seek outpatient therapy because of the fear of Thorazine. I had always been spiritual but the dissidence of street life kept me out of tune with the material world which I hastily classified as Maya (Hindu for an illusion). I was tortured by fantasies that would put me on the edge of dilusion. I would prefer to think it was a search for nurture that I never had, the search for the Linus Blanket and the Teddy bear that I never had. My “Dad” never picked up a schoolbook for me. I was self-educated and I have some college education. About a years credit. In the hospital I went thru a second awakening and became aware that no matter how unreasonably redundant and conditional the ego was, it was a very useful tool to communicate inner love and enlightenment. I decided to forget all my mistreatment and shelve my own failures and take the Bodhisattva’s vow to spread the enlightenment I found from this awakening I started by building amateur telescopes at the Chabot observatory. We were parabolizing our mirrors at the same time NASA sent up Hubble without parabolizing their mirror thus needing corrector lenses (Luck of the Draw-“Crazy like me”). I got into poetry and writing, around 2006 I started to audio podcast poetry, I worked as a peer counselor, deskclerk, and a barista. I started a PEG TV Poetry Show which I now share with Clara Hsu. I have written 3 poetry books and one hippie novel and I have one on the way. I volunteer giving speeches about recovery and am beginning to make money off youtube videos. I edit all my own videos. Just to emphasize. Mentorship is sooooo important. Incidentally, one of my “Delusions” still obsesses me. I study genealogy and dna because I have had a frisson thru all of this that when I was a baby I got dropped off with the next door neighbors and never got back, of course I still hear Mr. T saying “I pity the fool”. I think if you had been thru what I had been thru, you would be still confused as when Woody Allen said in the movie he never wrote “Dad, I don’t think you are my real Dad” and they said, “You are acting strange Woody, you’re gonna have to move out of the extra room”

  • John Rhodes

    One more comment. I read some of the rather critical comments below I’ll be short and simple. Don’t outsource the simple jobs that all went to computers and overseas. Give them back to people who lack certain skills, and are skilled in things that won’t make them money. Advocate don’t denigrate.

  • Leilani Ishaan

    We need to change and address our laws. Unfortunely mental illness is more than 80% of the issue which is not being addressed due to laws that allow psychiatric patients to be on the street and not be cared for. You can’t expect the mental ill to reason well.
    I think about the FaceBook and other Tech firm campus. They have everything they need at work cooked meals, a place to rest, a place to socialize access to health centers so that they can be productive workers.

    Why not create Wellness Centers that allows someone to come in and ask for multiple layers of help and actually get help.

    1. Have a staff invested in helping and offering resources.
    2. Staff Wellness Centers with good people -social workers, health center aides RN’s, MD’s NP’s and hiring janitorial service to mantain the center.

    3. Build a live in Center for patients who aren’t ready to go home and include long term housing close to the wellness center. Some people are just not able to care for themselves and need direction daily.

    4. These facilities would offer group and individual therapy.
    5. Offer outings to help those that are ready to rejoin society.

    6. Offer family therapy to teach families how to support loves ones

    7. Create better partnership with Medical Team providers and internal medicine providers.

    8. This should be provided by The State and local government it’s time to take care of the most Vurnable if we can pay for Wars, weapons we can as a country take care of people who truly need our help.

  • Elaine Novak

    One thing that may have been overlooked is the dignity in work. One suggestion put forth in a recent Sacramento homeless forum is purchasing land and putting up a barracks type living situation and creating an agricultural community. People would have a clean, safe place to live and learn agricultural practices and earn some money. Or, hiring people with a job assignment to keep a city block clean. The suggestion of converting shipping containers into small living spaces was also mentioned by one of our recent mayoral candidates. These are currently being used for student dorms in Israel. Also, humans require more than food and shelter to survive. Apparently, over 60% of all gun related deaths each year are due to suicides. That statistic is very revealing of the difficulties many people are experiencing in our society. We need a Marshall Plan to manage this massive problem, but first we need the will.

  • Anne Petersen

    This issue to too overwhelming for the cities to handle by themselves. The State needs to step up. Especially to treat the mentally ill homeless. The Sonoma Developmental Center is slated by the State to close, and this property would be an excellent solution to handle the Mentally Ill Homeless from through out the State. These people have the greatest need and risk to themselves and the public. It is the right thing to do as a civilized society, and long overdue.

  • Erika Singer Burke

    It’s a Robin Hood issue, the richest need to make charitable/tax-deductible donations to support the poorest and funnel those donations to city programs that currently work, and for expansion. AND submit a bond measure and allow the taxpayers to weigh in and approve paying taxes toward helping the most needy of our population. Make the process known so that new homeless non-– residents understand that they too must apply for residency in the city by having an address, or they will be sent back to where they came from or they will not be excepted into any city facilities for homeless unless they comply with the system in place. How about concerted – aggressive fundraising by all of’s, why don’t they pool together? San Francisco is a city of bleeding heart liberal’s with a history of not getting things done. We have some of the brightest minds in the country/ if not the world in our city – come on people let’s get this together.

  • Robert Bakewell

    Focusing on one of the many aspects of this complex issue… The very busy high profile Octavia St corridor providing access to and from San Francisco via connection to the Bay Bridge, points south via 101 and a main entry to west SF and such as GGPark.
    The medians are filled with weeds, garbage, transient beggars and sometimes tents.
    This is a first rate example of bureaucratic sloth and carelessness that serves to depress citizens, befuddle visitors and enable opportunistic transients ( some of whom are mentally ill ) to imperil themselves and others in order to pick up paltry spare change.
    A scene entirely unnecessary … If the City would do the job of cleaning up this public pigsty , enforce the law re camping on sidewalks and medians, quit enabling pathetic self destructive behaviour , we might find some of these people either forced to seek appropriate help or simply leave town from whence they came.
    A lot of small entirely reasonable procedures might result in improvements across the board!

  • mbwisper

    Why not choke the money out of the uber-rich who are moving into the city, displacing more and more people and generally gentrifying what once were nice middle class (i.e.affordable) neighborhoods. Since they want everything so nice and pretty with nary a sign of financial distress, perhaps they should start ponying up for that luxury. Any ONE of them could probably outright buy a dozen homeless shelters or two dozen food kitchens instead of flaunting their wealth everywhere they go and squandering it on the only people who REALLY matter to them.THEMSELVES! BTW, has Zuckerberg ever finished his “renovations” that have been selfishly inconveniencing his neighbors for over a year? That’s question one. Question two: Does he even GIVE A DAMN? NO, on both counts, right? I don’t care about his much-ballyhooed “foundations”…charity begins AT HOME, Zuck!

  • Listener

    It’s great that all of us are plugged and willing to share ideas to come up with some type of solution to the homelessness problem.
    This view may be a very simplistic one but, what do we know about the people that doesn’t fall into the mentally disable category. Does each city have a census/numbers or current homeless individual/families in their city? Numbers like that, I think, could be helpful to tackle the problem. What Age-Range is the predominant homeless population? Also, what do the homeless people (again, not falling into the mentally ill category) want? Jobs? Housing? Relocate? Live out of welfare?, etc…
    If we don’t know what this population want, we can come up with many ideas that won’t stick to them as its not what they may want to do.
    I do agree with Kathy Ocean’s idea. Let’s make some use of them as a temporary living place. It definitely beats the streets.
    Also, it would be great if fortune 500 companies and medium size businesses implement some sort of program in their cities to hire/train homeless people that are able to work and want to work and learn a new trade/career.

  • reason > id

    What’s happening in my community is the current front page headline of the local paper is about a homeless man being stabbed to death.

    Day-to-day, renters have been left in the lurch by a housing shortage squeeze. Though it’s not mostly tech investment in the North Bay, a recovered economy and good job market is one cause. Second, while it’s rare anyone openly admits it, the other main factor is illegal immigration. Their numbers are too great and they’re overwhelming the local population.

    We just passed rent control in the county seat, but it’s yet to be settled and is only a partial remedy.

    The people at the bottom of the squeeze are losing their housing and you can see the effects. I meet them all the time.

    **I have two ideas most people would consider unpalatable, despite them being effective and better than the status quo:**

    ONE – In the tech-heavy areas, those jobs should be moved out of The Bay Area. Why do Apple and Google need to expand into San Jose? Wherever those jobs are, people will move there. Where’s the water? The expanded freeway capacity? The affordable housing? We’re over-populated.

    TWO – There are laws to protect people from discrimination in housing, but they’ve overshot the mark. Americans and legal residents have more of a right to housing than others. Anyone sober, working, and responsibly breeding shouldn’t be homeless. Natives who happen to not have ridden the homeowner gravy-train shouldn’t be banished from The Bay Area to make way for The Tech Gold Rush.

    Yet this isn’t just a financial issue. The quality of life was better when people could make it with a normal middle-class salary.

    Homeless is not an abstraction. YOU DON’T SOLVE HOMELESSNESS. There are homeless people, and they deserve consideration as individuals. People with natural rights and who are willing to abide by fair rules deserve a roof over their heads.

  • Megan

    I think we should incentivize tech companies to use technology to develop apps and mobile health care options. For instance, medical trucks (think food trucks but with free medical supplies and treatment or think actually food trucks that provide free food) or pop-up medical tents that can diagnose and treat patients as well as provide medicine and on site social services and mental help. We need to engage people with their community more and help them realize that this is their issue too. We need to get doctors and other health care professionals in the streets to help directly instead of waiting for someone to be brought in to a hospital when it may be too late. We need to develop better relationships with the homeless people in our community instead of ignoring them. We need more street teams and other personnel on the ground to be of service and engaging with this population.

    • jessmhamilton

      Project Homeless Connect is working on just this sort of thing! They’re raising money right now for their Care Van (and they have quarterly (?) care events as well).
      Also the Lava Mae Pop-Up Care Villages, as Dawn De La Fuente mentioned.
      They’re also always looking for volunteers for both of these things! It’s quite a humbling experience.

      • paula williams

        thanks for the reminder that… is a great way to support our community. I just donated to the mobile van campaign for https://www.projecthomelesscon… Our local foundation has been supporting programs like Lava Mae and Homeless Pre Natal since 2008. We are also looking at programs that provide mental health and substance abuse treatment for those living in poverty here in San Francisco. While housing and employment are critical, we also need to take a hard look at how we value mental health and addiction. Jails and institutions are not the best way to deal with this issue.

  • Dawn De La Fuente

    Community support! We as a community are capable of providing so much which is why I am in full support of progressive organizations like Lava Mae ( They’ve converted retired muni buses into mobile showers for SF’s homeless and this Wednesday (tomorrow!) they are hosting their second Pop-Up Care Village at the Main Public Library located at 100 Larkin.

    Featuring a variety of services and staffed by local volunteers, the Care Village will host and aid hundreds of homeless people. Come check it out or visit their site to learn more and donate your time, clothing or service as an individual, company or family. COMMUNITY, it’s all we’ve got!

  • De Blo

    1. Enforce a zero tolerance policy for panhandling, sitting on the sidewalks, littering, drug use and sales, camping, crime, etc. Arrest with no possibility of parole. 2. Eliminate all services that encourage bums to come to San Francisco. Abolish SRO’s and relocate all of the services in the City to less valuable and congested areas such as Antioch, Detroit, Stockton, and Youngstown. 3. Provide Greyhound bus tickets to any homeless person who was not born in San Francisco or who was born here but refuses to get a job.

  • Justin

    I don’t even know how it possible to get back on your feet in a city like SF. It is so expensive. Anyone who wants a fresh start should be given help to relocate to a less expensive area. You can live well for a lot less in other parts of this country.

    • De Blo

      Yes, this is common sense. If you cannot afford to live somewhere, move somewhere else.

  • robbajor

    Having worked in pharmaceutical science for years, I don’t see homelessness as a “big” or particularly out-of-reach challenge. The resources are there, the complexity comes in mobilizing them. That said, a quick Google search to determine the United States Federal Government’s nuclear budget will yield something to the effect of, “at least $179 billion over the nine fiscal years of 2010-2018 on its nuclear arsenal, averaging $20 billion per year, with costs increasing from $16 billion to $25 billion per year over that timeframe.” Given that axiom, it doesn’t seem unreasonable for the federal government to step in and financially aid the state’s in the care for these individuals, since it is in fact a national issue (homeless obviously don’t observe state borders) and should be handled by homeland security. In fact, the “investment” that can be inspired by such actions can coincide with the retirement of a largely self-destructive, outdated, and inefficient mindset simultaneously.


  • Josefa

    80% of the homeless population, are graduates of the Foster care population. In the mid 1960s, and early 1970, as a child turned teenager that lived on the subways of New York, the one thing myself, and the other children that lived on the streets, did,was not get put into the foster care system. Foster care was a death sentence. Once I got a place to live as an adult, I did what ever it took to never not have a place to live. When I became suicidal in my late thirties, the one thing that stopped me from committing suicide, was knowing if I died my children would end up in Foster care. Its been 25 years since I even considered suicide. I have to make sure that my grand children never end up in Foster care.The ages of the people living on the streets are so young.If we dare to address what happens to minors that provide income for an adult ,until they are eighteen, then discarded after the income no longer exists, maybe we can begin prevention.
    During the 1980s a dear friend of mine, an educated women from a fine family became addicted to crack. She would get pregnant to get the income provided, then she would have a baby addicted to crack. That child had no chance in hell to survive. Thanks to modern medicine all of her crack addicted born children survived. I cut her off as a friend after the 6th pregnancy. In my eyes she was committing the worst kind of child abuse. The state knew what was happenning, they did not stop it, in fact they provided her with the resources to get the drugs.

    Until we are really ready to address some hard issues of human kind, we will continue to watch our future generations perish. That is what is happening to the children that end up on the streets. We discard them when they lose their cash value. Often times at eighteen when you are sent out of your group home or Foster care home with no skills you are greeted by the neighborhood Trafficker a.k.a. pimp, madam,etc. You are then used until you age out again.By then you are addicted to drugs, with little or no work expierience.

    With little or no hope of ever living as the humans around you, you make survival choices that are rooted in self destruction.
    There is a huge amount of money to be made from children living on the streets. Lets begin by following the money. That can be a start to getting the big picture of why it is not ending, instead increasing.

  • Stacy

    I would want to hear about youth homelessness more. I work at the Lucile Packard Foundation for Children’s Health and we have partnered with the California Homeless Youth Project ( to display data about homeless youth on our site The summary page has all of the indicators here: You can see the percent and numbers of homeless youth down to the school district level. Kids often get forgotten in the conversation but can you imagine how hard it is to be a homeless youth?

  • Chris

    I was lucky enough to serve homeless/at risk students as coordinator of the City College HARTS Program for over 20 years. We assisted with food, transportation, and advising for over 250 students every year. Some dropped out, but over 80% stuck with their programs and many took certificates and/or degrees, and some 10% transferred to complete four year degrees. It was amazing to see the change in personal behavior through the sense of self worth and value as my students moved through their programs. Education is a game changer for all of us. We grow in self knowledge and an appreciation of the greater world of which we are all apart. We also make ourselves more saleable in the job market.

  • Joshua

    A meeting of the minds between between government actions and not for profit business which share the humanitarian objective of assisting those in need.
    First operation: sf homeless.

    The not for profit can be an agricultural skyscraper which boasts an underground foodbank, grocery store at the ground floor, luxury resteraunt on top, family style “first” floor, and food growing all the way up.

    The benefits of a growing environment which encompasses the each floor would be optimum growing conditions without pesticides as it is indoor.

    Our very own Hidden Villa would be more than happy to assist with sustainable natural environments using pests-but i digress.

    This high profit solution will provide food and jobs resolving one third of the homeless crisis.

    The next is by evaluating each homeless candidate and placing them into two major categories where one contains two more sub categories.
    1) addicted to drugs
    2)unfortunate circumstance
    2A) disability
    2B) life event

    Once categorized we can provide individual analysis of their needs. We already resolved hunger.

    Next is housing.
    A transitional housing program which doubles as sober living environment and hosts local. The sle will require a day job and the joint operation would provide opportunities.
    Local government would need to approve of such an operation between business not for profit (not non-profit), a housing program, and a small medical program.

    Can it be funded?
    Many humanitarian billionaires would love to hear of such proposals and bring it to the rest of the world.

  • Lucio diMauro

    I helped establish this homeless support service that started out of a store front in Chicago more than 12 years ago. Then it was an all volunteer organization. Because of the ever increasing volunteers over time and the support of The Unity Church of Chicago it has grown into what it is today. This type of agency is just what this city needs and add to it the cooperation of Homeward Bound and you will have a formidable team to combat homelessness.

    Goldie’s Place – Transforming Lives of Homeless

  • Dogtown Redemption

    Dogtown Redemption is proud to join forces with the 70 other Bay Area media outlets this week to increase visibility of the homeless crisis in the Bay Area, shift perceptions of the poor, and inspire civic change.

    Shot over seven years, our documentary film follows three recyclers—Jason, Landon, and Hayok– as they fight for survival in West Oakland, CA. The film is a raw, intimate look into the lives of “America’s unseen,” illuminating the many causes of homelessness and myriad challenges people living on the streets face—from trauma to addiction to prejudice. We celebrated our national broadcast on PBS’ Independent Lens on May 16, garnering over 1.3 million viewers!

    Tomorrow, Wednesday, JUNE 29, we are hosting a live lunchtime streaming of the film with Independent Television Service (ITVS) at 12:30 p.m. PST. Please RSVP and join us:
    The one-hour live streaming and discussion on the OVEE platform will feature filmmakers Amir Soltani and Chihiro Wimbush; Jason Pellegrini of DISH (Delivering Innovation in Supportive Housing); and Terry Messman, editor of the East Bay’s homeless newspaper Street Spirit. It will be moderated by Maya Churi of ITVS.

    If you can’t join us at lunch, we are kicking off a week of screenings at The New Parkway Theater in Oakland in the evening at 6:30 p.m., featuring a post-film discussion with our co-director Chihiro Wimbush.

    The week of #SFHomelessProject screenings will showcase the 94-minute feature-length version of the film. Check out more dates at

    The 54-minute broadcast version of the film is also available on PBS’s Independent Lens website until August 15:

    Please let us know what you think. Can you relate to the lives and stories of Oakland’s recyclers? Do their stories provide better insight into life on the streets and what we can do as a community to address poverty?

    Facebook and Twitter: @redemptiondoc

  • Vanessa Critchell

    I think San Francisco deserves help on a national scale. In the sheer numbers it is more than what one city can bare. We have the highest homeless rate in the country as they are coming from all over because of the services here. While I of course have empathy it has made the city uninhabitable. We, for example, are doing our best trying to raise our children in the Mission and have to walk by tents on a daily basis with drug needles and stolen bicycle parts strewn all over the sidewalks. From what I’ve seen, specifically walking by the tents in my neighborhood on a daily basis, this is not an affordable housing issue, this is about helping those addicted to drugs and alcohol and also the mentally ill. If we focus first on that, on the people who are tuely in these tents (not the evicted bc of rising housing costs!) I think progress can be made. In my neighborhood, petty crime has sky-rocketed since the tents have made their way in front of our homes. One of my neighbor’s recovered his bicycle pump at an encampment when no one was looking (his name written in sharper on the side). The police does very little to stop this crime as they are already so overburdened with other issues we have related to the mission (gang violence etc…) so many of us feel invaded and hopeless. Forced into the unthinkable idea of moving after spending years working on our house and making a home here for our children to grew up in. The tents are seriously changing the tenor of the neighborhood and it’s really sad. I don’t understand how this is allowed to go on and that no one is helping us get out of this inexcusable situation.

  • Bev

    I am appaled by the number of people who are homeless. Why can’t we provide housing and services to the mentally ill. I also don’t understand how people can shoot up in broad daylight on the streets in the civic center area. They need counseling and opportunities to get off drugs.

  • NCFY

    The National Runaway Safeline, 1-800-RUNAWAY, is the 24/7 federally
    designated national communication system for runaway
    and homeless youth. Please check out our new TV PSA, featuring four powerful stories about young people who found help and hope.

  • Elizabeth S.

    Put them in rehab and find them jobs

  • Catherine O’Kelly

    I live in Santa Cruz County. Our only shelter, run by the city of Santa Cruz, has shut it’s doors, stopped providing hot showers, meals, and discontinued its program to allow homeless people to receive mail at the shelter’s address. The state and the Feds evidently stopped funding the shelter–something about a ten-year maximum to receive the grants? But what happened here is that the State let a JURY decide whether or not a man was sane. A jury. Not the medical profession. This homeless mentally ill man came to Santa Cruz and murdered a popular business woman, stabbing her to death on a downtown street. This act pushed many people over the top–no more sympathy towards the homeless. People have really changed, including me. I tend to turn my head away, instead of fishing for a dollar bill to help someone in need. Maybe because I’m needy myself. Next year my retirement funds will run out–I will have only social security to live on. Thank God, there are programs for us seniors. I won’t be on the street. At least I don’t think so…..for me to get a subsidized apartment in a senior complex, someone has to die! So it’s a crap shoot. [Waiting lists are years long.]

    I feel so sorry for young people today. And for people who weren’t fortunate enough to have social security funds accumulated over the years they worked and paid into it. And for the mentally ill, who do not get the help they need. When Governor Reagan closed California’s state mental hospitals, it was because PILLS would take the place of counselors and doctors. Even now, they’re closing the last ones–and what those poor people will do is beyond imagination. Some people really do need 24-hour care.

    There are too many people in the world, congregated in cities that have no where to expand. Housing is so hard to find, and the costs have risen SO HIGH, even working people with good jobs, can’t find housing!! Homeless people have to be near the services that are available–soup kitchens, outpatient mental health options, shelter in a storm. It’s not going to get any better, not for a long time. The problems are too great, too complex, and not enough “politicians” willing to help. Churches, as always, have been the ones to step up to the plate. Churches, and kind-hearted people. Thank God, there’s still some around!! We have some wonderful souls here who have on their own set up “warming shelters” for cold winter nights. We have benefactors who opened a women and children’s shelter. But it’s not enough…’s never enough.

    We need Federal help–if all our tax dollars weren’t going towards the military, we could go a long way towards alleviating homelessness.

  • ken matsumoto

    There was a time not that long ago when one had to travel outside this country to see people living so visibly in such poverty. More likely than not those countries tended to be third world where the roads were bad, social safety nets were nonexistent, and the government lacked the needed funds, for whatever reason, to tackle the problem. In those countries there was a sense that this was simply a part of the culture and as such there was no reason to attempt to “cure” the problem. The poor simply were a part of the landscape. the situation that faces this country however is substantially different but its “cure” is equally unattainable. There exists a disconnect between our assumption of the type of society we live in or how we view our country in terms of being a part of the “first” world. I contend that by judging our infrastructure, economy, and the disparity between the rich and poor that we are no longer a first world country or that we are well on our way to losing that status. The reality is none of this is going away. The problems are structural, and systemic. That is not to say there are not ways to help those that are sick or have had an emergency of one sort or another that caused them to lose a job. But we all have to admit that the reason the problem has become such an issue is simply because of its visibility and the contrast between the reality of living on the streets to those who simply use the streets.
    Simply building housing is not the answer, it can’t hurt but it is not a feasible answer to the growing problem.

  • Diane Weible

    I read a recent report on the homelessness in Guerneville. Although it not exactly the Bay area, I was told homelessness rate was 25%. There seems to be a lot of new people moving into town who want to “clean it up” but people who have lived there forever and are struggling to live are being pushed out and then pushed aside because they do not have homes. The NBC news article I read quoted someone as saying that almost everyone who was homeless would live in housing if they had some help. They are not choosing this way of life. If we are going to look at it as a problem, let’s name it for what it is–a problem that people do not have homes, not a problem that needs to be “cleaned up”

  • victor

    As someone who is intentionally homeless, has a job, and helps a homeless ministry daily, I have to say that people are getting it wrong to think that the answer is finding homeless people a building to live in. Many homeless don’t want to live indoors and are much happier living outdoors and not having to be stressed out about fitting in with others. They can do their own thing on the street and be left alone. If there was an answer, it would be to go and ask the homeless what they are looking for and want. An idea that might work is allowing homeless people to “rent” a space on unused government land to set up a tent (of course with rules and maybe monthly inspections). Many homeless people really are happier to live in a tent, away from the world being driven by money and possessions. I also would rather continue living in my tent on the side of the highway (where I’m well hidden) than to spend my life slaving away to be able to afford a room or spot on someone’s couch. Besides the cost, I also enjoy living outdoors and having a simple life. Those who are committed to the lifestyle of living in a building are trying to force those who desire something different to fit in with everyone else. Some homeless are homeless just because they need to rebel against what they see as everyone else telling them how they need to live in this world. They don’t agree with the lifestyle that has been forced on them by society, that you have to become a moneymaker for the rest of your life. You may feel that being a moneymaker is the only real way to live, but many homeless are the ones who are thinking outside the box, who see life differently than the world around them.

  • Concerned Citizen

    How do we bring more accountability and efficiency into the system?

  • Sandy

    Create small communities of tent cabins of the type in national parks. Each community would have a central kitchen and dining hall with 3 meals per day, along with laundry, bathroom, and shower facilities open 24/7. There would be a front office with medical staff, psychologists, social workers, and job counselors, as well as an address to receive mail. There would be 24-hour security.

    Families with children would live in the row of tent cabins closest to the front, followed by single women, couples, and then single men. People could stay as long as they wanted. Those who were interested and eligible would receive help with education, job training, and permanent housing.

  • Robert Wyman

    Some of the homeless advocates who decry citations, have probably not been to the east end of GG park. We had a stabbing there last week and a mugging of an 80 year old woman near the park. The three drifters who murdered two people last year were part of that gang of people in the park. For that “homeless” problem citations and jail time are needed. Everyone feels compassion for the folks a paycheck away from homelessness. Those folks are not breaking into cars, mugging citizens, stabbing people in the park, stealing bicycles, etc..


    How about a program like the CCC during the depression? As well as a stipend, provide a place for the homeless to live while they are providing cleaning or building services.

  • Tom Knoll

    There are a lot of great comments here and some very knowledgable folks. Beyond the substantive interventions that would undoubtedly be put forth, it’s crucial to look at the process by which we approach the issue. A 1999 survey the World Bank asked 60,000 people living on less than a dollar a day to identify the biggest hurdle to their advancement. It wasn’t food, shelter, health care or any other specific issue. It was access to a voice in the design and oversight of their ‘advancement’ regardless of the specific issue – to be engaged with as equals on some level, rather than mere objects of development interventions by foreign ‘experts’. This, I think speaks to the need for a formalized process by which the homeless themselves can give voice to their first-hand knowledge of the issues they face. These are human beings with expertise in this situation and their insights can help provide the keys to finding solutions.

  • Gangsta Leene

    To Combat Homelessness, we need to create categories: those who can work, those who will work, those who are unable to work and those with disabilities that prevent them from work. We Need the DIRECT HELP of our Counties and Cities Land Management and Natural Resources Management Departments to come together and create USEFUL JOBS that cost the state to much money for Normal State Employees, like how California Conservation Corps Works with Stipends and Such, this can be Implemented into Jobs for the Homeless to help them get back on their feet once categorized for work. We Need Garbage Clean up in our Parks, We Need water testing and bio and eco-system testing, we need trail maintenance in our parks and sanitary clean ups across California’s beaches and water systems, I can see something big happening if we all come together and HELP MOTHER NATURE HELP US. They Can Camp out while they work on these projects it is a win-win if planned and operated correctly.

  • Anwar Belal Abdelsalam

    Homelessness is a heart wrenching experience that speaks to the hearts of everyone regardless of where they may be in life. The disparity between those that enjoy the warmth of our homes, security with our families, the services provided, and common courtesies afforded to us vs the eye witness testimony I hear from those struggling with homelessness keeps me up at night.

    The way I cope with my conscious that reminds me “something ” must be done is to focus on donating time, money, and good words about 4 organizations that I love and cherish deeply. I pray that you will take the time to represent their stories in whichever way you see fit.

    The first is: Rahima International Foundation is a non-profit, charitable and educational foundation. It was established in 1993 in the San Francisco Bay Area to help those in need in our local communities. A large portion of refugees and critical food needs for all residents are provided.

    The second is: Second Harvest Food Bank which is rescuing food to fight hunger and waste.

    The third is: Womens Gathering Place that provides day shelters for Women that suffer the consequences imposed by homelessness for basic medical, clothing, or transportation for recovering from some from of trauma inflicted in life.

    The final one is Sunnyvale Community Services that that works very well with corporations and restaurants to feed those in most need.

    I’m sure everyone has certain heroes in providing dire services to our homeless neighbors…however I urge you as an important media agency to reach out to our community groups and help them have a platform on which to broaden and strengthen the work that goes unsung and is often forgotten or underfunded.

    I remember I read several stories of people “experimenting” to find out what might happen to try to live on minimum wage…it is clear to me that homes, refuge, and addressing immediately the root factors that lead to and exasperate this situation is not only a moral duty it reflects our humanity and strengthens our financial stability.

    Lady liberty says it best: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” The true question is what can we do next to be of greater service?

  • BAG510

    Allow them to build small free housing.

  • J. Good

    We need to be proactive. We need to include a % of low-income housing in EVERY permit to improve/refurbish/renovate/rebuild. Even including buildings of at least 4 units. The middle class needs housing. If they can’t get it, they have a much larger chance of being homeless.(because of the high rent prices.) Just look at those victims of the recent fires.

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