Friday, February 19, 2016

Homelessness is here to stay

By now every big city in the country is facing this reality: homelessness is not a temporary emergency that adopting sensible policies is going to solve. It's here to stay. 

Tim Redmond thinks that SF should/could set aside $500 million a year to build affordable housing. He scolds Hillary and Sanders for not addressing the problem, which is a good point. If either are elected president this year, more money would probably be made available to the cities but not enough to solve the problem. The election of Sanders would be so remarkable that it would represent something like the social revolution his campaign is calling for, but even he wouldn't be able to get a lot of money out of a Republican Congress.

Ten years ago, people still hoped that humane and sensible public policy could at least whittle the homeless problem down to more manageable size.

Redmond cites "myths" about the city's homeless (Five myths about the homeless problem in San Francisco), including the supposedly untrue notion that they are mostly coming from other parts of the country:

The vast majority of the people who are homeless today used to be housed---in San Francisco. According to the city’s 2015 homeless count, 71 percent of the people on the streets were living in San Francisco when they lost their housing. That means seven out of ten homeless people used to be your neighbors---before the tech boom and the eviction epidemic. Those are, to a significant extent, people who are homeless not because they did anything wrong but because they aren’t rich enough to live in Ed Lee’s San Francisco.

Redmond links the last homeless count in support of his 71% argument, but apparently he didn't take a close look at that document. Instead he seems to be relying on Calvin Welch's analysis from last year, which I critiqued at the time. 

My post included a closer look at the count study:

Actually, the report tells us that these results weren't from polling all the homeless counted in 2015, but instead were from a survey of only 1,027 of 7,539 homeless people (page 27)---and the results of course represent only what the homeless themselves say about their plight, which is not necessarily a verifiable reality.

That is, only 14% of the homeless counted last year took part in the survey, and 71% of those claimed that they were living here when they became homeless. It's fair to say that the information the city got from these surveys is a little squishy, to put it mildly.

Redmond linked the recent Chronicle story on homelessness that included this:

Perhaps even more frustrating is that the situation on the ground continues to worsen despite major progress by the city. Since January 2004, the city has moved 21,742 people off the streets. Of those, 9,286 people left with a bus ticket from Homeward Bound, at an average cost of $185 per person. The rest were housed through a variety of city programs.

If those 9,286 people bused out of the city by the Homeward Bound program weren't from somewhere else, why did they accept the bus ticket out of here?

See also this and this.

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