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San Francisco’s unclaimed dead: Here are the 1,099 people left to the city since 2021

Officials are loading a covered stretcher into a medical examiner's van at night on a city street.
San Francisco medical examiner personnel load a body on a gurney into a van. | Source: Garrett Leahy/The Standard

Some died as they were just being born, and others lived to be as old as 102. Some died inside, in nursing homes, hospitals or hotel rooms. Others perished outdoors. After they took their last breaths, their bodies were collected by the San Francisco Office of the Chief Medical Examiner.

Thousands of people die in the city each year. For the vast majority, family or friends quickly take charge of the remains—arranging for a funeral or memorial service, and seeing to it that the body is buried or cremated.

But each year, hundreds of corpses have no one to take them to their final resting place. The unclaimed dead, as they are called, are the most vulnerable people in society—impoverished, addicted, elderly, alone or a combination thereof.

In the last three years, nearly 1,100 people have died in San Francisco, and no one has come forward to claim them.

The medical examiner’s office inters unclaimed bodies through its Indigent Disposition Program. Hospitals, convalescent homes and other healthcare facilities ask that patients who died in their care be taken by the city if the person if no family was found or no one was willing or financially able to cover the funeral.

The city’s contracted funeral director must cremate these bodies and store them for one year while the Office of the Public Administrator searches for their next of kin if they haven’t been found. Sometimes, they are known, but they are unwilling or financially unable to take responsibility.

If no next of kin can be found within a year, or if no one collects the remains in that time, San Francisco scatters the ashes at the Golden Gate. The practice is unusual among major American cities, many of which use potter’s fields for burying the poor and forgotten.

Some cities, including Los Angeles, maintain public-facing databases of their unclaimed dead. This is done in the hopes of providing dignity to the deceased and closure for those they have left behind—and, of course, reducing the financial burden on public agencies.

San Francisco maintains no such public list. However, The Standard obtained the names of 1,099 people whose remains have gone unclaimed in the city between 2021 and 2023. Hundreds of those have now been cremated and scattered near Kirby Cove. Hundreds more remain in storage.

The drug overdose crisis has caused the number of cases to double in the last 20 years. In 2023, 355 people died and went unclaimed. Forty-four percent of those died of drug overdoses.

The Standard is sharing this searchable database of the names of people who went unclaimed from 2021-2023 to allow families the chance to find their lost loved ones.

To contact the medical examiner’s office to inquire about a decedent, call 415-641-3600 or email

Alex Mullaney can be reached at