I recently returned from a trip to San Francisco and I was absolutely appalled at the number of homeless individuals on the streets. I know there have been recent conversations and debates about the rise of the homeless population in New York City. I know as a city we can and must do better. However, New York City is a beacon of hope compared with our western neighbor.

To observe San Franciscans as they moved about the city, almost oblivious to the most visible signs of human despair, was quite disturbing. I have never witnessed the sheer number of homeless individuals sleeping on the streets in all sections of the city, all age groups, all races. And to be clear, I grew up in Philadelphia in the 1980s, where homelessness and so many other ills were quite common and evident.

According to the Coalition for the Homeless (www.coalitionforthehomeless.org), homelessness in New York City has reached its highest levels since the Great Depression. We know that assessing just how many homeless individuals exist in a city is a difficult task. Based on the calculations that have been made thus far, when comparing the data from 101 years ago, it appears that homeless men, women and children who are sleeping in municipal shelters each night has increased by 78 percent. We also know that many municipal shelter systems are not safe for women and children because of theft, physical harm and a disproportionate number of mentally ill residents who need treatment services.

Not surprisingly, African-Americans and Latinos are disproportionately affected by homelessness. There is a direct correlation between rising housing costs and an increase in homelessness. Many New Yorkers’ rents are outpacing their wages, and far too many families are one missed rent payment away from being evicted and on the streets.

So what should be done? A report released by the Coalition for the Homeless and several other likeminded organizations presented a nine point plan to significantly decrease homelessness in New York City by 2020. Their proposed strategy is to:

  1. Set aside 10 percent of all New York City assisted housing for homeless New Yorkers.

  2. Target more NYCHA public housing apartments at people in the shelter system.

  3. Renew a city-state agreement to create permanent supportive housing.

  4. Enhance city-state rent subsidies to prevent homelessness and rehouse the homeless.

  5. Invest in cost-saving programs to prevent homelessness.

  6. Convert so-called “cluster-site” shelters back to permanent housing.

  7. Expand rental assistance to all low-income New Yorkers living with HIV.

  8. Raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour in New York City.

  9. Build housing with developers who use local hire goals and union labor.

These approaches seem like realistic and reachable goals. Hopefully we can all work to decrease and eventually eliminate homelessness soon.

Christina Greer, Ph.D., is an assistant professor at Fordham University and the author of “Black Ethnics: Race, Immigration, and the Pursuit of the American Dream.”