Monday, February 17, 2014

"Greatest thing" Newsom did was on homelessness, not gay marriage

The Bay Guardian gets points for consistency, if not on its policy positions. Steve Jones, Tim Redmond's successor as editor, joins the celebration on the tenth anniversary of Mayor Newsom's gay marriage initiative:

It was the greatest thing that then-Mayor Gavin Newsom did during his seven-year tenure in Room 200, a bold and principled stand for civil rights that started California down the long and arduous road toward marriage equality....

Maybe this is ancient history to the Guardian's young and/or new readers, but Jones ignores the homeless issue, which is what got Newsom elected mayor in 2003, after he put Care Not Cash on the ballot and passed by city voters in 2002. He appointed Angela Alioto to lead the Ten Year Planning Council to reexamine the Continuum of Care approach to focus instead on getting the hardcore homeless off the street, since those that cycle continuously through emergency rooms and the city jail are the most expensive to deal with.

After Care Not Cash, which had some early success, Newsom initiated Project Homeless Connect, Homeward Bound, and supportive housing.

The Guardian has a long history of ignoring the homeless issue, and when it did write about it under Redmond's regime it never examined the programs Newsom initiated in any depth, instead branding those initiatives as nothing but a "war on the poor." Before Newsom was elected mayor because of the homeless issue, the Guardian was lauding Food Not Bombs and the Biotic Baking Brigade, the folks who hit public officials and celebrities with pies, including Mayor Brown---and stunts like this (See also this, this, this, and this).

In short, instead of actually trying to deal realistically with homelessness, the implication of the Guardian's "activist" approach at the time was that there wasn't much the city could/should do to cope with homelessness, that it was essentially a result of our wicked capitalist system, that the homeless were simply poor people.

That was partly right, since it's clear by now that homelessness will never be permanently "solved" in San Francisco---or in any other major American city. It's here to stay as a national problem, and all cities can realistically do---with the help of the state and federal governments---is to cope with it more or less effectively.

But the reality for San Francisco is that the administration of George W. Bush was more effective at dealing with the city's homeless policy than city progressives.

As C.W. Nevius reminded us the other day---Groundhog Day!---the problem is that the homeless keep coming to San Francisco. This is not a new insight.

Nor are reports new on Homeward Bound---my favorite and the most cost-effective homeless program---that Nevius also mentions:

Give the homeless a bus ticket home. Actually, the city already does this. Since 2004, the Homeward Bound program has provided a free ticket to 7,886 individuals at an average cost of just $179 each.

I first wrote about Homeward Bound back in 2005, and the Examiner and the Chronicle do occasional updates on the numbers.

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