KOMO News looks at homelessness in San Francisco's worst neighborhood

KOMO News, the Seattle news station that produced the “Seattle is Dying” special, sent a reporter to look at the homeless situation in the city of San Francisco. The result was a video report that compares the situations in the two cities and finds that things appear to be worse in San Francisco in a number of ways.

Despite increased incremental spending of tens of millions of dollars each year, San Francisco leaders were shocked when results of this year’s one night count of the city’s homeless went up 30 percent from just 2 years ago…

We visited the Tenderloin, a 30-block neighborhood in the center of San Francisco where the convergence of homelessness, drug addiction and mental illness is most visible.

Nearly half of city’s sheltered and unsheltered homeless are concentrated around the Tenderloin and in an area known as South of Market.

It’s where Brandon Deerfield, originally from Monroe, Wash., now calls home.

“This is just homelessness, drug use and all its madness,” says Brandon, who now lives on the streets of the Tenderloin. He used to be homeless on the streets of Seattle and offers a unique perspective.

“I’d say it’s more chaotic here. Drugs, it’s easier to get them here, than there,” he says…

Brandon says people in San Francisco are more generous than Seattleites with their dollars to panhandlers who are ‘flying a sign.'”

In Seattle, he says, “They’re like, ‘Oh you are just going to spend it on drugs,’ but it’s normal for them out here.”

By putting up a sign on the sidewalk, Brandon says he can make $30 in 15 minutes and he claims some people explicitly tell him “I don’t care what you do with this.” It never ceases to amaze me that some people can take pride in their willingness to help someone else fall a little farther down the ladder as if that’s something to be personally proud of. Because what Brandon does with the money he’s given is buy fentanyl which he smokes by heating it with a lighter and inhaling it through a broken syringe. Brandon tells KOMO that’s the new thing now that fentanyl is easier to come by than heroin.

This city is said to be focused on a “Housing First” policy which tends to concentrate thousands of homeless people in the Tenderloin because that’s where a number of old hotels built in the early 20th century have been turned into subsidized housing. The city also seems to tolerate tent camps in the area in a way it does not anywhere else. According to San Francisco County Supervisor Matt Haney who represents the area, there are drug dealers selling heroin and fentanyl on the streets, catering to the addicted homeless every day. He wants the city to step in an offer more individualized help but that doesn’t seem to be in the cards.

“We have a failing shelter system, a failing mental health and failing housing system, so I think you need to treat all of them at the same time,” Haney told KOMO. This is just part one of this story. The next part will be published on Wednesday. The video report that accompanies the story is worth watching but doesn’t seem to be embeddable at the moment. So, for now, you’ll have to click here to watch it.