June 5, 2024 Corey Smith

Pride and Paradox: The Realities of LGBTQ+ Housing Insecurity in San Francisco

SAN FRANCISCO, CA (Photo by Arun Nevader/Getty Images)

This month rainbow flags will fly as cities across the nation celebrate LGBTQ+ Pride. As a ten-year San Francisco resident, Pride month has always felt particularly special in San Francisco.  With the city’s rich history of progressivism and LGBTQ+ inclusivity, San Francisco prides (pardon) itself on being a place where queer folks feel welcome and appreciated. From being the first U.S. city to legalize gay marriage to electing the nation’s first openly gay city official, San Francisco has carved out a reputation as a pioneer in LGBTQ+ advocacy and cultural acceptance.

However, it’d be naive to call San Francisco and the greater Bay Area a gay utopia. With LGBTQ+ folks disproportionately represented among people facing housing insecurity in the US, gay folks face particularly acute challenges in San Francisco — one of the country’s most expensive cities. San Francisco’s housing affordability crisis creates a paradox for the city: it is culturally inclusive but economically exclusive.

For gay and trans youth in particular, forced to leave their families and hometowns because of discrimination, the prospect of finding a safe and secure place to live is often uncertain. According to the San Francisco Youth Homeless Count And Survey of 2022, out of 1,073 homeless youth, 38% identify as LGBTQ+. Denied a basic human need — shelter — an already vulnerable population is forced to endure the detrimental mental and physical tolls that a lack of housing creates.

San Francisco often pats ourself on the back for our prominent LGBTQ+ community. With leaders like Senator Scott Wiener, Honey Mahogany, and D’Arcy Drollinger, San Francisco is truly a city run and shaped by the resilience and strength of LGBTQ+ people. 

Amid the rainbow flags and jubilant parades of Pride Month, however, it’s also important to acknowledge where San Francisco is coming up short. As we continue to strive to make our city a safe haven and beacon of hope for queer folk, we must also reckon with our severe housing shortage and failure to build enough homes for everyone. San Francisco should be proud of its LGBTQ+ history, tradition, and culture. Yet, we can’t claim to be an inclusive city if our housing landscape excludes people who can’t afford to live here.

Corey Smith

Corey Smith is HAC's Executive Director and can be reached at corey@housingactioncoalition.org.

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