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.

Labels: , , , ,