Family Shelter Waiting List

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Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing

FY 2016-17
Target: 200 households
Result: 157 households on the shelter waiting list in May 2017

This measure tracks the total number of households on the waiting list for family shelters that provide three- to six-month stays. If a family has no immediate housing options in the interim, Compass Connecting Point, a program that gives any San Francisco family experiencing a housing crisis quick access to necessary services and coordinates access to emergency services. This metric aims to track the community’s at-risk families who are experiencing a housing crisis, yet there are challenges with consistently assessing who on the wait list are the community's most vulnerable.


Note: Prior to 2016, the numbers presented above are point-in-time values from one point during the respective year. Monthly data collection began in January 2016.

How the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing is Performing

Multiple factors, including referring or diverting families to alternate services or paths to permanent housing, the availability of additional permanent supportive housing for families in shelter to exit into, and families moving out of San Francisco due to high housing costs contributed to a decline in the family shelter waitlist between 2013 and 2015. The family shelter waitlist increased in early 2016, likely because exits into supportive or affordable housing no longer outpaced family shelter waitlist entries related to the rising housing costs in San Francisco. In addition, Compass Connecting Point restructured its service provision system in 2015, making more case managers available to work with wait list families and increasing client assistance resources. This resulted in families staying more engaged with the program and decreased the number dropping off the wait list.

Demand for family shelter is greater than the supply and families typically spend months on the waitlist before shelter placement occurs. While on the waitlist, families are assessed to determine if they may be eligible for priority placement or if it is appropriate to refer them to other services such as eviction prevention, legal services, rental assistance grants, rental subsidies, substance abuse and mental health services, and counseling. Families can sometimes be assisted with finding permanent housing before they obtain shelter placement.

During the next year, DHSH will be designing a Family Coordinated Entry System for all of its programs that serve homeless families. This system will prioritize assistance to ensure that families most in need of assistance receive it in a timely manner. Over time, the system will provide information about service needs, duplication, and gaps to help determine appropriate resource allocation and “right-size” assistance. The coordinated entry system will likely impact the family shelter waitlist, although it is too early to say exactly how and when this will occur.

How Performance is Measured

San Francisco has a single point of entry for family shelter. DHSH contracts with the non-profit Compass Family Services to operate Compass Connecting Point, which assesses families and makes referrals or places them on the shelter waitlist. Compass Connecting Point tracks the shelter waitlist data in their system and sends a report to DHSH. DHSH reports the data to the Controller’s Office on a monthly basis.

Note that over this time period, waitlist policies have changed and hence year-to-year comparisons should be interpreted with caution. For example, in the past families already in shelter could also be on the waitlist; this is no longer the case. Out-of-county residents are now required to demonstrate intent to reside in San Francisco by transferring benefits to San Francisco.

The number displayed on the scorecard page represents the most current monthly value in the chart above.

Additional Information


Please visit DataSF for the scorecard data.