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As San Francisco makes the news for its ever-worsening problems, some locals are taking steps through charities and placement agencies to shelter the homeless within their own residences. The city has now seized on this idea with its own variant.
As all of San Francisco’s problems seem to be on a non-stop increase, it’s no surprise that homelessness has spiked as well. The number of homeless is currently believed to be 8,000, which is a jump up from the 5,600 estimated homeless ten years ago. The city’s solution has been to ask local residents to take the homeless into their spare rooms with little to no compensation, as an act of charity, according to The Mercury News.
Various charities have long side advocated for people to personally help as best they can. Safe Time is an East Bay nonprofit charity that tries to match up homeless families and students in spare rooms for a few months, typically between one and six. Its executive director, Christi Carpenter, spoke of their mission to the Mercury News:
“This is something that someone can do when they just feel that despair of ‘oh my gosh, I just can’t stand seeing these poor people on the streets near my home,” she said.
Mayor Tom Butt of Richmond, which is located about 20 miles away from San Francisco in the county of Contra Costa, has also set up a program that seeks to place homeless people with local landlords who have vacant apartments. The program’s funding comes from private donations, not taxpayers, and tries to pay for one year’s rent up front, and asks landlords to waive the usual background checks for credit and employment.
Since the landlords are receiving the market rate for their apartments, Butt told the Daily Mail, “that’s the carrot.” Butt didn’t mention any stick, and said that in fact, landlords had actually taken less money in order to help out:
“But we have had some landlords come forward and offer it lower, as they want to participate.”
While the Daily Mail asked about the potential dangers of taking homeless people into private residences, Butt stated that people understood the risks and were more interested in trying to help out: “They are more concerned with the homeless camps. People want to see solutions, and want to be part of the solution.”
Butt also pointed out that the accommodations were at the lowest end of the price range to begin with, meaning that landlords and hosts had never expected affluent, well-to-do tenants in the first place, and thus hadn’t expressed many concerns to him.
In addition, the actual homeless population of Richmond is considerably smaller than San Francisco’s, estimated between 300 to 1,000, thus requiring a less comprehensive solution. Even 70 former inmates being housed through Impact Justice have all lived in the clear, with no arrests or returns to jail as of writing.
One resident of Albany in the Bay Area, Zach Stein, said he and his wife had taken in a young woman in 2020 for three months, connected via the Safe Time. Stein admitted that “In some ways, it was really weird.” However, he and his wife said they planned to host someone again, once their baby grows older. For Stein, it was a case of passing on the favor, as the house his family lives in was bought with inherited money, rather than money they had earned themselves, and they felt a certain obligation towards those who hadn’t been as lucky.
“Being in a position to do that, especially in a place like the Bay Area, it felt really important to us to find ways to open that up,” Stein said.
The idea has caught on with San Francisco authorities, with a few caveats. The San Francisco Department of Homelessness will hold a special seminar on Thursday to encourage landlords to rent out to the homeless, with the local governments picking up the tab – presumably at taxpayer expense.
In addition, there is the question of why so many are homeless in the first place, which is often asked by Richie Greenberg, who was the only Republican currently trying to challenge San Francisco Mayor London Breed. Greenberg told Daily Mail that the various city plans were little more than a “creepy” publicity stunt:
“The sheer number of people, and the reasons behind them being homeless, means it won’t have an impact,” he said.
According to Greenberg, most homeless wouldn’t benefit from the city’s scheme anyway because a majority have mental illness and/or are drug addicts who would not be able to be helped by the program.
Greenberg went on to state that while individuals opening their doors to the homeless was not new, it was not a long-term solution. He believes that the homeless need more drug rehabilitation facilities where they can be treated for addiction and mental illness without posing a danger to themselves or others.
While the solution to homelessness remains difficult, complicated, and mostly elusive, the world is at least likely to benefit from seeing how the experiments, with voluntary donations in Richmond and taxpayer-subsidized housing in San Francisco, pan out.
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