Wednesday, April 29, 2009

San Francisco: A magnet for the homeless

Funny how homelessness as a hot issue in San Francisco has pretty much disappeared. Recall that only seven years ago city voters passed Care Not Cash, and the next year they chose Gavin Newsom for mayor over progressive Matt Gonzalez, who was a perfect representative of the do-nothing status quo on the issue. The homeless issue has receded because Mayor Newsom has put in place sensible policies---supportive housing, Homeward Bound, and Project Homeless Connect---that have to a large extent ameliorated the worst symptoms of a problem that seemed to be getting worse under Mayor Brown. Mayor Newsom has also instituted regular sweeps of Golden Gate Park to prevent the homeless from establishing permanent residence there.

The city's latest homeless count report was released the other day only to be completely ignored by the so-called alternative media. Not even a mention of the count in the Bay Guardian, the SF Weekly, BeyondChron, or Fog City, probably because they understand that city progressives completely botched the issue before the advent of Gavin Newsom, and, just as important, they hate to give Newsom credit for anything.

Chris Daly's response to Care Not Cash was typical of city progs: "They declared war on people I care about...When that happens you fight back." ("City Hall Watch," Savannah Blackwell, SF Observer, April 21, 2005) That is, discontinuing the practice of giving the homeless $400 a month enabling them to continue to live on our streets is the equivalent of a declaration of war on the homeless!

The Guardian's political editor, Tim Redmond, pronounced Care Not Cash an "utter failure" only six months after it began.

The Chronicle story on the count has the usual dim-bulb quote from the Coalitlion on Homelessness:

"Oftentimes, public officials use the magnet theory as an escape valve for not having to address the homeless issue, saying 'If we address it, more will come,' she said. "The truth is, we've got millions of Americans who are homeless, and we need to address it and stop playing these kinds of games with numbers."

But the latest numbers show exactly that: 27% of the homeless in SF have been here less than a year, a reality that is understandably distressing to SF officials, especially in the depths of a recession. San Francisco is more than doing its part, since it has created 4,500 housing units for the homeless since 2003, but evidently other jurisdictions around the country are not. 27% of 6,514---the official number of homeless from this latest count---is 1,758 new arrivals in the city who became homeless in just the last year. Since the homeless count is only done every two years, we can assume a similar number for 2008, which means that more than half the current homeless population arrived in San Francisco and became homeless within a year.

As C.W. Nevius points out, "It seems no matter how many are taken off the streets, others take their places."

The reality is that San Francisco attracts not only high-end tourists but low-end alcoholics, drug addicts, and people with crippling psychological problems.

A year ago the Controller issued a report on Care Not Cash calling it a success.

And the Grand Jury agreed in their report.

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At 5:36 PM, Blogger murphstahoe said...

Are you implying that care not cash is attracting homeless people from outside SF to come here?

At 10:27 AM, Anonymous D said...

Quoted public official: "The truth is, we've got millions of Americans who are homeless, and we need to address it and stop playing these kinds of games with numbers."

Yeah, this public official can come to my block and count the numbers. Ain't no game.

And while we're at it how about a "Care Not Carts" program as well? I'm sick and tired of seeing these "fleets" of overloaded grocery carts all over the place.

Matrix program where r u?

At 10:40 AM, Blogger Jill said...

all over the place?

I sort of figured 100% of them were on and under the Cesar Chavez St bike bypass of the 101 onramps. GG Park has nothing on that set off on/offramps when it comes to homeless encampments....

At 11:21 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

"Are you implying that care not cash is attracting homeless people from outside SF to come here?"

I saying that a significant percentage of the city's homeless are recent arrivals, not long-time city residents who have fallen on hard times. The city attracts not only well-off tourists but also many marginal people with serious drug/alcohol and psychological problems. Back in 2004, when the city introduced its plan to end homelessness and Care Not Cash went into effect, the city figured we had 3,000 long-time, hardcore homeless, people that were costing taxpayers a lot of money as they were processed many times through emergency rooms and the city jail. Since then the city has created 4,500 housing units for the homeless. Hence, the most serious part of our homeless problem should have been solved by nowj. Since we have a constant influx of soon-to-be derelicts, we are in effect treading water in our attempt to "solve" homelessness.

At 12:45 PM, Blogger murphstahoe said...

Why do those people come to SF?

At 12:49 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Maybe they come to SF because it's such a bike-friendly city. Then they fall off their bikes and take to drink and drugs.

At 1:21 PM, Blogger murphstahoe said...

What is the point in this post anyway? Or is there (as typical) no point at all?

At 4:41 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Since there's nothing about bicycles in the post, you find it difficult to understand. I should have tried to work at least one bike into the post to aid your understanding. The post is about homelessness in SF, Murph, and how the left botched the issue, which provided Gavin Newsom with the issue he needed to be elected mayor. Subsequently, he initiated several helpful policies that blunted the worst effects of the problem. Now it's becoming obvious that there will never be a permanent solution to the homeless problem in SF because of the endless number of derelict personalities that wash up on our shores. That's probably always been the case since the Gold Rush. But I first lived in SF in 1961, and there were very few homeless people on our streets, though there were a few.

The best program Newsom installed is Homeward Bound, which presents a derelict with a bus ticket back whence he/she came. Thousands of the homeless have been exported from SF via this sensible program.

At 9:09 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The homeless problem seems to be less than it was, thanks to Newsom's programs.

The homeless that I've met over the years all have serious issues with chemical dependency, particularly alcohol. Many have some sort of mental health issue as well -- child abuse, lithium deficiency, etc. They need some guidance, incentive and direction to survive -- especially some tough love.

The notion that the solution is to export them is avoiding the issue. It's a national problem. Several of the homeless I've met have lived for a few years in a host of different places. I don't think it's as much as homeless come to San Francisco specifically but San Francisco happens to be on their "national tour".

At 10:39 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

"The notion that the solution is to export them is avoiding the issue. It's a national problem."

"Exporting them" with the Homeward Bound program is surely part of SF's solution to its share of a national problem. The way the program works: city outreach workers contact a homeless person and ask him/her if he/she would like a bus ticket back wherever he/she has someone on the other end to meet him/her, which is an essential part of the deal. It's a strictly voluntary, cost-effective, and successful program. I don't see why SF taxpayers should be obligated to house and rehab every derelict who washes up on our shores. If every other city in the US had policies as effective as ours, the national homeless problem would be a lot closer to being solved.

At 2:06 PM, Blogger murphstahoe said...

Are you implying that if the homeless person gets on a bus to where they come from, they are magically not homeless anymore? If not, then sending them somewhere else doesn't do anything to solve the national problem.

At 3:04 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

As usual you're a careless reader, especially of my reply in the last comment. Of course homelessness is a national problem, but San Francisco isn't obligated to solve it on its own. The numbers show that city policies implemented by Gavin Newsom have made a difference in mitigating the problem in SF. But people are still arriving here and ending up on the streets by the thousands because other jurisdictions are apparently not doing their part. Of course homeless people are still homeless when we put them on the bus outtahere, but whether they remain homeless at their destination isn't our responsibility. Sometimes these people are reunited with their families; sometimes there's a friend or a social worker meeting them on the other end. SF doesn't bus anyone out without their consent and without someone on the other end to meet them.


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