Wednesday, November 04, 2015

"Helping" the homeless---to remain homeless?

The Chronicle praises the compassion and creativity of city residents:

We’ve got to hand it to you, San Francisco. You have a huge homeless population, dirty streets and tent cities popping up all over, but you also have creative residents determined to do something about it...But if City Hall can’t find the answers, plenty of everyday citizens are willing to help. One thing’s for sure: Fewer San Franciscans seem to be willing to just avert their eyes from the misery or complain over their overpriced lattes. More seem to be giving the subject some deep thought and coming up with intriguing ideas.

The story highlights lava mae ("mobile hygiene for the homeless") and hand up gift cards  for the homeless (video above).

These programs are laudable and creative. Hard to knock the good intentions of everyone involved.

But what about the potential unintended consequences?

The biggest shortcoming of the city's approach before Gavin Newsom's Care Not Cash: the city was giving the homeless $300 a month in General Assistance while they were living on the streets and in city parks that essentially enabled them to remain homeless.

Both the lava mae and the hand up programs may also have the unintentional effect of enabling people to remain homeless.

The goal of city homeless programs should always be to get the homeless off city streets and out of city parks.

Back in 1999 there was even a Shopping Cart Task Force due to the homeless using supermarket shopping carts to store their belongings that proposed providing the homeless with their own carts to prevent theft from markets.

San Francisco is now implementing Laura's Law, but that will only affect a small number of homeless people. 

My favorite city homeless program: Homeward Bound, which has sent 6,983 homeless people out of town by providing them a bus ticket to wherever there's someone on the other end to receive them.

Jennifer Friedenbach, of the Coalition on Homelessness, thinks San Francisco is obligated to provide housing for everyone who turns up homeless in the city:

Let’s make a plan to house another 6,000 currently homeless households. Figure out how much it would cost. Find an income source if needed, a progressive tax targeting speculators or another idea. Double the number of homeless units in the affordable housing pipeline, and then speed up construction on the ones farther down the pipeline, prioritize turnover units to homeless people. Some of that housing needs to be supportive housing to address special needs, but for many folks, they just need the lower rents.

That's magical thinking from a special interest group. It's not going to happen.

Labels: , , ,