BART’s focused approach to addressing the homeless crisis
It is our job to help ensure the safety, security, comfort and convenience of all those who use BART.
The national homeless crisis can be visible in BART stations and on trains as homeless people use BART for shelter. Increasing rates of homelessness and related quality-of-life issues on BART present us with unique challenges as a transit system, and highlight a pressing need for action and understanding from us, our riders, and our partner agencies in the communities we serve.
BART does not have the internal resources that homeless people need. In response, we’ve developed a coordinated and comprehensive approach that maintains a safe and clean environment for riders—while connecting homeless people who seek shelter in our system to services and resources.
It is estimated there are 30,000 homeless individuals in the Bay Area. As a rider, you may be concerned with behavior you’ve witnessed while on BART, and we hear you. It could be a person experiencing a mental health crisis, aggressiveness or violence, a hygiene issue, aggressive panhandling, drug use, or perhaps sleeping across several seats during the commute. It is understandably frustrating for commuters to be crowded out of trains by persons who are there for reasons other than commuting. BART simply does not have space for people to set up short term residency. We also need to maintain clear paths in our station hallways for evacuation in the event of an emergency. Persons lying down in station corridors is a life safety issue for everyone in the station.
All riders are expected to pay the fare and follow our Passenger Code of Conduct adopted by our Board of Directors to ensure that any one person doesn’t adversely affect others using or operating the system. The Passenger Code of Conduct is based on common courtesy, and most all violations of the Passenger Code of Conduct are also a criminal violation.
Since FY14 BART has spent $59 million on new budget initiatives addressing Quality of Life challenges in the areas of safety, fare evasion prevention, cleanliness and homelessness.
We are working on a variety of measures to tackle these issues and just as important help those in need.
Connect People to Resources
- Deploying our full-time Crisis Intervention Training Coordinator and Community Outreach Liaison to seek out homeless individuals with the goal of connecting people to services by providing vital referral services. This position brings expertise to BART on the complex issues related to homelessness.
- Actively making contacts with individuals to develop a relationship and needs assessment. BART Police made 271 contacts in 2018 with people laying down in our station hallways. These contacts have allowed BART to successfully reunite individuals with family members willing to provide housing or other local housing resources.
- Assisting those in crisis and transporting the individual to a mental health facility, detox, or hospital. All BART officers undergo crisis intervention training.
- Sending our outreach expert and BART Police on early morning trains headed to the end of the line to make contacts with those sleeping on the trains.
Homeless Outreach Teams
BART currently has homeless outreach teams in San Francisco and Contra Costa County. Teams will soon be added to Alameda and San Mateo Counties.
BART is helping to fund a partnership between BART, MUNI and the City of San Francisco’s Department of Homelessness to provide two full-time Homelessness Outreach Team (HOT) employees focusing on Embarcadero, Montogomery, Powell and Civic Center stations. This team began operations mid-November 2017. They will help move people off our concourse floors and into shelters, while also connecting them to treatment and more permanent resources. They work four days a week.
From November 14, 2017 to November 14, 2018, the team made contact with 703 individuals, with over 76% connected to services and over 26% of cases resolved.
The BART-dedicated San Francisco Homeless Outreach Team expanded to Mission Stations in April 2019 to include 16th and Mission St. and the 24th and Mission St. Stations. This team engages with the immediate areas near the BART stations, including individuals from SRO’s or single-room-occupancy housing in the area, as well as programs from churches, social services and other programs that provide support to the homeless and others struggling with mental health and addiction challenges who end up at stations.
Metrics on SFHOT Outreach November 14, 2017-June 30, 2018
Contra Costa County
An outreach program that involves two full-time C.O.R.E. employees dedicated to Contra Costa County launched on January 1, 2019. C.O.R.E. stands for Coordinated Outreach, Referral, & Engagement and their role will be to engage homeless individuals seeking refuge in the BART stations and on board trains or under our aerial tracks and connect them with available services and shelters in this county. UPDATE: CORE homeless outreach team is already producing positive results. In its first two weeks, CORE made contact with 24 individuals who were willing to talk them, all of which received referrals to available social services. Of the 24, 9 were placed in a county shelter and 13 others were placed in a warming center.
Alameda and San Mateo Counties
In July 2019 the Board of Directors toted to expand the Homeless Outreach Team (H.O.T.) program to Alameda and San Mateo counties (including the SFO airport).
BART is currently in discussions with the Alameda County Healthcare Services Agency to launch one dedicated team to engage those experiencing homelessness on BART property and under aerial tracks and connect them to available services and shelters in this county.
BART is working with San Mateo County Human Services Agency to launch its own Homeless Outreach Team for San Mateo County and San Francisco International Airport. The team will consist of one dedicated team to engage those experiencing homelessness on BART property and under aerial tracks and connect them to available services and shelters in this county.
Drug Diversion Program
-Participating in a Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) program, which diverts low-level drug offenders who may also be struggling with homelessness and mental health issues from the criminal justice system into treatment programs and hopefully recovery. This diversion program is in response to the open drug use witnessed in our system. These efforts will be focused on the Civic Center and 16th Street stations. There are two types of diversions: pre-booking, in which a person is facing a choice between possible jail for a low-level non-violent controlled substance offense, or an agreement to enter the LEAD program. The other is called a "social contact" diversion, which allows a referral into LEAD by a law enforcement officer who has witnessed LEAD-eligible behavior. Read a behind-the-scenes look at how this program works and the partners involved. UPDATE: This program began October 2017. As of September 4, 2018 this partnership lead to 89 pre-bookings and 87 social contacts within the BART system.
Salvation Army Partnership
Partnering with the Salvation Army to connect people in downtown San Francisco with services. Following a successful joint outreach event in May of 2018, BART and the Salvation Army expanded their efforts to address quality of life issues in and around downtown San Francisco’s Civic Center Station. The expansion involves Salvation Army staff and volunteers conducting weekly outreach events at the station each Wednesday afternoon beginning June 13th to link people with resources. The Salvation Army regularly does work in this area, but May 17, 2018 was the first time the non-profit coordinated with BART to also go into the Civic Center station to encourage people to come up to UN Plaza to receive food, socks, hygiene kits and information on available resources. More than 750 people were served that day and 4 homeless individuals enrolled in a detox and recovery program. They were transported on-the-spot to the Salvation Army’s Harbor Light Center. The weekly effort will take place between 1 pm and 3 pm each Wednesday.
On December 3, 2019, BART announced it will team with the Salvation Army during its seasonal Red Kettle Campaign with a new “Partners for Change” initiative inside BART stations systemwide. The first of its kind partnership will provide donated funds and paper BART tickets from BART riders to help pay for supportive services for those who seek shelter inside BART stations and on-board trains.
BART helps fund the San Francisco Public Works' Pit Stop Program provides clean and safe public toilets, as well as used-needle receptacles and dog waste stations, in the City's most impacted neighborhoods. The restroom units have running water, soap and hand towels, and are maintained by on site attendants to a high standard. There are currently Pit Stop bathrooms above four BART stations (Powell St. Station, Civic Center Station, 16th and Mission St. Station and 24th and Mission St. Station).
The Elevator Attendant Program was launched on April 30, 2018 and was renewed in FY19 to address sanitation and safety and security issues in the BART station elevators. Attendants are in the street and platform elevators at Civic Center, Powell St., Montgomery and Embarcadero stations during BART operating hours. This program has virtually eliminated inappropriate behavior in the elevators. The attendants greet customers, operate the elevator, collect data on the number of users and their demographics and deter inappropriate behavior in the elevator. The program has been very popular with BART customers, particularly those dependent on the elevators.
In July 2019 the Board of Directors approved a contract to continue working with Urban Alchemy, formerly Hunters Point Family, to expand this successful program to Embarcadero and Montgomery starting in fall 2019.
BART conducted surveys with elevator users at Civic Center Station (street level and platform) before and after the attendant program began. Prior to the beginning of the program, there were 91 completed surveys, with 44% of respondents saying they were "very satisfied" or somewhat satisfied" with the condition of the elevators. After the attendant program was underway, there were 872 completed surveys, with 93% of respondents reporting they were "very satisfied" or "somewhat satisfied."
Fare Evasion Prevention
Fare evasion costs BART between an estimated $15 million and $25 million each year. This is lost revenue that cannot be reinvested into improvements to the system for all riders. We are stepping up our efforts to prevent fare evasion through infrastructure changes such as installing higher barriers and bringing elevators into the paid area. Learn more about our fare evasion prevention program.
The Board has also approved a proof of payment ordinance. Proof of payment began January 1, 2018 with a one month warning period for first time violations. Unarmed Community Service Officers do the fare inspections. They have received training, particularly on deescalation and on using the fare checking devices. Inspections will progress from one person to the next without skipping anyone. All interactions will be recorded with body worn cameras.
Call BART Police at 510-464-700 or download and use the BARTwatch app if you’re concerned that someone is unwell or in need of a welfare check. We will take the report submitted through your phone and dispatch an officer or team member to check on the person. Examples of this can include people who are visibly intoxicated, people who have soiled themselves, or people experiencing a mental health crisis. Please keep in mind, someone sleeping on a train who appears to be homeless does not violate any laws and dispatch will need more clarifying information to deploy an officer and hold a train.
in 2016 BPD conducted 8,893 welfare checks and 10,422 in 2017.
Notify a Station Agent or BART employee if you are concerned about a patron’s behavior in a station.
Report a biohazard that needs to be cleaned up using the official BART app or at www.bart.gov/biohazard and crews will be deployed to clean it up.
You can also notify your Train Operator using the intercom on each end of every BART car if there is car cleanliness issue that needs to be urgently addressed.
Resources for the Unhoused
Bay Area Wide:
The United Way’s 211 service connects residents in Alameda, San Francisco, San Mateo, Napa, Solano and Santa Clara counties with health and human service programs in their local community. Simply dial 2-1-1 or visit www.211bayarea.org to receive 24/7, free and confidential assistance in multiple languages.
- The Alameda County Social Services Agency website offers a one-stop-shop for families and single adults who are homeless or at-risk of becoming homeless in the county. The Agency contracts with local county homeless shelter providers and helps people in need of financial assistance.
- Those who are having a housing crisis or in need of other support in Alameda or Contra Costa counties can dial 2-1-1, which is a toll free phone number that provides free and confidential information and referrals on housing, health and social services.
- The county’s Housing & Community Development Department offers Rapid Re-Housing programs, move-in assistance, short-term rental subsidies and connections to support services to quickly transition homeless households to a permanent solution.
Contra Costa County:
There are multiple ways to access homeless services in Contra Costa County:
- CALL: 211 or text 898211 for 24/7 free, confidential assistance. Callers will be matched and referred to appropriate programs.
- CORE: The Coordinated Outreach Referral, Engagement (C.O.R.E.) program works to engage and stabilize homeless individuals living outside through consistent outreach to facilitate and/or deliver health and basic need services and secure permanent housing. To notify a C.O.R.E. team about an unsheltered homeless individual or family, please call 211. Please note that C.O.R.E. teams are not designed for crisis response. For medical or other emergencies involving homeless individuals, please call 911.
- CARE: The following CARE Centers offer a range of services including, showers, food, laundry, benefits enrollment, health care, mental health, substance abuse and housing search assistance.
- (Anka) 1115 Market Street M-F, 8 am-5 pm
- (Anka, next to Concord Adult Shelter) 2047-A Arnold Industrial Way M-F, 8 am-5 pm
- (Monument Crisis Center) 1990 Market Street Walk in hours M-Th, 9 am-Noon & Tuesday, 5 pm-7 pm (Specializing in Families and Seniors)
- (Trinity Center) 1271 South California Blvd. M-F, 8 am-5 pm
Contra Costa offers "Health Care for the Homeless" which is a multi-disciplinary bilingual team of medical, dental, behavioral health, social support and administrative professionals. Health Care for the Homeless is outfitted with well-equipped medical vans that visit various shelters and community centers through Contra Costa County on a weekly basis. Our services are available to individuals who meet the Homeless Criteria. For more information and the mobile clinic schedule call (925) 608-5300 or visit https://cchealth.org/healthcare-for-homeless/
City and County of San Francisco:
- The newly formed Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing brings together housing and homeless services throughout the City. Those in a housing crisis can dial 3-1-1 and reserve emergency housing for up to 90 days. Assistance is available both in English and Spanish. The Department also offers veteran assistance, long term housing programs, hygiene supplies, clothing, crisis intervention, medical and mental health care and drug prevention programs.
- The San Francisco Homeless Resource website offers a comprehensive directory of services for the homeless. It is a collaborative website for homeless advocates, providers, government and others in San Francisco.
San Mateo County:
- The county’s Human Services Agency offers emergency safety net assistance. There are eight Core Service Agencies within the county that work with the agency to provide individuals and families with basic emergency and support services to stabilize their living situations.
- The Homeless Shelter Directory lists more than 3700 shelter and social services in San Mateo County and across America.
- The Center on Homelessness coordinates homeless services throughout the county. The Center sets up homeless outreach teams, administers the motel voucher program and connects people with homeless shelters.