San Francisco's February Tent Count: Number of Tents on City Streets Drop Significantly Since July

Quarterly tent count reveals 37% reduction in tents and 42% reduction in vehicles
March 02, 2024

San Francisco, CA – Today Mayor London N. Breed announced that the City’s latest quarterly tent count showed a significant reduction in people living unsheltered in both tents and vehicles as San Francisco continues efforts to offer people shelter and housing, and to clean up encampments.  

San Francisco conducts a quarterly citywide tent and vehicle count to measure progress in its street encampment work. The latest count, which took place last week found:

  • 385 Tents – a 37% reduction from 609 in July 2023
  • 616 vehicles – a 42% reduction from 1,058 in July 2023

This represents the largest reduction in tents in a six-month period since the start of the pandemic.

The 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. In 2023, HSOC teams conducted over 480 operations and moved over 1,500 people into shelter from encampments.  

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.  

San Francisco’s Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing has opened 300 new shelter beds in the last three months and employed new strategies to fill vacant housing units faster. This includes its new Street to Home initiative, which places people directly into housing from the street by reducing bureaucratic barriers around paperwork and requirements that often delays housing placements.  

This has helped lower the vacancy rate in the City’s Permanent Supportive Housing portfolio by 29% in the last year. In 2023 alone, the City helped 3,000 people permanently exit homelessness.

"Our city workforce is out there every day helping people into shelter and care,” said Mayor London Breed. “While we are making progress, we can’t let up. We will continue to offer shelter to those in need, while also using new solutions for those who won’t or can’t accept our offers of care. We have the resources, the tools, and the commitment to help people and make a difference in our neighborhoods.”

“Successfully connecting our unsheltered populations with indoor shelter resources is difficult, especially when people decline shelter assistance. Regardless, our mission remains undeterred to help our unsheltered residents access and accept shelter options,” said Executive Director Mary Ellen Carroll, Department of Emergency Management. “This reduction of people living in tents is testament to HSOC’s commitment and earnest work to help our unsheltered residents get the support they need.” 

Following the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals clarification in September, 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 the City 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.

This decrease in tents has happened alongside other improvements in City conditions during the same period.  

  • Since September 1, the City has seen a 31% decrease in property crime and a 5% decrease in violent crime.  
  • The City’s work to target open-air drug markets has ramped up during that time, with local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies working side by side to improve conditions in the Tenderloin and South of Market neighborhoods. This work has led to twice as many drug dealers being arrested in 2023 as the previous year.  
  • San Francisco also became the first – and only – county to implement the new state conservatorship laws in January, which allowed the City to begin helping those struggling with substance use disorder get into care.  
  • The City’s ban on street vending in the Mission Street commercial corridor has led to a 30% decrease in robberies and assaults, and a 23% decrease in calls for street cleaning.