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Which homeless people get housing in San Francisco?

A person and a child at a desk in a classroom.
Elizabeth Lima, 34, watches her daughter, Robyn Lima, 3, paint during drawing class at the Hamilton Family Shelter, located at 260 Golden Gate, in San Francisco, on Tuesday, August 6, 2019. The drawing class, called Draw Bridge, is a group that teaches art in homeless shelters. | Yalonda M. James/The San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images

This installment of Ask The Standard draws from a set of widely held questions about homelessness in San Francisco.

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In deciding who receives housing or other help, the city considers factors such as income or whether the person is caring for children, has a substance use disorder, criminal records or a history of trauma.

Unhoused individuals answer a survey about their histories, what barriers to housing they’ve faced and what might happen to them if they were left to live on the streets.

Some have criticized the process as confusing, slow and unreliable because it relies on self-reported data. The Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing is working on revising the process based on the recommendations of a working group.

Access to shelters can be similarly difficult, as people are usually only admitted through the city’s encampment resolution process, which responds to homeless encampments on an ad hoc basis—often due to complaints from neighbors—and ostensibly offers the occupants shelter.

David Sjostedt can be reached at