The Writing on the Wall

So what now?

Just north of where I live, down the hill towards downtown, there are parking lots and freeway overpasses. It was an area of warehouses and distribution centers when SF was a port. In short just the sort of area attractive to the homeless as living space. But now the area is known as SOMA.  It is a center for tech, web business, and upscale art and interior design and the homeless make them uncomfortable.  
A meeting has been called - what to do about the tent communities. The public has been invited.  The police and pols will be there. Residents will also come.  There will be much talk about what can and should be done with “these” people.  But even though this is where the homeless live, my guess is they won’t be there and no one will be asking for their input.

For a year between 1995 and '96 I spent swing shifts - Fridays through Sunday - riding with the Tenderloin Task Force here in San Francisco. The TLF’s coverage area included the TL, one of SF’s poorest neighborhoods,  and one of SF’s premier shopping and tourist areas, Union Square.  Periodically “The Word” would come down from the Mayor to the Police Chief to the TL Captain - move the homeless out of Union Square, to anywhere else. The order delivered, this became job number one for the beat cop.

That was almost 20 years ago. San Francisco has gone through the dot com boom, bust and tech revolution. A baseball stadium was finally built downtown. The SF 49ers have left Candlestick and became the Santa Clara 49ers.  And while the Mayor has changed, the homeless are still here.  And they are still being pushed from one area to another, safe in a location until those with money and power decide it is time for it to be some other neighborhood’s problem.

The meeting with be on the 19th, next week.  All this week I have seen the police and cleaning crews moving “residents” on.  The latest at 8:30 last night.  I don’t know where they go.  

What I do know is the powers that be will say they don’t have the money to deal with the entire problem. That even if they did, it would only bring more homeless to SF.  That housing is being built as fast as possible. And besides “many” don’t want help even if it was available.

I also know that the area at the base of the hill is more prosperous than it has been since we moved here 30 years ago.  And it is still physically what it was for the ports: open space with now real or faux converted warehouses doing day business with those with money.

It seems to me that with a bit of imagination and commitment to a better society, some of that space could supply real housing and real services to those in need without putting undo burden on those doing business alongside.  Ideas abound: here; here; here; from a simple search at one magazine.  It is not like having to reinvent the wheel.



Average monthly income for a homeless individual  $348
% of homeless that do not get enough to eat daily  28 %
% of homeless that did paid work during the past month  44 %
% of homeless that have problems with alcohol, drug abuse, or mental illness  66 %
% of homeless persons that have been sexually assaulted  7 %
% of homeless that have been homeless for more than two (2) years  30 %
% of homeless women that are unaccompanied / have no partner  40 %
% of homeless women claim to have been abused within the past year.  25 %
% of homeless women who claim domestic abuse as the reason for their homelessness  22 %
% of homeless population that are Veterans / Vets  40 %
% of homeless persons who are employed  25 %
Number of Americans who now live in hunger or on the edge of hunger  31,000,000
Percent of people in a soup kitchen line who are children  20 %
Number of families who are lodging nightly in city shelters in New York City  6,252
Number of children in the U.S. who live below poverty level.  12,000,000
Annual number of food stamp recipients who are children  9,300,000
% of cities surveyed that identified domestic violence as a primary cause of homelessness  46 %
% of the adult homeless population that suffer from a severe and persistent mental illness  22 %
% of homeless persons who have a mental illness that requires institutionalization  6 %

From Statistic Verification
Source: National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty
Research Date: 7.1.2014  quoted here