Headline in Question:

San Francisco: wealthy opponents of new shelter claim homeless are bad for environment (The Guardian, July, 11, 2019)


“This project will have a significant effect on the environment due to these unusual circumstances, including by attracting additional homeless persons, open drug and alcohol use, crime, daily emergency calls, public urination and defecation, and other nuisances,” the lawsuit states.

Opponents of the shelter have long said that their ultimate concern is public safety, a point that homeless rights advocates have argued was bigoted and dehumanizing.

My Take:

Where’s the data? Are there studies on the impact of homeless shelters on neighborhood crime and quality of life? Isn’t that relevant to this issue? The Guardian article did not address whether there was any evidence one way or the other regarding the residents’ concerns. Why doesn’t that matter?

I looked for the data and there’s not much. Basically, one study (Galster, Pettit et al, 2002), which found that across 14 supportive housing projects in Denver, there was:

“…no statistically significant evidence that the development of these facilities led to increased rates of reported violent, property, criminal mischief, disorderly conduct, or total crimes. However, for a subset of the large facilities of 53 or more residents, rates of reported violent and total crime increased significantly within 500 feet of the sites after they opened.”:

In other words, size matters. Did I mention that the San Francisco supportive housing project in question has 200 beds?

The bottom line here is whether the local residents have legitimate concerns. It’s irrelevant whether they’re wealthy or biased. If the evidence backs up the residents’ concerns, figure out ways to minimize the negative impact of large shelters (including “navigation centers”) on neighborhoods. No need to evoke class warfare memes.


Galster, G., K. Pettit, et al. (2002). "The Impact of Supportive Housing on Neighborhood Crime Rates." Journal of Urban Affairs 24(3): 289-315. https://doi.org/10.1111/1467-9906.00128