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60% of San Francisco homeless refuse shelter offers as tent count falls

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(The Center Square) – Six out of every ten offers of shelter to “service resistant” homeless individuals were refused, as San Francisco seeks to reduce its unsheltered homeless population.

According to San Francisco’s April count, there were 360 homeless tents and structures across the city, down from 806 in 2020. San Francisco credits a Ninth Circuit clarification in September allowing for enforcing camping bans for individuals who receive offers of shelter; a 2018 injunction from that court had largely banned the enforcement of anti-camping ordinances targeted at homeless individuals.

“Our encampment teams and outreach workers are working tirelessly to go out and help bring people into shelter and clean up encampments,” said San Francisco Mayor London Breed in a statement.

Despite growing capacity, the city’s shelters are at a 7.1% vacancy rate, which is roughly comparable to that of the city’s high-demand residential real estate market, due to the city’s outreach efforts and offers of shelter.

However, the city says 60% of 1,530 offers of shelter thus far this year were refused by homeless individuals. While the city notes that because this data is on the number of encounters, and not the number of individuals, these figures do suggest that there is a sizable population of “service resistant” homeless individuals who are not interested in accepting free housing.

The United States Supreme Court is currently reviewing a challenge to the Ninth Circuit injunction against anti-camping rules at the urging of a broad bipartisan coalition, including California Governor Gavin Newsom and San Francisco, that could allow for broader enforcement of anti-camping rules against service-resistant individuals.

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