Homelessness has long been a problem in San Francisco, but in recent years, it has ballooned into something much bigger.
The San Francisco Chronicle reported Wednesday that nearly 2,200 public school students in the city live without permanent housing -- "enough to fill five or six elementary schools or an entire high school." That figure has swelled by 400 in just one year.
"We could actually populate a small town with the number of homeless families in San Francisco," Jennifer Friedenbach, executive director of the Coalition on Homelessness, told the Chronicle.
And homeless families struggling more than ever to find a place to sleep. According to the Chronicle, as of last week, 267 families (triple the amount in previous years) remain on the waiting list for one of San Francisco's 59 shelter rooms that permit months-long residences.
“It’s really disheartening seeing the list get so long," Susanna Anderson, the program director for Compass Connecting Point, a local nonprofit that serves homeless families, told the San Francisco Examiner. "People associate homelessness with the single adults on the street, panhandling, mental illness. Families are more under the radar.”
In response to the recent uptick, roughly 50 homeless individuals and activists convened on City Hall's steps Tuesday afternoon seeking a meeting with Mayor Ed Lee in hopes he'd consider allowing families to seek shelter in San Francisco's numerous vacant public housing units. "Those units are sitting empty while families are suffering," Friedenbach told the Chronicle.
The mayor was not in his office at the time of the rally, but Joaquin Torres, director of the Mayor's Office of Neighborhood Services, offered to meet with the protesters in his place, Bay City News reported.
But the advocates stood their ground, demanding to meet with the mayor himself. After the group disassembled, Friedenbach told Bay City News that they would return. "We're going to keep coming back and coming back until we get a response," she said.