San Francisco homeless stats soar: city blames big business, residents blame officials
In the summer of 2019, Fox News embarked on an ambitious project to chronicle the toll progressive policies have had on the homeless crisis in four West Coast cities: Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Portland, Ore. In each city, we saw a lack of safety, sanitation and civility. Residents, the homeless and advocates say they've lost faith in their elected officials' ability to solve the issue. Most of the cities have thrown hundreds of millions of dollars at the problem only to watch it get worse. This is what we saw in San Francisco.
San Francisco is a city of extremes.
It has more billionaires per capita than anywhere else in the world, but it also has a homeless problem so severe that it rivals some third-world nations. On any given day you can see souped-up Lamborghinis and blinged-out trophy wives in one part of the city, then walk over a few blocks and see piles of human feces, puddles of urine and vomit caked on the sidewalks. The misery of homelessness, mental illness and drug addiction hits deep in San Francisco and has turned parts of a beautiful city into a public toilet.
As the problem grows, residents are finding themselves at a crossroads. The compassion for those struggling is constantly being challenged by a fear for their own safety and quality of life. It never had to get this bad, say critics, who are appalled that it's getting worse every day.
"I won't visit my son who lives out there again," Amelia Cartwright told Fox News. "It's disgusting. I went there a few months ago for the first time and this guy who looked homeless and really beat up spit on me. Can you imagine? He spit on me!"
While it might be a shock to the system for some, residents say such interactions are common.
One cleaning woman who works downtown told Fox News a homeless woman comes by every day, curses at her and spits on the window.
Lately, the cases of citizens being harassed by mentally ill street people has taken a dangerous turn.
Last week, Austin Vincent, a homeless man, was caught on camera attacking a 26-year-old woman outside her condo complex. As he threw Paneez Kosarian on the ground, he allegedly talked about saving her from robots and offered to kill another woman nearby so he could earn her trust.
Vincent was arrested and pleaded not guilty to a false imprisonment charge and two counts of battery and attempted robbery. Instead of being thrown in jail, Superior Court Judge Christine Van Aken released Vincent over the objections of the district attorney's office. Her decision caused a huge backlash in the community and was slammed by Mayor London Breed and other city officials. The judge eventually ordered Vincent to wear an ankle monitor.
On Monday, Vincent was arrested again for an alleged assault that occurred in February. The police said he was armed with a knife and approached a woman and her friends as they waited for a ride. Vincent allegedly threatened to kill the woman and lunged at the group.
The controversy over Vincent's initial release is just the latest example prompting people in the City by the Bay to say they don't feel safe on the streets. Outraged residents Fox News spoke to in late June said they're tired of waiting for their elected officials to come up with a plan and complain no one ever seems to be on the same page.
What's equally frustrating is that the city still manages to blow through hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars each year to address the crisis and blames everyone but themselves when the homeless count rises.
"It's not as though we don't see the problem," a former Apple employee told Fox News. "There's no way to escape it."
In May, city officials braced themselves when a preliminary homeless count was released. They expected the numbers to rise and they were right. Initial data showed that it had jumped 17 percent from 2017. The double-digit growth was bad enough but then it got a whole lot worse.
When the final report was released a couple of months later, it showed the street count increase would have been 30 percent if the city had stuck to the same definition of homelessness as they had in the past. This year, San Francisco opted to use the federal definition instead of the one they wrote themselves.