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New San Francisco Campaign Aims to House 1,100 Homeless 

FILE - A man holds a bicycle tire outside a tent along a street in San Francisco, June.27, 2019. A public engagement campaign beginning July 25, 2019, will seek to find homes for more than 1,000 homeless people.

SAN FRANCISCO — Homelessness and a housing crunch have come to define San Francisco as much as the Golden Gate Bridge or Alcatraz. Now a new public engagement campaign is urging residents to put aside their political differences and support finding homes for more than 1,000 homeless people.

The ``All In'' campaign being launched Thursday has the support of baseball's Giants and the NFL's 49ers, as well as Airbnb, Google, Postmates and dozens of nonprofits and other businesses. Philanthropist Daniel Lurie, founder of the anti-poverty nonprofit behind ``All In,'' says he wants to inspire people in a city known for its liberal politics to tackle a problem mired in negativity, despair and political fighting.

``Some people are fed up. Some people are exasperated, some people are just giving up and we need to bring all of those people and say, `Listen, here are solutions that you can get behind,''' he said. ``We're all going to have to sacrifice a little bit.''

Wealth disparity

A one-night count earlier this year found the number of homeless increased 17% over two years to more than 8,000 people. At the same time, the city is booming with well-paying tech and finance jobs that some say are squeezing out the city's working and middle class.

Lurie, a San Francisco native and founder of Tipping Point Community, says he wants to focus on finding housing. He has raised the $100 million he pledged two years ago to address the issue, and he hopes to find homes throughout the city for 1,100 people by 2022.

He says there is land available to develop and landlords willing to accept vouchers to rent to people trying to move out of homelessness. Lurie said he needs to find more such landlords and encourage voters to support building in a city where homeowners are sometimes quick to protest projects in their backyard.

FILE - A homeless person pushes a cart past parked recreational vehicles along a street in San Francisco, June 27, 2019.
FILE - A homeless person pushes a cart past parked recreational vehicles along a street in San Francisco, June 27, 2019.

Residents of the Embarcadero, for example, are suing the city for approving a temporary homeless shelter along the waterfront, saying it is the wrong fit. An announcement of a location for an RV homeless shelter prompted both support and opposition.

Joe Wilson, executive director of Hospitality House, which operates a shelter, says he believes the campaign can make a difference. ``We have to be taking necessary steps forward and definitely the scale of the solution has to meet the scale of the problem,'' he said.

Wilson is also happy the tech industry is stepping up. In fact, some billionaire tech entrepreneurs have taken a more visible role.

Marc Benioff, a city native and founder of cloud-based software company Salesforce, publicly backed a successful November 2018 measure to tax wealthy businesses for homeless and addiction services. Benioff sparred on Twitter with Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, who opposed the measure.

But both entrepreneurs this year backed a GoFundMe campaign in support of the homeless shelter along the waterfront.

Short-term rentals

Voters rejected in 2015 a ballot measure to restrict Airbnb rentals after heavy spending by the San Francisco-based company. Critics said Airbnb added to the city's housing crunch by encouraging landlords to take rooms off the long-term rental market in favor of short-term stays.

Asked if Airbnb might encourage hosts to rent long term, Matt Middlebrook, the company's public policy lead for California, Hawaii and Alaska said, ``We've not gotten that far in this process.''

But he said the company will spread the new awareness campaign to its ``hosts'' and the company's 3,000 workers. ``We're going to be sharing information with all of them about the `All In' campaign and in ways they can engage in this effort,'' he said.