San Francisco residents are using crowdfunding techniques to reach their $100,000 goal to shut down a local homeless shelter — and what's most frightening is that they've surpassed that goal and are still going strong.
Organizing under the name "Safe Embarcadero for All," the group is raising the money to go towards the legal fees associated with fighting Mayor London Breed's project to fight homelessness in San Francisco. Major Breed was even quoted saying,
"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. But it's incredibly frustrating and disappointing that as soon as we put forward a solution to build a new shelter, people begin to threaten legal action. I get that people have questions about the site, and we are happy to demonstrate how these sites work and the positive impacts they have had in other neighborhoods, but we all need to be willing to be part of the solution."
Mayor Breed sponsored legislation to fast track the building of this 200-bed homeless shelter which would be near Google's San Francisco office. However, there is a subtle irony that comes with the fact that the shelter would be located near Google. Considering that large corporations and tech companies in the area are blamed for exacerbating the long-standing homelessness issue in the area, it is an ironic turn of events that the homeless shelter would be placed next to one of the largest tech companies in the area. Imagine an oil executive whose office has a view of the lake his company has dumped toxins into.
San Francisco's major tech companies often take the heat for the growing homelessness issue because these companies further skew the income inequality by flooding the market with very high paid workers. According to a 2018 report from the Department of Housing and Urban Development, income inequality in San Francisco has reached the point where a single adult with an annual salary of $82,000 or family of four with a $117,400 yearly income would qualify as low-income in the San Francisco area.
Unsympathetic towards these figures, the supporters Safe Embarcadero for All are specifically aiming their crowdfunding campaign at San Francisco's wealthiest residents who reside in South Beach, Rincon Hill, Bayside Village, East Cut, and Mission Bay. They claim that placing the shelter near tourist sites will be bad for the city due to increased crime and drug use. However, since there hasn't been any research on the effects of homelessness on tourism and a city economy which proves this to be true, most of these fears are rooted in stigmas associated with homelessness.
This story, unlike many of the other stories which get written about, actually has a positive plot twist. Another crowdfunding page, "SAFER Embarcadero for All," has raised $176,000 in an attempt to keep the building of the homeless shelter on track. Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff, the Twilio CEO Jeff Lawson, and even the company GoFundMe itself has contributed to the SAFER Embarcadero for All. This counter effort is raising awareness of the homelessness issue as well as the funds to fight for the homeless in court.
However, with the back and forth between citizens, hedge fund managers, executives, philanthropists, and even the Mayor, has caused a brewing contention within the city and the fate of the homeless shelter still remains unclear. Interestingly, the homelessness issue, though not a new one, has come to a boiling point at what seems to be the peak of the city's identity crisis. San Francisco has long been known as the hub of art, music, and open-mindedness but over the past couple, decades has shifted to be more associated with the major tech companies and corporate businesses which have driven out the art galleries and small businesses.
This shift in identity has not only worsened the homelessness issue but resulted in a complete turning of backs on the homeless This attitude of disregard for the homeless is clearly evident in the fact that the people attempting to shut down the shelter are the very same people who selfishly complain about the homelessness issue because they don't want to see it. In a situation like this, it is easy to see the mayor's frustration when there is no "winning" with this specific group of citizens.
This back and forth raises a larger question of how to take action to ease homelessness. Homelessness is not an issue which can be ignored any longer. A 2018 United Nations report cites that nearly 25% of the population of the world's affluent countries are homeless. In the U.S. alone, homelessness affects over half a million people, with California having by far the largest homeless population compared to any other state. With such a widespread issue, it is time that everyone shows some compassion and work towards effective solutions.