The runaway housing market that played such a role in excluding very low-income people from permanent shelter over the last couple decades of the twentieth century suddenly discovered, in the first decade of this century, that cloud castles were not a solid real estate investment.
It seems unlikely that the young people of this generation will be telling our grandchildren about the Subprime Mortgage Crisis of Aught-Eight, but who knows what we’ll be calling the global economic desmadre in a few decades time?—but it is clear that we have entered an economic crisis of historic magnitude.
And we are feeling this on the ground in San Francisco. In this fiscal year alone, the City municipal budget is projected to encounter an over $100 million shortfall. The shortfall for the 2009-2010 fiscal year is just shy of $600 million. Current cuts—the first round of which are taking effect the day this issue of the Street Sheet goes to press—are directed in large part at vulnerable people’s programs run or supported by the Department of Public Health and—to a lesser extent—the Human Services Agency.
There are dozens of programs that will be closed or suffer service reductions, and there’s a lot of politics around all this. It is absolutely vital that if we are to be a responsible society we discuss the political and economic issues seriously. And do that we will (see page 4), but the aim of the Street Sheet has always been to privilege the voices of people who experience the direct impacts of policy decisions. So, throughout this issue, we will be running descriptions of programs in our neighbourhoods that will be receiving devastating cuts, often written by those who directly benefit from these programs.
One thing that has become dramatically clear over the past several months is that business cannot continue as usual. A solution that creates a better society, rather than a worse, will require broad-based engagement in the economic decisions that will form our city and our country over the next few years. And the first step must be listening to one another. Please take the opportunity to do that in this issue of the Street Sheet.