Homelessness During the Coronavirus
The people we've forgotten and ignored are hurting.
By Phillip | 4/10/20
There are 151,278 homeless people living in California. This is nearly 50% more than the next largest state (NY). California has a homeless problem, which is especially worrying during a global pandemic. There is no excuse for the wealthy, Democratic state to so thoroughly fail 151,278 of its citizens, especially when life and death stay-at-home orders are unable to be fulfilled based simply on the definition of homelessness.
The source of the problem goes back decades, with roots in cutting the prison population and emptying psychiatric institutions. Once free, these people did not have the tools needed to succeed like job training and mental health treatment.
The cause of the crisis is the incredibly high cost of living, as the average house costs $500,000. Although California has set aside billions of dollars, the problem has only gotten worse in the past year. Attempts to build affordable housing have been stopped by local bureaucracy and elitist insistence at keeping “them” out. Despite many promises, little progress has been made.
The current preferred solution of government subsidized funding costs huge amounts of money and helps only small numbers of Californians. There is hope that in the wake of the Coronavirus, affordable housing might be built by the unemployed in the style of New Deal projects. The other option would be to build more privately constructed housing, by revising regulations, as increased supply would drive down costs across the board. Although most new houses are aimed towards the higher end, this would still indirectly open up more affordable housing.
Recently, 70 people at San Francisco’s largest homeless shelter have tested positive for the Coronavirus. In the crowded, confined, and unsanitary homeless shelters, disease can spread quickly, but thousands of Californians don’t even have access to any kind of shelter. Once homeless people contract the disease, they are at a higher risk of dying because of already compromised health and a lack of medical care. Medicare for All is more necessary than ever to show that we value the life of a sick homeless person in San Francisco the same as a rich person in the Piedmont hills.
Now the governor of San Francisco, London Breed, is attempting to spread out patients by opening up more spaces (such as hotel rooms and conference centers) and allowing people to set up camps six feet apart, but her response is inadequate and late. Although Gavin Newsom is seeing a massive bounce in his polling due to a quick response to the Coronavirus, his initial low numbers were due to a problem that came before him and now rages on even harsher. California must help our 151,278 citizens regain their dignity and avoid danger.