San Francisco is one of the most beautiful and one of the wealthiest cities in the country. It’s also one of the sh*ttiest, and we’re not talking metaphorically. According to the city’s public works department, there were nearly 30,000 reports of human feces found on San Francisco streets and a recent effort by some of the city’s wealthy will only make the problem worse.
Like the rest of the country, San Francisco has a homeless problem. That problem is exacerbated by the fact that a small apartment in San Francisco can easily top $5,000 per month. It has gotten so expensive in the City by the Bay, that if a family makes less than $117,000, they’re considered poor. The average American salary is less than half of that. Factor in the Bay Area’s mild weather, and it’s no wonder that as many as 14,000 homeless people occupy San Francisco’s streets on an annual basis, and about 4,400 on any given night. All of those people have to — you know — go somewhere.
“I will say there is more feces on the sidewalks than I’ve ever seen growing up here,” San Francisco Mayor London Breed told NBC in a 2018 interview. “That is a huge problem, and we are not just talking about from dogs — we’re talking about from humans.”
Source: Business Insider
If there was ever a reason to lobby for affordable housing for all, not stepping in human waste should certainly be one of the, but apparently, many of the wealthy in San Francisco would rather battle a few land mines than *gasp* live near some poorz.
Last month, San Francisco’s Mayor, London Breed, announced a plan to build a “navigation center” in the city’s Embarcadero District for the city’s homeless.
The Embarcadero is a high-rent, high-tourist, business district along San Francisco’s waterfront. There are currently five San Francisco Navigation Centers, and they are carefully run to ensure against crime.
Residents are forbidden from using drugs or alcohol anywhere near the facilities. According to the city:
Neighbors of the existing Navigation Centers report that Navigation Centers do not have negative impacts on their community and in many cases reduce homelessness and improve a sense of safety in the area. SFPD will monitor and release crime statistics for the area surrounding the Embarcadero SAFE Navigation Center to provide full transparency. If the statistics are unsatisfactory, SFPD will revisit their safety plan.
In addition to increased SFPD presence and enforcement, the Embarcadero SAFE Navigation Center will have dedicated 24×7 onsite safety and operations
Last year alone, the city’s existing Navigation Centers helped more than 2,200 homeless people find permanent housing. The wealthy residents around the Embarcadero have more immediate concerns, though.
Residents and business owners from along the Embarcadero — a swath of communities that includes South Beach, Rincon Hill, Bayside Village, and Mission Bay — first aired their concerns over the center in public meetings. The usual issues emerged: worries about crime and property values; fears that kids would soon be toddling down syringe-littered sidewalks.
The complaints fail to mention that San Francisco is already struggling with crime and syringe-littered sidewalks, primarily because there’s nowhere for the homeless to go. According to Joe D’Alessandro, the president of the city’s tourism bureau, the homeless problem is cutting into San Francisco’s generally thriving tourist industry:
Sure, San Francisco has great facets worthy of postcards and travel books, but it also has a worsening underbelly that D’Alessandro says he can no longer gloss over.
People injecting themselves with drugs in broad daylight, their dirty needles and other garbage strewn on the sidewalks. Tent camps. Human feces. The threatening behavior of some people who appear either mentally ill or high. Petty theft.
Source: SF Chronicle
Residents aren’t convinced. Since the Bay Area is the high-tech capital of the world, they did what 21st Century Americans in need of money do, they hit the internet. They opened a GoFundMe page called Safe Embarcadero for All. At the time of publication of this article, they had raised just over $100,000, their goal. To them, it seems, homeless people are less of a threat camping out on city streets than they are inside shelters. They’re wrong, at least according to a couple of studies.
Two studies, one conducted in New York City by New York University’s Furman Center, and one conducted in Denver by Washington D.C.’s Urban Institute, both found that homeless shelters have no impact on property values. While there was a significantly insignificant uptick in violent crime, one study theorizes that residents of the homeless shelters are more likely to be the victims than the perpetrators.
(F)acilities for “the most threatening clientele” were no more strongly associated with this trend than others, which led the authors to hypothesize that the residents themselves were not responsible for these upticks in criminal behavior, but rather constituted a large pool of potential victims that may have attracted crime from the outside.
As for quality of life, another study in suburban Virginia concluded that there was virtually no impact.
Little scholarship exists on the impact of shelters and supportive housing on a neighborhood’s quality of life—a fact that may reflect the nebulousness of that term. A 1993 study conducted in suburban Virginia did, however, survey residents on their perceptions of four small group homes for the mentally ill that had faced strong local opposition upon opening. The vast majority of respondents reported that the homes had little impact on things like “distressing incidents,” “neighborhood appearance” or “the experience of children,” suggesting that, at least in some cases, local concerns that such facilities will damage a community’s quality of life can prove untrue.
The shortsightedness witnessed in San Francisco is hardly new in today’s political environment. Despite overwhelming evidence of global climate change, the government chooses instead to bury its collective head in the sand rather than make the short and long-term investments needed to change the course. Facts that contradict opinions are automatically labeled “fake news.”
It’s doubtful San Francisco’s wealthier residents will pay much attention to the studies surrounding homelessness and homeless shelters. Instead, it’s much easier to fear-monger, while casually stepping over, and ignoring, sleeping humans (and their waste) strewn throughout city streets. At what point will they realize that doing something about the city’s homeless problem is so much better for San Francisco’s economic and literal health than pretending it doesn’t exist?