By Alaina Perdon
Elm Staff Writer
Hearing “San Francisco” conjures images of the picturesque Golden Gate Bridge, sea lions rolling on the pier, and the iconic home from “Full House.” Seldom do people connect homelessness to the foggy tourist mecca; however, The Guardian reports the homeless population has climbed to almost 8,000 individuals.
Unlike in the past, when the issue was largely overlooked, a majority of the city’s population seems to acknowledge and wish to lighten the struggles of those less fortunate.
“People want us to address the challenges on our streets and help our unsheltered residents into housing, and I am committed to doing the hard work to make that happen,” Mayor London Breed said in The San Francisco Chronicle.
Despite sympathy from most, there still exists a small but influential faction vehemently against providing assistance to those in need.
In March 2019, residents of one of San Francisco’s wealthiest neighborhoods started a GoFundMe campaign to block the building of a new homeless shelter in the area. Raising roughly $70,000, the millionaire donors fear that drawing homeless individuals into their neighborhood will jeopardize property values and personal well-being.
These people clearly value their own posterity more than human life, willing to deny someone the basic right of shelter for the sake of preserving the worth of their investments. What’s more, their logic is grotesquely unfounded.
“In 2008, an NYU researcher concluded that supportive housing in New York City did not negatively affect property values and that they actually increased in the five years after the facilities were established in the area,” Guardian journalist Gabrielle Canon said in an article on the matter.
The proposed facility would not only contribute 200 beds to those in need, but also connect its tenants with employment opportunities, healthcare, and counseling services in the area. For many, this is a matter of life or death, which should take precedence over numbers on a well-to-do dentist’s property listing.
While it is understandable that one would want to protect their assets, there comes a point at which human decency should outweigh image preservation. Kelley Cutler, human rights organizer for the Coalition on Homelessness, fears the stigma against the homeless is too deep-rooted to dissuade.
“No matter where the location is, folks say this is not the right space. Not in our community. So they are going through that right now in the Embarcadero,” she said.
With so many citizens outside of this realm of deep-pocketed folk, it is hopeful that compassion will win in San Francisco and 200 deserving individuals will finally find themselves with a roof over their heads. This will promote safety and sense of community throughout the entire Bay Area, benefitting families from every social class.
“[Homelessness] is impacting the community as a whole,” Cutler said. “We all need to step up — that way it can be safer for everyone.”