As West Coast Wealth Booms, So Does Homeless Crisis

  • Sam Mire
  • Nov 9, 2017 10:45AM

It’s no wonder why the West Coast has become the epicenter of a rapid spike in homelessness. For decades, they have openly welcomed the poor, tired, and homeless, providing a haven for them to aggressively panhandle, (in many cases) get high, and make public benches their beds. The culture of acceptance and tax-funded homeless services have not actually helped the homeless rise from their often-miserable existences. It has only enabled meager survival at the expense of taxpayers, tourists, and the homeless themselves. Now, with the tech bubble leading to increased cost of living in the Bay Area, many West Coast cities must face the reality: large homeless populations are dangerous to the health of all who come in contact with the effects of mass homelessness.

Despite the left coast’s embrace of staggeringly high income tax rates and policies such as a $15 minimum wage in the name of increasing social equality, the gap between absurdly rich and crushingly poor in many Western metropoles continues to grow. It is often the tech-billionaires of the Bay Area and surrounding cities who call the loudest for the implementation of policies aimed at reducing the wealth gap. Ironically, these leaders of tech industry are the primary drivers of the growing wealth disparity. Despite a national trend in which 33 states are experiencing a decline in homelessness, the homeless populations in cities like San Francisco and Seattle skew their states’ numbers into rising homelessness. Hooverville-like homeless tent camps were already impossible to ignore for most, but now are more visible than ever.

International Business Times released a list of the 10 most expensive cities in terms of rent costs, which is the resource which most individuals’ income goes toward over the course of their lifetime. Los Angeles, San Jose, and San Francisco ranked first, second, and third on the list, respectively. San Diego and Irvine were fifth and sixth, just behind the notoriously expensive New York City. Also on the list was Seattle, which came in at number nine. This list affirms what we already know is a primary reason for the West Coast, and California in particular’s, massive homeless population: the rent is too damn high.

Silicon Valley, the cradle of American innovation which comprises the southern portion of the San Francisco Bay Area, has accelerated the rise in home and rent costs which were already inordinate in many West Coast states. The massive job growth in the nation’s tech hub combined with an already overcrowded city has meant more and more residents being priced out of the housing and rental markets. In many cases, several smaller homes or lots are bought, houses subsequently demolished, to make room for one mansion. This further depletes the availability of homes, and is the opposite of more affordable, low-income housing that there is clear demand for. And the cost of housing only continues to rise, according to the San Jose Mercury News.

‘In San Jose, the median cost of rents rose 2.5 percent year-over-year to $2,050 for a one-bedroom apartment and $2,570 for a two-bedroom unit, according to the report by the ApartmentList.com website, which tracks rents nationwide.

In Oakland, rents rose 5.4 percent from a year earlier to $1,780 for a one-bedroom and $2,240 for a two-bedroom, while San Francisco apartments inched up 1.6 percent to $2,450 for a one-bedroom and $3,080 for a two-bedroom.’

But these aren’t even the worst of the Bay Area’s rental spikes.

‘In San Mateo, rents were up 1.3 percent, which doesn’t sound like a lot until you see the cost of apartments: $3,410 monthly for a one-bedroom and $4,290 for a two-bedroom.

Last month in Cupertino, rents were up 6.0 percent year-over-year to $4,020 for a one-bedroom and $5,040 for a two-bedroom.’

Rising rental and home costs are not a fad. They aren’t going away, because Silicon Valley isn’t going away. It’s only going to get larger, with more wealth injected into and derived from tech operations centered in southern San Francisco. Surrounding cities and suburbs will continue to be gentrified, with housing prices rising as a result. Oakland was once a city seen by most outsiders as dangerous and rife with poverty. Now, median rent in Oak-town is nearly $1,800. The explosion in homelessness that has resulted from rapidly increasing rents have had ugly results with few clear answers, and San Francisco is not alone in facing what can now be considered a homeless crisis. Perhaps this is the way the techies want it. Maybe their do-gooder talk is just lip service. Surely, they could provide funding for more low-income homes, but apparently this is not the case, whether it’s due to inability or lack of willingness.

The facts speak for themselves:

‘Official counts taken earlier this year in California, Oregon and Washington show 168,000 homeless people in the three states, according to an AP tally of every jurisdiction in those states that reports homeless numbers to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. That is 19,000 more than were counted in 2015, although the numbers may not be directly comparable because of factors ranging from the weather to new counting methods.’

Many who are left homeless live in RVs, vans, or cars, going without the electricity or plumbing that many had when they could afford some form of housing. Accounts of the gag-inducing smells of human waste that imbue these vehicles-turned-homes expose the depth of the depravity. It’s not only the homeless themselves, but rent-paying, home-owning city residents and visitors who are put at risk by the rise in people living on the streets.

'San Diego now scrubs its sidewalks with bleach to counter a deadly hepatitis A outbreak. In Anaheim, 400 people sleep along a bike path in the shadow of Angel Stadium. Organizers in Portland lit incense at an outdoor food festival to cover up the stench of urine in a parking lot where vendors set up shop.’(SF Gate)

That hepatitis outbreak has spread across California, with estimates that it could last years. Some may wonder why the West Coast has become populated so heavily by the already or at-risk homeless, to which that has a simple answer: progressive politics. Taxing the citizenry to pay for services for the homeless, though apparently not including long-term affordable housing, has made these cities magnets for the downtrodden. It lures the homeless or poor there, and keeps them there with an abundance of lax laws and free goods that many less progressive cities do not provide. And now, those minimal services and cash payments are in part keeping them from leaving, despite an abundance of states which offer cheaper rent.

Technically illegal encampments of homeless living in tents have continued to crop up in cities like Seattle and Portland. San Francisco has the notorious skid row. Seeing scores of tents under bridges and overpasses is more common than not. New York professes to have a program that could limit the amount of homeless who go unsheltered at night, but does not provide a clear path to arise from poverty. And, with the California-based tech industry almost certain to continue its growth, and rents in the area rising commensurately, there is only one ‘solution’ that West Coast leadership will surely ask for on behalf of the rest of the nation: money.