White House chief of staff Denis McDonough went to San Francisco last week to count the homeless. The San Francisco Chronicle called the move the "opposite of a publicity stunt."
The crew that spent 1½ hours walking around San Francisco’s downtown peering at every ragged person they could find was led by Mayor Ed Lee, Denis McDonough, President Obama’s chief of staff, and Trent Rhorer, director of the city’s Human Services Agency. It was a remarkable venture, marking the first time such a high-ranking White House official had ever helped the city conduct its biennial homeless count — and the way it got carried out was the opposite of a publicity stunt.
Only a handful of staffers and Secret Service agents accompanied the special group of counters, and as they tallied their toll of misery it was all business.
Even the Center for American Progress commented on how "quietly" and "with little fanfare or press attention" McDonough's move was. "It was the first time such a high-ranking official from the White House had been part of the city’s count. The group counted 144 people living in eight square blocks within an hour and a half."
“I didn’t know what to expect,” Obama's chief of staff told the Chronicle. “What I see here, what we just walked through, this is a problem. ... But this is the same sort of challenge we face all over the country. The numbers tell the story. And that’s why this count is so important.”
The Huffington Post reported, "The chief of staff said Obama simply wanted a firsthand account of how the city is fighting for its most vulnerable residents."