On July 5, the San Francisco Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing released the 2019 San Francisco Point-in-Time (PIT) Count report.
Every two years, San Francisco is required by the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to conduct a homeless count. Volunteers canvas the city on a single night in January to count the number of people experiencing homelessness, capturing anyone who is visibly homeless in San Francisco.
Because young people experiencing homelessness often avoid the streets, the PIT Count isn’t optimized to perfectly capture the full scope of youth homelessness. To better address this, since 2013, the City has conducted a youth-specific count, which uses innovative strategies such as recruiting current and formerly homeless youth to identify and count their peers.
KEY TAKEAWAYS FROM THE 2019 PIT COUNT
1. Youth homelessness decreased by about 10% between 2017 and 2019.
In 2017, the PIT Count and supplemental Youth Count captured a combined total of 1,363 homeless young people ages 24 and under. In 2019 the combined total decreased to 1,145, for a 10% decrease since 2017.
Since 2015, youth homelessness has decreased by 22%! But there are still more than 1,100 young people without a safe place to sleep on any given night in San Francisco. We must continue to do better for young people in our city.
2. This decrease in youth homelessness occurred during a time of increased public investment
The PIT Count provides more “what” than “why,” but one factor is clear: As the City of San Francisco and the State of California continue to increase youth-specific funding, youth homelessness has continued to decrease.
3.Young people need more mental health support than ever due to increased instances of trauma
While we’ve always known young people who experience homelessness often also have significant experiences of trauma, this year’s data shows a major jump in those numbers.
For youth reporting that abuse was a contributing factor to their homelessness, emotional abuse went up to 49% in 2019 from 29% in 2017; and physical abuse went up to 37% in 2019 from 23% in 2017.
San Francisco is also increasingly unsafe for young people during an experience of homelessness, with 52% reporting not feeling safe in their current living situation, more than double since 2015.
This underscores why the core services provided by Larkin Street, including mental health services, are so important to helping young people permanently exit homelessness. Youth are coming through our doors with more significant needs than in years past, and we must meet those needs, as well as invest in prevention and early intervention, stopping homelessness and the trauma associated with it before it starts.
4.Nearly half of all people experiencing homelessness in San Francisco had their first experience of homelessness before the age of 25.
This was true in 2017 and remains true in this year’s data. Young people are resilient and do great things with the simple foundation of a safe place to sleep, mental/physical healthcare, education and employment. Investing in youth is an essential step toward ending homelessness for all.
THERE’S GOOD NEWS AND BAD NEWS FROM THIS YEAR’S COUNT
The good news:
The 10% decrease in youth homelessness shows what is possible with targeted, youth specific investments. With continued investment in housing and targeted wraparound services that support young people getting off the street for good, we can achieve the City’s ambitious goal of cutting youth homelessness by 50% by 2023 through the new Rising Up campaign, which Larkin Street is leading.
The bad news:
There were 1,145 youth living, literally, on the streets of our city on a cold night last January, as well as many more who went uncounted, hiding their homelessness in order to stay safe. Youth of color and LGBTQ youth continue to be over-represented due to systemic policies and practices that disadvantage those youth.
We cannot rest until any instance of youth homelessness is rare, brief and one-time. We cannot rest until all young people not only have a safe place to sleep at night, but the chance to reach their goals and fulfill their potential. A community that does not activate its population of young people will be community that does not have the next generation of leaders, teachers and civil servants.
Please join in this critical effort. It will take all of us to end youth homelessness.
Support the movement to end youth homelessness by making a donation to Larkin Street.