Officials at San Francisco International Airport (SFO) are evaluating how to best address the growing issue of homeless people taking shelter in the air hub, the latest challenge stemming from the northern California city’s homelessness crisis.
Earlier this week, Fox 2 KTVU reported that SFO is experiencing a recent “surge” of homeless people taking refuge in the busy airport; many are said to arrive in the middle of the night via BART trains south from the city, as per the San Francisco Chronicle.
Though reps for SFO did not immediately return Fox News’ request for comment on the story, spokesperson Doug Yagel told KTVU that administrators are working hard to produce effective short and long-term solutions to the matter.
"We might make SamTrans tokens available to them. We might, if they're eligible, transport them to a nearby homeless shelter, if BART is still running we can give them a token to a BART train,” Yagel said of possible, immediate resolutions.
"Ultimately we want to develop advocacy that finds the proper channels for these individuals," he continued. "So, we're starting to reach out to homeless advocacy in San Mateo County. We're looking to set up something with the city of San Francisco as well."
For example, a former airport employee told the outlet that she went everywhere with a “buddy” in the early hours of her shifts – apparently as a safety precaution – given the amount of homeless people she’d encounter, especially during bad weather.
An official with the San Francisco Coalition on Homelessness, Jennifer Freidenbach, said it wasn’t a shock that homeless populations would take refuge in SFO, given the deficit of affordable housing in San Fran and lack of room in many shelters.
“I mean, there's just nowhere else for people to go,” Freidenbach told KTVU. “So, we're going to see them at the airport, we're going to see them on the busses we're going to see them out. There's just literally nowhere else for people to go.”
According to a report published earlier this month by the Bay Area Council Economic Institute, a local think tank, the San Francisco Bay Area has the third-largest homeless population in the nation, behind New York and Los Angeles.
The report found that 28,200 people in the Bay Area are "experiencing homelessness," compared to 76,500 in New York and 55,200 in Los Angeles. The report also found that two-thirds of the Bay Area's homeless are unsheltered, living on the streets or in cars.
"The absolute size of the Bay Area’s homeless population, combined with the region’s dearth of temporary shelter options and an insufficient supply of supportive housing, desensitizes the public and condemns the homeless to lives of hardship," the report's executive summary detailed, which also estimated that it would take until 2037 for every homeless person in the Bay Area to receive a bed, given current rates of low-income housing construction and "inflows into homelessness."
Over the summer, one travel expert acknowledged that San Francisco's homelessness crisis has intensified to the point of hurting the city’s $9 billion tourism industry on a grand scale.
"We are losing business," Joe D'Alessandro, head of the San Francisco Travel Association, told Fox News in July. "We have groups who say they can't come to San Francisco as long as the streets are like this."
Though the exact impact of the critical homelessness situation on San Fran’s billion-dollar tourism profits remain unclear, things are reportedly not looking good. In June, a major medical association withdrew from hosting its annual convention in San Francisco, claiming its members no longer felt safe there. The cancellation of that one five-day trade show represented a loss of $40 million to the local economy.
Fox News’ Samuel Chamberlain and Claudia Cowan contributed to this report.