SAN FRANCISCO (KRON) — Homelessness is the most important problem facing the Bay Area, so say the majority of 1000 Bay Area registered voters responding to the Bay Area Council’s annual poll with 86% saying the problem is getting worse.

“The Bay Area voters are sick of seeing the levels of despair on the streets of a region where they believe it shouldn’t exist, certainly not to the extent that the despair exists and certainly not for the length of time it has existed on our streets for,” Adrian Covert, senior vice president of the Bay Area Council said.

The poll also found 70% agree with the statement, “It’s time to get tough on the unsheltered who refuse shelter and treatment.”

A further 87% support an increase in government authority to place homeless people who suffer severe mental health and substance abuse disorders into a conservatorship and treatment. 

“What we’re doing now is just, you know, leaving thousands, probably tens of thousands of people who need a much higher level of care to fend for themselves and I don’t think that’s protecting their liberties,” said San Francisco Supervisor Rafael Mandelman, who has long been a supporter of conservatorships. 

But the Coalition on Homelessness Executive Director Jennifer Friedenbach says the focus should be placed elsewhere. 

“What we need for them is to have a stable housing and ongoing mental health care,” she said. “That way they can get better and stay better and that’s the piece that’s lacking and what this report totally misses.” 

For all its problems, the Bay Area Council credit San Francisco with having nearly the highest density of permanent supportive housing of the region. The poll also found a majority of those surveyed felt governments should spend more money to address homelessness in San Francisco.