Nearly 400 People Died Homeless on SF Streets Since 2016, City Has Been Under Reporting for Years

The number of people who have died homeless in San Francisco has been grossly under reported for years. San Francisco has a troubled history with their treatment of people who are homeless, stealing their belongings, busing them out of the city, or arresting them.

Now a new report shows that homeless people are dying at twice the rate that the city has been reporting. The report dives more deeply into medical examiner cases to better determine who was homeless and includes additional details about the deaths.

There were 128 homeless people who died in both 2016 and 2017. While in 2018, the count was at least 135. More cases from last year are expected to be reported in the months to come. Theses new numbers are more than twice the previous of homeless deaths reported and filed in the city.

Between 2016 and 2018, 42% of the people who died had been homeless for more than a decade, the report said. 82% of the people who died were male, 51 years old was the average age. 53% of the deaths were deemed “accidents.” This included a wide range of circumstances including exposure.

San Francisco has a relatively high number of homeless deaths per capita; New York City has around twice the number of deaths, but with ten times the number of people who are homeless.

The findings of the three-year homeless death report, which was presented to the Health Commission, shows the need for San Francisco to do more to reach out to those who are not engaged in services, according to the author of the report Dr. Barry Zevin.

The official homeless death count that the Department of Public Health puts out relies on Homeless Death Forms that the medical examiner fills out. There is a flaw in the department’s accounting of people who die homeless because it only counts people as homeless who have no fixed permanent address. Often times, those that are homeless use an address of a friend or family member on official documents. If this address is on a document such as a license, it doesn’t mean that this is a place the person can sleep, and it certainly does not mean that they have a home.

In 2017, for example, the homeless death forms totaled just 63, less than half the revised number.



Photo: “Homeless in San Francisco” by Thorsten Koch is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0