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Why are so many people homeless in SF?

June 29, 2016

By Tim Redmond : 48hills – excerpt

It’s our fault, for accepting a political and economic system that has utterly failed

Editors note: The SF Chronicle is leading an effort to get local news media to report on homelessness this week. We are happy to be involved — and to offer what we suspect is a very different perspective. Over the next couple of days, we will run stories from people who know what it’s like to be poor and homeless — and an analysis of how the city’s major daily paper and its columnists and editorials have covered the issue. For starters, here’s some perspective. View our full coverage here

I’m going to make a big political leap here and say that the reason there are so many homeless people on the streets of San Francisco has something to to with the reason that there are so many angry people in this country (and in Britain) who are now voting against the establishment.

There’s a strong current of racism, homophobia, and xenophobia involved (including Trump, the Brexit, and our approach to homelessness). Consider the numbers of African American and LGBT, especially transgender, people living on the streets in part because they are unable to get jobs that pay enough to cover the rent. And keep in mind that some of the complaints against homeless people originate with cisgender white people who see our neighbors living on the street as a “quality of life (for the rich) issue” (see: Ed Lee, Scott Wiener)…

You can call it “neoliberalism” or call it something else, but here, as UK Guardian columnist George Monbiot notes, are its main characteristics:

Neoliberalism sees competition as the defining characteristic of human relations….In a world governed by competition, those who fall behind become defined and self-defined as losers.

And that’s how we see housing and homeless policy in San Francisco…

People who are homeless must have done something wrong with their lives. Even the rare sympathetic news media coverage focuses on drugs, mental illness, crime, job losses … there is never the suggestion that people who live on the streets are victims of a system that the political leadership either helped create or tolerates…


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