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A View of Homelessness

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by Karl Start

It is very easy to view homelessness as an issue simply about the supply and demand of housing, but it is a more complicated wealth vs. poverty issue. Real estate and access to it, is one of the most tangible, dramatic and visible symptoms of the “equality gap” between wealthy people and poor people, in the U.S.of A. these days.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development (H.U.D.) has been an agency of the U.S. Govt. that has supervised the redirection of a portion of Americas vast wealth towards the housing needs of poor people in America. However, H.U.D. did not create its own wealth, nor was it ever structured to generate revenue. It was dependent on funding from the Federal budget. As the amount of wealth H.U.D. was allowed to receive was restructured away from rental housing & rent subsidies for poor people, reallocated towards tax breaks on 2nd or 3rd home purchases for folks who’d already bought their 1st house, H.U.D.’s ability to house poor people was significantly reduced.

This is how, at the institutional level, contemporary mass homelessness was created and is maintained by our elected leadership.

The response of San Francisco’s local government has been sadly inadequate, inhumane and stupid. For example, when it was discovered that poor people were taking refuge in the parks at night, the City’s knee-jerk reaction was to make it illegal to be in the parks at night. This one abusive action arbitrarily criminalized an entire segment of the community who had done nothing wrong; a segment of the community who’d seen their shot at the American Dream deflected by the interplay of systems so convoluted, conditions so disadvantageous, and a social safety net so throughly undermined that the slightest mishap becomes a catastrophic event and it can happen to anyone, anytime.

This one punitive act brought no help at all to this segment of the community.  What it brought to these unfortunate folks, was a set of problems that they did not have before.


Problems like these:

1) the police waking you from your sleep,

2) the police forcing you to break camp and relocate in the middle of the night,

3) the police demanding to see your identification and searching your property,

4) the police requiring you to make important decisions and sign official documents, before you have had a chance to change into clothes or drink your coffee and wake up, or

5) the police arresting you because you did not comply quickly enough with some instruction,

6) likely leaving the larger parts of your personal property primed to be pulled apart, as unattended property, by the appropriate jurisdictions thieves and janitorial staff.

This was one of an assortment of dog-in-the-manger selfish acts, which make it de-facto illegal to live in San Francisco, unless you can pass a background check and afford to rent an apartment.

TAX THE WEALTHY. Provide for the needy. It costs less to have a heart. It is a documented fact that it is less expensive to give people housing than it is to prosecute people for not having housing. This is, therefore, a better business policy AND a more humane social policy for all of the people of San


Author: Street Sheet Editor

The STREET SHEET is the oldest continuously published street news paper in the United States. Organizationally, it is the public education and outreach tool of the Coalition on Homelessness. Every month, the STREET SHEET reaches 32,000 readers through over 200 homeless or low-income vendors. Our vendors are charged nothing for the papers they receive, and keep all money they earn through STREET SHEET distribution.

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