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Background. The purpose of this study was to examine the health and social circumstances, knowledge of and access to health and social services, and success at getting work among urban day laborers. Methods. We conducted an interview survey of 217 men waiting for work at several sites in San Francisco. Results. Day laborers were generally unsuccessful at obtaining work and had less than optimal housing, but supported a number of family members. Over half reported fair or poor health, associated with longer time as a day laborer, poor English proficiency, and financially supporting three or more other people. Awareness of health and social services available to them was low. Discussion. The stress of seeking work daily, separation from family, inadequate housing and lack of health care puts this population at increased risk for disease conditions associated with poor physical and mental health.