Monday, May 12, 2008

Homelessness in SF: he said, she said?

Blogger Betsey Culp makes a valid point (below in italics) about the reporting on homelessness by the Chronicle and the Examiner.

Yes, the media's pseudo-objectivity is often misleading on homelessness, as it is on other issues. But I draw a different conclusion: the Coalition on Homelessness is a lot less credible on the issue than city government. The Coalition has been a knee-jerk critic of Care Not Cash since it was proposed by then-Supervisor Gavin Newsom way back in 2002, denying steadfastly that Newsom was doing anything but waging war on the poor for political gain. The implication of their approach---and the approach of city progs in general---is that homelessness is just about housing and poverty, that the city's homeless are simply poor people who can't afford housing.

The reality is that homelessness is mostly about substance abuse and mental health. Instead of simply handing these folks $300-$400 a month to in effect enable them to continue to be homeless, Care Not Cash substitutes shelter and services for those who really want to get off the streets.

Mayor Newsom's policies on homelessness---Care Not Cash, Homeward Bound, and supportive housing---have been the most significant success of his administration, with city progressives doing nothing but sniping from the sidelines. City progs are still bitter about how Newsom used the homeless issue against them to become mayor.

Culp links the Chronicle and Examiner stories, and, as she notes, the stories are about a report by the Controller on Care Not Cash, not unsubstantiated claims by Mayor Newsom. But she doesn't provide a link to the report, which can be found here.

And the SF Chronicle has a right to feel more self-respect on the homeless issue than does the so-called alternative media, since they have done a lot more real reporting---by Kevin Fagan and C.W. Nevius, in particular---on the issue than the SF Bay Guardian, BeyondChron, and the SF Weekly, all of whom have typically ignored the Controller's report on Care Not Cash.

According to front-page stories in yesterday’s
Chronicle and Examiner, Mayor Gavin Newsom is jubilant over a recent city controller’s report on the success of his “Care Not Cash” program. Jubilation is nice, for anyone. But it’s not front-page news. The articles present the usual “he said, she said” duet that often passes for news these days: an official statement followed by a quote from a “critic”: Jennifer Friedenbach, head of the Coalition on Homelessness, said the program puts people in hotel rooms that the poor have always lived in and “their income was taken away to pay for it. It’s not a permanent solution,” she said. “It’s more of a shell game.” The Coalition usually gets its facts right. If the charge is true, the highly touted success is pretty empty. Any self-respecting newspaper would find out.

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