San Francisco's April Tent Count: Number of Tents And Structures On City Streets Hits New Low

Quarterly tent count reveals 41% reduction in tents and structures since July. 2024 has the lowest average tent count rate of any year since the City started quarterly counts.
May 06, 2024

San Francisco, CA – Today Mayor London N. Breed announced that the City’s latest quarterly tent count dropped again, hitting a new five-year low. The two quarterly counts conducted so far in 2024 show sustained progress in helping people off the streets and keeping neighborhoods cleaner.  

The count conducted at the end of April found 360 tents and structures across the City – a 41% reduction from 609 in July 2023, which was the last count before the U.S Court for the Ninth Circuit issued a clarification around how San Francisco was able to enforce certain laws under its injunction.  

Key Tent Count Stats from April Count

  • Of the 360 tents and structures counted, 182 were tents and 178 were structures.
  • There were only 9 encampments of 5 or more tents/structures citywide.
  • There were no encampments of 10+ tents/structures at the time of the count. This does not mean larger encampments do not pop.  However, when larger encampments do occur, City staff can quickly begin outreach and work to resolve them.  
  • The average tent count rate (across two counts) in 2024 is the lowest annual rate of any year since the City started doing tent counts in 2018.  

The sustained reduction is a result of increased efforts to offer people shelter and housing and clean up encampments citywide. This work is led by the Healthy Streets Operations Center (HSOC), a multi-agency team that conducts daily encampment operations by leading with offers of shelter and services. Since the start of 2024, HSOC has placed 460 people directly from encampments into shelter as part of their citywide operations.  

San Francisco’s Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing has also added new shelter beds and filled hundreds of vacant units in permanent supportive housing, bringing its vacancy rate down to the target of 7.1%. This target rate accounts for unit turnover in the City’s Permanent Supportive Housing portfolio, which is the largest in the Bay Area and second highest per capita in the country.  

"Our encampment teams and outreach workers are working tirelessly to go out and help bring people into shelter and clean up encampments,” said Mayor London Breed. “We are continuing to use all of the resources we have and working to add more, but there is a lot more to do. We will be relentless in our efforts to help people into safer, supportive facilities, and make our neighborhoods cleaner and healthier for everyone. I want to thank our outreach workers across all of our agencies for their commitment to getting people help. This is not easy work, but it is making a difference.”

 “HSOC’s work to connect people living in encampments and vehicles with shelter and housing is very difficult, yet this dedicated team representing numerous City agencies remains undeterred in its mission to help our unsheltered residents come indoors,” said Mary Ellen Carroll, Executive Director of the Department of Emergency Management. “This reduction in people living in tents on our San Francisco streets is a testament to HSOC’s commitment and determination to help unsheltered neighbors transition from the street into a shelter, which makes our city’s public spaces safer for everyone.”

In September, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals issued a clarification, which stated that people who refuse offers of shelter do not meet the definition of “involuntarily homeless,” and thus, the federal preliminary injunction order does not apply to them. The clarification allowed San Francisco to once again enforce the enjoined laws when its offers of shelter are refused. Prior to that clarification, the City had been constrained in what laws could be enforced due to the federal injunction. Since that clarification, the City has seen this sustained reduction in tents and structure as part of its tent count.  

2024 Average Tent Count Rate Lowest Since Counts Started

San Francisco’s average tent count rate in 2024 is the lowest annual rate of any year since the city started doing tent counts back in 2018. HSOC was launched at the beginning of 2018, which is when the City began to do more systematic counting of encampments and tents.  

HSOC Encampment Outreach Stats

HSOC is a collaboration between the Department of Emergency Management, Public Works, Homelessness and Supportive Housing, the Police Department, the Fire Department, and the Department of Public Health.  

In 2024, San Francisco encampment outreach teams have conducted 242 operations as part of the Healthy Streets Operation Center. In those operations outreach workers made 1530 encounters with individuals. Of the 1530 encounters as part of these operations in 2024:

  • 460 times offers of shelter were accepted (30%)
  • 924 times offers of shelters were refused (60%)
  • 145 times the individual was already sheltered/housed (10%)

It’s important to note that this is the number of encounters, not the number of individuals. An individual can be encountered across multiple operations. For example, if an operation takes place on Willow Street and an individual refuses services in January, the team might return to the same area in February and encounter the individual again.