Homelessness is not a new problem in San Francisco. But it is becoming more apparent as homeless encampments begin to creep into rich neighborhoods and real estate.
San Francisco and the Bay Area have the third-largest homeless population in the U.S., according to KRON-TV.
Despite millions of dollars being spent on housing costs and homeless relief, San Francisco’s problems have not improved. In its 2019-2020 budget proposal, the city allocated $364 million to homeless services, Curbed SF reported. Yet the homeless population just kept growing.
Long before the COVID pandemic took a toll on all cities, in 2018, a United Nations official visited San Francisco and was shocked by what she saw. She reported that the treatment of the homeless “constitutes cruel and inhuman treatment and is a violation of multiple human rights, including the rights to life, housing, health and water and sanitation.”
It’s only gotten worse.
Recently, residents of one luxury condominium have grown afraid of their own neighborhood as the alleyway next to them has become the city’s biggest homeless encampment, according to KPIX-TV.
The Artani is a complex on Van Ness Avenue where units are going for $1 million.
By contrast, the homeless encampment is reported to have rats, criminals and mentally unstable individuals, including a man who is known for throwing feces.
Now, residents of the Artani are sharing harrowing stories of living next to such bedlam.
“I’ve seen people physically fighting, and I myself was leaving once and a man approached my car and yelling obscenities and threatening me, which was really scary,” a resident named Shannon told KPIX.
There are stories of stolen packages, break-ins, people urinating all over, and more.
“There was a guy who passed out in front of our door with a needle hanging out of his arm all day long. And our children had to walk past that,” resident Amber Lutsko said.
But even when residents call the police, they don’t come.
“The police don’t actually come when we call 911 because we’re actively being threatened by somebody who’s wielding a club or a knife. They don’t come,” one resident said.
Drugs are especially on the rise in San Francisco.
So what is the solution to this problem? What is the city doing about its homeless population that is growing and seems to be getting more violent?
In March, the city promised an additional $1.6 million for overdose prevention efforts.
Starting three years ago, in an attempt to cut down on encampments, the city has been offering the homeless two options: Move or accept shelter from the city.
But this effort only goes so far since many homeless do not accept the offer of help or shelter.
“[Healthy Streets Operations Center] teams encountered 5,621 individuals living in tents during encampment sweeps between June 2020 and October 2021. Less than half of them moved from the site into a hotel, shelter or safe sleeping site, according to information provided by the San Francisco Department of Emergency Management,” the San Francisco Examiner reported in October.
So San Francisco and many other cities find themselves in an endless, vicious cycle of trying to clean up encampments and solve homelessness but are having little success.
Is there a solution?
There is no immediate solution to such waves of homelessness. Just like many cities and police forces have experienced, as soon as you clear out an encampment or street, it usually just returns to what it was.
Any real and lasting solution to homelessness is going to have to take a long-term view. Many homeless individuals are disabled or have no stability, so they choose to return to the streets. It’s going to take a lot more than just throwing city government money at the homeless population to actually get them off the street.
One of the biggest problems is that homeless individuals often report that they simply don’t trust the system. So any real solution to the problem will require winning the trust of a homeless individual so that they will accept help. Unfortunately, cities and government institutions lost that trust long ago, which makes it nearly impossible for them to be the problems solvers here.
“Many fear having to give up certain belongings or leave a longtime partner or they simply lack trust in the system after years of feeling they have been failed by it,” the San Francisco Examiner reported.
It will require massive investment and resources to solve these problems. Sure, step one can be taking the homeless to shelters and making sure there is enough nasal Narcan to save individuals from overdosing.
But steps two, three and four — and beyond — will require private businesses and individuals willing to help the homeless find an apartment, a job, rehabilitation, treatment for their illnesses and more. They will require helping the homeless learn to make the choice to accept help and work for stability.
Sadly, there are no overnight solutions. Nor are there many policy solutions to this issue. A city council cannot pass a mandate or policy that simply requires the homeless to magically become stable and independent. That will have to be accomplished through private, individual investment.
So if the residents of The Artani are concerned about their safety, they can do one of two things. They can either move, or they can start finding ways to get the homeless into rehab, jobs and homes. It’s not easy, but it’s a more viable option than just watching the city throw money at the problem and still end up with streets that look like a third-world country.
Truth and Accuracy
We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.