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We’ve Been Talking About Homelessness Like It’s New And Like It’s The ‘Worst Ever’ For 30 Years

June 29, 2016

“The annual homeless crisis came to San Francisco early this year,” the Chronicle’s Abe Melinkoff wrote on October 16th, 1986. “Usually we don’t hear much about it until the weather really turns cold. It’s so much easier to feel for those without homes when we are snug inside while winter’s winds are blowing at the door.”

Melinkoff, who joined the Chronicle in 1935 and died in 1992, was familiar with San Francisco’s seasons and news cycles. “This latest outburst of homelessmania revealed that our town, like others across the country, is stumped by this social disease. The basic problem is that nobody can agree on who is involved and how many there are. The latest local figures range from an official low of about 5,000 to a maximum double that, according to some social activists. To be safe, give or take a few thousand at either end of the scale.”…

The best thing that could come of this project, the bulk of which is set to be published Wednesday, June 29, is to move the conversation beyond “the worst it’s ever been” or the brand new “new normal,” and recognize that just because our city is very pretty and rich, as cities go, this isn’t a unique problem that’s grown out of anyone’s control. And of course it’s solvable — which is true of many of society’s deepest and most complex failures, from education to systemic racism to widespread poverty. Just as San Francisco’s homeless problem wasn’t formed in one day, neither will it be solved in one. That’s why people like Freidenbach, and those at dozens of non-profits that the city helps fund, work every day: So that someday, people in poverty or those with mental illnesses won’t be treated like problems, they’ll just be treated… (more)

We could start by keeping people in their homes instead of allowing greed to kick them out, but that would take some strong will in Sacramento. We should ask Kim and Wiener what they plan to do when they get to Sacramento. Perhaps they have an idea of how to fix the state laws to help cities deal with the problem.

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