If you are looking in 94118, you are not looking in the Haight. But to answer your question, the Haight has a good climate, public transportation runs through the middle of it, has interesting shops and restaurants, is right next to Golden Gate Park and is centrally located.
You can look in the Upper Haight - Cole Valley - Parnassus Heights area to be away from the bulk of the transients and panhandlers. I have friends who live on Page & Ashbury and love it. It just depends on how you feel about noise, bumping into people shooting up (if you live too close to Haight Street itself) and sometimes more trash.
Many people find the transient population and the church that feeds them to be a negative and won't look around Haight Street. But they will look in Cole Valley! It is really up to you to decide how you feel......
I grew up in the Haight, while transients may give a some charm to the first time visitor, or potential first time buyer, its another story to come home and find one shooting up on your front steps, or for you to be the one having to clean up the trash.
The Haight is hot because of its central location, easy access to Golden Gate Park and great housing stock. In addition, the cultural attractions are compelling and, admittedly, the transient population is a definite negative. However, if you like easy access to Downtown, Civic Center, Golden Gate Bridge, the park and the ocean, Haight is perfect for you.