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Four years ago, San Francisco’s public policy toward homelessness was encapsulated in the award winning plan Beyond Shelter, which called for the coordinated involvement of all city departments to address the causes of homelessness. On August 1, 1993, one city department — the Police, was pushed to the forefront to address the problem in what is called the Matrix” or Quality of Life” Program. The Mayor’s Office has repeatedly asserted that they are focusing on the criminal element with this program, and are not targeting homeless people. There are, however, hundreds of homeless people who have been brought into the criminal justice system for the crimes of camping or sleeping, offenses based on status, not behavior.

This paper attempts to provide a general understanding of San Francisco’s Matrix Program — its historical roots, similar measures in other cities, and the fiscal impact on the County. A final section illustrates who the people being arrested for Matrix are, and how much it costs to put them in jail. 

From Beyond Shelter To Behind Bars