Guide to Laws Related to Homelessness in the San Francisco Bay area

Street people, houseless, unhoused, transients, vagrants – however you describe it, homelessness is clearly a major (and growing) problem in and around San Francisco. Laws aimed at dealing with the activities of homeless people are often called “vagrancy laws” or “anti-vagrancy laws,” or even “quality of life laws.”

Cities across the country are increasingly passing and enforcing these laws, according to the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty, which some people consider “criminalizing” homelessness. However, a recent court ruling says that cities cannot prosecute homeless people for sleeping on the streets when there is not enough shelter for them.1Martin v Boise (2018) – 9th Circuit

Many laws related to homelessness are made at the state and federal level, so be sure to check our Guide to Homelessness Laws in California and Guide to Homelessness Laws in the U.S.

1. Sleeping in your car

Is it illegal to sleep or live in a vehicle in San Francisco?

In the city of San Francisco, it is illegal to use any vehicle for “human habitation” (living or dwelling) on any street, park, beach, square, avenue, alley or public way in a residential area between 10p-6am.2San Francisco Police Code Sec 97

Throughout the city (not just residential areas), it is also illegal to live in any RV, camper, trailer, or “house car” on any street, park, beach, square, avenue, alley or public way between 10p-6am.

A similar law applies in Daly City.3Daly City Code Sec 10.76.020

Also note that in SF you can’t leave your car in the same spot on a public street for more than 3 days (72 hours) at a time.

2. Being on the sidewalk or street

Is it illegal to sleep on the sidewalk?

In most cities, it is illegal to sleep or camp on the sidewalk or street. See San Francisco law4SF Police Code Sec 169. See Santa Rosa law.5 Santa Rosa City Code Sec 11-22.020

Is it illegal to sleep in the park?

In most cities, it is generally illegal to sleep in the park at night.6SF Park Code Sec 3.13

Is it illegal to block the sidewalk?

Yes. See more at our Guide to Public Spaces.

What is loitering and is it illegal?

Loitering is defined as hanging around without any particular purpose, and it is illegal in certain circumstances. See more at our Guide to Public Spaces.

Is it illegal to urinate or defecate (pee or poop) in public in San Francisco?

Yes, see our Guide to Public Spaces.

3. Soliciting or begging

Is it illegal to ask or beg for money?

In San Francisco it is illegal to “aggressively” solicit, ask or beg for anything in a public place. This is often referred to, appropriately, as “aggressive solicitation.”7San Francisco Police Code Sec 120-2


To report illegal encampments or illegal storage or dumping of items, you can call 3-1-1.

Related Pages

Public Spaces & Streets


See all Legal Guides

Photo credits:

Top photo by Max Pixel, Creative Commons Zero.

Bottom photo by Terabass, Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0

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