San Francisco homelessness is an epidemic that has spurred David Campos, the San Francisco supervisor, to declare a state of emergency, as reported by ABC 7 News. As tent cities pop up all around San Francisco, residents complain about the unsightly appearance of certain sections of the city, as reported by the Independent. It was proposed that a city-wide sweep would be instigated to rid the streets of the homeless, forcing those people to move on. At the last minute, authorities reneged, calling that action inhumane.
Instead, Campos elected to declare a state of emergency. This would allow the city to accelerate the process of building new shelters and setting aside more existing space for the homeless. Accusing Mayor Ed Lee and board members of a failure to take action when people needed help, he made a statement reported by ABC 7.
“For years, people without homes have been pushed into neighborhoods like the Mission and (South of Market) with no real plan to provide services or shelter. This failure to act has caused a public health emergency in San Francisco that has reached intolerable levels.”
San Francisco homelessness is just part of a larger state of emergency that no one wants to talk about. Homelessness has spread throughout the nation but is especially prevalent in California. California accounts for 21 percent of reported U.S. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) reports that 564,708 Americans are homeless on any given night somewhere in the U.S.
San Francisco homelessness, as well as homelessness throughout the country, may be a far more widespread state of emergency than the numbers indicate. It is important to note that HUD’s definition is very narrow. Unless a person is sleeping in a shelter or on a city street, they are not counted by HUD. Therefore, if a homeless person is sleeping on someone’s sofa for the night, then they do not count. If someone is camped in the woods or desert, not in an urban setting, then they will probably not be counted by HUD.
Therefore, more realistic estimates of homelessness in America would look to the nearly 1.5 million people who use the shelter system on an occasional basis, as reported by the Christian Science Monitor, and then consider that many homeless people live in campgrounds, squat on rural wooded areas, or live in their cars. Most homeless people do not wish to be noticed or recognized as homeless, and only those who are completely destitute and devoid of helping friends and family are exposed as homeless.
San Francisco homelessness champion Jennifer Friedenbach is the director of the Coalition for Homelessness. Jennifer explains that many of the city’s policies make it difficult or impossible for some homeless people to access services they need. They are in a perpetual state of emergency every day.
It is probable that the majority of homeless people manage to stay with friends or relatives on most nights, even though they probably move about to keep from being too much of a burden. Is this a different kind of homelessness? Perhaps, but it is the last line of defense before ending up on the street, and it accounts for people who live in shelters only occasionally.
San Francisco homelessness is dwarfed by homeless numbers in the entire state of California. The HUD Exchange reports that 115,738 homeless people are in the state of California, and 6,775 of those are in San Francisco. Los Angeles has a significantly larger problem, with 41,174 homeless people living in the city. Los Angeles homelessness is second only to New York City. NYC has 75,323 homeless individuals, making it the No. 1 city in the U.S. The indication is that this is a nationwide state of emergency.
As San Francisco declares a state of emergency in order to procure resources for the homelessness crisis and other cities throughout the country struggle with the problems of the homeless, larger solutions to America’s largely unrecognized state of emergency are elusive despite the political debates surrounding poverty this year. Those hardest hit by over a decade of economic decline are at the mercy of city leaders who wish homeless people would just go away, but where are they to go?
San Francisco homelessness continues to be a state of emergency for state and local government.
[Photo by Ben Margot/AP]