The Bay Area Council Economic Institute recently released a report titled Bay Area Homelessness: A Regional View of a Regional Crisis. Unfortunately, I did not have time to read the entire report, but the executive summary contains some interesting bits. If you have time to read at least that, I’d recommend it.
By virtually every measure, the Bay Area’s homeless crisis ranks among the worst in the United States. The Bay Area has the third largest population of people experiencing homelessness (28,200) in the U.S., behind only New York City (76,500) and Los Angeles (55,200), according to Point-in-Time counts. The Bay Area also shelters a smaller proportion of its homeless (33 percent) than any metropolitan area in the U.S. besides Los Angeles (25 percent), making the crisis highly visible across the region. The absolute size of the Bay Area’s homeless population, combined with the region’s dearth of temporary shelter options and an insufficient supply of supportive housing, desensitizes the public and condemns the homeless to lives of hardship.
So the Bay Area is third worst in terms of homeless population but second worst in terms of adequately dealing with the crisis. Of note, the Bay Area has the sixth largest GDP among major American cities and if California were its own country, it would have the world’s fifth largest economy. If only Silicon Valley had some extra fucking money lying around…
Despite progress on several fronts, a solution to the crisis remains elusive. Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf and San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo have pioneered the use of cabin communities and tiny homes, respectively, to keep homeless communities intact while providing shelter and services.
There are tiny homes in Oakland thanks to Youth Spirit Artworks and Arizmendi (yes, the worker-owned bakery and pizzeria) has also started a new project tackle the housing crisis.
In San Francisco, Mayor London Breed launched the Rising Up initiative to provide housing subsidies and job placement services to more than 500 young people experiencing homelessness.
But we already know how Mayor Breed actually feels about the folks on the street.
The Bay Area will not be able to provide a bed to each of its homeless residents until 2037. But even that projection is optimistic given that Point-in-Time counts only reflect the homeless population on a single night. An actual solution might be much further away.
2037? Absolute crisis is an understatement.
The Bay Area’s chronic housing shortage especially at extremely low-income levels, limited growth in wages at the bottom of the income spectrum, an insufficient inventory of short-term shelters and permanent supportive housing, and too few resources for mental health and addiction services, each played a role in leading up to the current crisis.
This should come as no surprise to anyone who has ever visited the Bay Area.
For instance, the state could play an active role in homelessness solutions by consolidating its efforts into a State Homeless Services Agency that can offer flexible funding for housing construction and services.
Sounds appropriate for the fifth largest economy in the world.