Thursday, February 25, 2016

The Pride And Cost Of Techdom

Photo: © S. Banos

The wealthy working people have earned their right to live in the city. They went out, got an education, work hard, and earned it. I shouldn’t have to worry about being accosted. I shouldn't have to see the pain, struggle and despair of homeless people to and from my way to work every day."
 -Justin Keller
There is some kernel of truth in what Mr. Keller says- the homeless population in San Francisco has reached insanely ridiculous levels... and it has remained so for at least the fifteen years I've lived here. It was made more than blatantly obvious this past Christmas season (ya know, that time when Christians the world over celebrate the birth of their homeless god) when many a native was outta town and its major streets were left with what appeared to be an SRO crowd of homeless street inhabitants milling about en masse in post apocalyptic, zombie, sci-fi fashion. I-kid-you-not.

Of course, there's a myriad of explanations as to why this continues to be such a plague in this tale of two cities. But computer avatar Keller chooses to simply place all the blame on the homeless themselves. Case closed, problem solved- jail 'em, ship 'em out, and crucify the whole bloody lot if all else fails...

Actually, some of San Francisco's homeless denizens are in fact shipped in from other cities (eg- Las Vegas). But even those numbers are but a fraction of the total that compromise the walking wounded and their cardboard/tent encampments that can be seen throughout certain portions of the city. Many of these people clearly exhibit mental health problems and/or long term drug dependency issues. And this country's major answer to both those problems are twofold: a) have them wander the streets until they're finally... b) incarcerated.

Those with mental disorders  have been increasingly incarcerated during the past three decades, probably as a result of the deinstitutionalization of the state mental health system. Correctional institutions have become the de facto hospitals, and there are more seriously and persistently mentally ill in prisons than in all the state hospitals in the United States.

Photo: © S. Banos
Long term, drug rehab/mental health programs are every bit as critical to solving the homeless situation, as the lack of living wage jobs and affordable housing. Of that there is little doubt or argument. These common sense solutions for this ongoing plague are both proven and effective, should anyone, anywhere care to seriously employ them to the degree needed.

San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee insists the multi-million dollar tax incentives these software giants and start ups have received are offset by the extra income trickling down to this fair city, while: Google, FB and Genentech buses crowd public bus stops to ferry their private passengers to and fro in luxury; the giant block long Twitter citadel on Market St. remains a totally self contained and self serving bastion of exclusion from the neighborhood beneath its unbreachable walls; and the community give backs for those massive tax incentives remain the cosmetic, unkept promises they were always meant to be. Meanwhile, longstanding residents and neighborhood businesses continue to be booted out to make room for their high end "needs."

San Francisco rent has skyrocketed to obscene levels. Median rent in San Francisco is over $3,000 a month, with some neighborhoods in the $4,000-$5,000 range. Average rent is in the same range. 

So what is the viable alternative to self serving twits like Justin Keller- socially involved and emphatic human beings like... Justin Keller

Photo: © S. Banos

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