CRISTINA OSMENA: The Great San Francisco Homelessness Racket
Despite being so far away, I think about San Francisco every day, many times a day. I follow the news on the city. I follow analysis. All this driven by some inexplicable fascination on my part with why the homeless problem is never ever solved. It was present but not so problematic when I lived there thirty years ago, and I would bet money that it will still be there in 100 years. Despite all the taxes and other public funds allocated to solving the problem. Before Covid, those public funds filled a kitty worth over $500 million. Now, I understand that the funds are crossing $2 billion. And yet, the problem never goes away. It is beginning to define San Francisco to the rest of the world. The Economist published an article about it in its most recent issue. The financial rags are covered with stories of store closings. People are leaving. Companies are leaving. And, still, for the life of them, San Francisco just can’t clean up its streets.
For a long time, I could not understand how the local government continued to fail at this problem. It seems so simple: give them communal housing under a real roof with bathrooms, not tent cities. When I asked people in government what is the cause of the failure, it is as if they were answering another question, or they didn’t understand the problem. Of course, there are different causes of homelessness. For example, some are on the streets because of mental illness and drug use. Some are responsible individuals who have simply been priced out of homes in an environment where there is a severe housing shortage.
That was then. I think I know the answer now: crooked government.
There’s no intention of solving the problem, taking the public displays of human feces and fentanyl addiction off the streets and putting them under solid roofing. They want this problem to be visible so that more taxes can be raised, more funding from obtained elsewhere. Instead of allocating those funds to something that works, they use the money to create jobs—people to staff the navigation centers (what are those for?), funds for the many charities serving the homeless, expensive union employees to clean the feces off the streets (because they union members vote and toilets don’t). They use the funds to overpay for products and services like $20,000 garbage cans and overpriced rents of parking spaces where homeless pitch their tents.
It is an egregious example of corruption. And, when I look at it that way, it makes sense why there are never any answers to questions, never something sensible out of the mouths of the politicians.
I wonder when the population will lose patience with this corrupt government that has made the streets so dangerous and turned San Francisco into what it is now from the bustling tech mecca where down to earth coffee shops existed side-by-side with retain 3D printing services, where AI and Biotech startups proliferated en masse.