Homeless Sleep on the Streets in Downtown SSF

South San Francisco, CA  July 13, 2016

Grand Avenue contines to be the destination for those homeless seeking a place to sleep

Multiple store fronts on Grand Avenue have become sleeping quarters for homeless in SSF


The homeless population continues to grow as affordable housing options decline in the Bay area and South San Francisco is no exception. Census data from 2013 had shown a decline in the total population however reflected a larger percentage of homeless living on the streets. The 2015 Homeless Census in South San Francisco reported 58 homeless neighbors sleeping on the streets in addition to the 90 bed occupancy at Safe Harbor Shelter.


The City has been proactive in clearing homeless encampments in many areas, including beneath the Grand Avenue over pass, and finding services for those displaced. Yet the homeless population continues to grow in the downtown area as the City works to gentrify and remake Old Town. Grand Avenue in particular has become a day time gathering location and sleeping in storefront doorways has become common place. Residents as well as visitors have expressed their concern knowing this does not bode well for those on the streets, for our neighbors, or our City.


“You should see them during the day” a long time local merchant exclaimed “The cigarette butts all over and unkept transients in front of my business make it hard to attract shoppers.” Another merchant, who has been on Grand Avenue for over 25 years agrees recently telling us “The guys that sleep in the doorways, when they are sleeping they are no problem. But during the day there are so many of their friends that sit around, litter and discourage patrons. These guys need help. Is there anyone helping them?”


Three years ago the City Council reviewed the results from the SSF Downtown Task Force Findings & Recommendations that was initiated in January 2013 under Mayor Matsumoto which was covered in the San Mateo Daily Journal. Cameras and smoking bans resulted from that effort yet those in the downtown area are seeing more homeless sleeping on the streets.



Even during daylight hours, homeless seek shelter in storefronts on Grand Avenue


0 0 votes
Article Rating
Notify of

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Oldest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
5 years ago

I applaud the concerned citizen for knowing the struggle the homeless must go through. I have a job working 40 hours a week and live out of my car because I could no longer afford my rent. Being homeless is horrible and my ever present issues of ADD don’t make things better and cannot afford to have it diagnosed so I can be put on much needed medication. AND what’s worse I have a 18yr old cat that has been my emotional support ever since my family moved away in boarding that is taking up my whole paycheck. And to top it all off my cat is becoming I’ll due to stress from being boarded so long and being away from me. Seems that every time I check out a program I either don’t qualify because I make too much ($17/hr) or there’s a waiting list that is closed due to the enourmas amount of applicants.

Concerned Citizen
Concerned Citizen
7 years ago

Concerned Citizen
August 4, 2016 at 12:11 pm
In response to “Homeless In So. City Sleeping on our streets. Sorry I couldn’t find link to leave a comment there. But I wanted to provide a comment in response.

. I observed and watched numerous attempts by the County and the City spending endless resources on trying to solve the homeless dilemma. ( Every City across the US has a problem with homelessness). It shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone. The fact of the matter is if you take apart the encampments and scattered the people then you can pretend you don’t have a problem.

I always found it interesting to see how many survey’s were taken regarding homelessness, how many meetings, homeless counts once a year. How many hours do you really need to determine you have a problem and the types of problems your dealing with. Some clients have mental health issues making it more difficult to place them, some are paroles that cannot be housed in the shelter. So, they fall between the cracks. You have some with substance or alcohol problems. Then you have individuals who don’t earn enough to pay the ridiculous prices of today’s astronomical rents today. Are they getting better ? NO.

The fact of the matter is it’s easier to try to rid or scatter the homeless to other cities.

In fact, greedy property management companies are coming in and building huge apartment building with retail stores below them. With the promise of renting a very small percentage of these units to low to moderate income families. Why? Because they get HUD loans to fund them based on a contract of renting some of these units below market for a limited term.

I want you to ask yourself who gains from this? Let me see Revenue goes to the City, the County for Property taxes and of course the property management company just got millions of dollars in government loans to let you the residents think your getting something in return.

In the meantime your losing your community . Those mom and pop stores you grew up with are being slowly wiped away in the name of growth ( strategic planning) LOL. Little by little pushing out those that cannot afford the high cost of living. In the meantime your so called local government is wining and dining your local pharmaceuticals and Silicon Valley residents to consider moving into a less populated area with the promise of a quickly growing community with lots of opportunities. ( Look at he big picture. These people can bring growth and make the city and county even more richer.)

The fact is that having the homeless downtown SSF or even dining at St. Vincent de Paul Cafe has been a huge thorn in the side of the City. How many times did they try to find a new location for the Cafe? Long time residents are slowly moving and the once affordable Old Town has been courting a new group of potential residents. Wake up people this is happening right under your noses. Trying to revamp and invest money in modernization means bringing more revenue to the city and county and slowly getting rid of what they feel plagues the City. The working poor, the homeless.

What does the City call proactive? What can they claim as a positive move solving the homeless problem. ( Surveys, homeless committees, disbursing homeless encampments, trying hard to move their food resource from downtown to prevent disturbing the local businesses to discourage pan handling).

What positive programs have you successfully established to house, train, provide jobs, provide mental health care, how many homeless individuals can you claim to have housed or are a success story in your eyes. ( ( Did I hear you respond zero.)) Because it’s nice to talk the talk, but until you can show successes than your throwing precious resources ( monies away). Money that can help build a (One Stop Resource Center) that can cover multiple services under one roof . A section to deal with homelessness ( mental health resource workers, drug/alcohol, parole advocates) —A housing specialist for Veterans, seniors , disabled, families.—A (SRO) for single females / an SRO for single males. Job trainers, job advocates for skilled workers.
An SRO or mental health shelter where those who cannot function in normal society.

Take a huge piece of property like the old Levitz and house the services on site. I could imagine 100-150 Tiny Homes with a public bathroom and showers for the residents. Providing them with a time limit to get stable employment or a job training to become self sufficient .

Train some of the clients to participate with an in house food pantry, produce mobile. You can never know if it will work if you don’t even try. You can continue to chase your tail counting and counting the homeless year after year. You can continue to have luxury meetings and lunches to collaborate services etc. But your not looking good to anyone, but your own peers. You should thank GOD you go home to nice cozy homes every night. That you are fortunate to have a great city or county paid job. But in the end you better realize that life can change in a heartbeat and you too can be that shadow in a dark corner someday. When you were once a somebody you too will become someone no longer recognizes and your dignity and respect can be lost just as quickly. You should really put yourselves in their shoes for one day. I’m sure it’s harder than any job just trying to get your next meal, or ask for services when your agency is clear across town ( not within walking distance). Just getting from Safe Harbor to get a simple meal for the day. Trying to get a bed at the shelter itself. You have to carry your worldly possessions everywhere or take a chance of losing them. Really Mr. Futrell you need to have better answers or comments than you do right now.




[…] Please see our most recent post about Homeless in South City sleeping on our local streets  CLICK HERE  […]

Mike Futrell
7 years ago

Response from the City Manager

The human condition labeled as “homelessness” is a tragedy. A tragedy for the homeless individual, for their family and for the community. Homelessness is particularly acute in the Bay Area, in part due to the high cost of housing; however, your portrayal of the homeless situation in South San Francisco is inaccurate. Here are the facts:

The San Mateo County government is charged with taking care of the homeless in our county, and devotes a great deal of effort and money to reduce homelessness. Periodically the County conducts a count of the homeless in each city. The most recent count in South San Francisco showed a 68% drop in the number of unsheltered homeless in our city, dropping from 172 homeless in 2013 to 55 homeless in 2015 – the largest reduction of the homeless of any city in San Mateo County.

The number of homeless has gone down in South San Francisco because our city is extremely proactive and progressive in its approach to the homeless and transients:

– Our city has a “homeless outreach team” which finds and works with the homeless to get them shelter, counselling, medical care, veterans benefits and other services, all designed to have the individuals return to a self-sufficient lifestyle. There are many success stories of people being given the needed hand up, and then getting off the street.
– As you acknowledge, the city has been very proactive in clearing homeless encampments whenever they appear. These camps are not tolerated in South San Francisco and are removed as soon as they are discovered.
– This year the city increased the downtown police bike patrol from one full-time police officer to two police officers, doubling the capacity to walk and bike the downtown area. These officers work with transients to get them off the streets, enforce the no smoking ban on Grand Avenue, enforce the recently strengthened anti-loitering ordinance and generally keep the downtown area clean and safe. Homeless sleeping on Grand Avenue is not common, nor is it allowed, and these officers are in place to make sure it does not happen.

I do not turn a blind eye to problems. Much work is still needed to fight legacy problems in our city. But, nor do I fail to give credit where credit is due. Combined efforts by the City, the County, active business owners, local residents and our Chamber of Commerce has greatly improved our downtown area – and not just by reducing homelessness, but by bringing new energy and businesses to the downtown, creating a downtown we can all enjoy. I urge your readers to check out your new downtown – you will like what you find!

Mike Futrell

your neighbor
your neighbor
7 years ago

Get ready for more taxes when the San Mateo County Supervisors vote to extend the Measure A sales tax another 20 years to pay for affordable housing in San Mateo County. If it’s like So. City’s planned housing for the downtown with the few affordable (whatever that means)units and majority ‘market priced housing’, we’ll continue to see homelessness in our neighborhoods and parks. I stopped shopping downtown when the half cent sales tax went into effect in April, so I don’t see the homeless sleeping on doorways.

Peggy Deras
Peggy Deras
7 years ago

I live in The Highlands, behind Buri Buri.
Recently our neighbor’s son came to our door visibly upset.
He told my husband that there was a pile of excrement on our walkway between our two houses.
the “pile” also included toilet paper, so he knew it was human.
He demanded that we clean it up.
We went out and did so shortly thereafter.
A disgusting affair.
The homeless are not only downtown. Or at least the bathroomless.

The day before I had put our green recycling container out in front, but around to the side, in front of the walkway in question. I forgot to move it out to the curb until about 2:00AM when I awoke, remembered, and went out to take it to the curb. Apparently, our “visitor” availed himself of the spot behind the recycling bin to relieve himself. He also pissed on our garage wall, so I know he was a he.