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Homeless, living in a tent and employed: The changing face of homelessness (washingtonpost.com)
199 points by dankohn1 8 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 236 comments



I'm from a small town in Oregon that sees a lot of nomadic traveling folk, either homeless or lifestyle (the PCT comes through the area, for instance), and the town is generally pretty receptive of these people. Growing up I would hang out and spend time with them, just chatting and playing music and enjoying the area. I carried that to adulthood and I now live in Portland, where the homeless problem is quite severe.

Last weekend, looking at food carts downtown, a man who looked quite disheveled and in shock starts trying to talk with me. He tells me he just got off the bus from the hospital, and that morning he had been attacked with a knife by a homeless woman with gang affiliation. He showed me his wounds and hospital bracelet, and I decided to spend some time with him and try calming him down.

Before long he tells me that he's only been homeless a few months, and before that he was collecting enough SSI to sustain himself. He says a while back he had spent time in jail and been released, but the jail never put that in the manifest. Apparently (someone) looked into his record and it looked like he had escaped, causing him grief that suspended his SSI payments, in turn putting him on the street. He was expecting payments to continue soon.

We talked about things like honor, culture, respect, family. Eventually I let slip that I was a software engineer and he started telling me that he used to really be into Linux, and his old work had him using BSD and Unix, and we eventually started talking about physics which he was much more knowledgeable than I. After I thought his shock was gone and feeling a little better, I bought him some food to help him through the evening.

That same night I had conversation with a different homeless man, who was more rude and rather creepy. He talked a lot about how the homeless are being fed human meat, and how addictive it is.

---

A friend who's from a wealthy Asian-dominated town in California tells me there's a service where people will drive around and pick up homeless people and give them a free ride to the neighboring town. The first gentleman in my story above told me a similar thing: Las Vegas was apparently giving free bus tickets to the homeless to come to Oregon, because our homeless services are top-tier.


Portlander here, I used to work right by the food carts downtown on 10th and Alder. The hospital bracelet guy is one of regulars, he's been running that schtick for literally years. There's a cast off characters like him who are fixtures there. I'm not against compassion for the homeless, but after running into a few of these repeatedly, I tend to refrain from supporting them directly and give to local charities instead. I'm not even arguing that you made a bad decision, just sharing my own experience.


Here in Austin, Texas I encounter homeless people regularly and have become a bit numb to the stories after talking to people more and seeing their stories change.

I've bought food and even pumped gas into portable gas cans for people, refusing to give them any cash, only to see their story unravel when they realize they won't get money from me. The original story about needing gas to pick up their paycheck morphs into something else that requires money.

I had a man yell at me after I pumped gas for him because I didn't want to give him straight cash. And then seeing the same people whacked out on something or drinking beer a few days later trying to pitch you the same story.

The unfortunate thing is that those people do need help, usually mental health help but solving that problem will require more than people temporarily supporting their addiction.


I don't think giving them money should be about "getting people back on track" or anything similar. It's just to give them money for a beer, a burger or something to ease their day. Personally, I think there will always be people who doesn't fit into society. It's easier if we don't expect them to open a savings account with the 20 bucks we gave them, and just realize that it goes towards getting drunk/getting something to eat to numb the absolute mess their lives might be.


How is that compassion though? “Here’s $20, go kill yourself somewhere out of my sight. I don’t care.” Is the worst kind of indifference and apathy to drug addiction and mental illness I’ve ever seen. If it was your family member wouldn’t you want better? It just seems like someone has to look out for people who are just self-harming themselves openly in public. Giving them a couple bucks to go away so we can go on with our life and pat ourselves on the back like we helped them is just apathy. Cops need to arrest the meth and heroin dealers but they don’t do anything. It should be appalling but it’s become normalized.


The arrogance that goes into thinking one can decide what is the best use of a couple of dollars to ease someone else's pain is mind boggling. People in this society have a huge problem with believing their crappy little jobs are proof of their superior intellects.


I wouldn't be surprised if this was a scam, but I'm not convinced. Between my own experiences interacting with the homeless and scammers, seeing his fresh physical wounds (including staples in his head), and the weird amount of knowledge he had about physics and obscure computer operating systems, I just don't see it. If anything, he deserves my help just for being so thorough.


Your post reminds me of a strange conversation I found myself in about 10 years ago.

I was approached by a guy at a festival who'd seen me taking "street photographs" with my SLR. He talked to me for a bit about photography and seemed more knowledgeable than average about the technical aspects.

After awhile we started talking about his personal circumstances-- being out of work, not having any cash, and finally pulling up his shirt and showing me a fresh-looking wound on his side and saying that he'd been attacked earlier in the day. I didn't end up giving him any money (I pretty much never carry cash), but if I'd had any I probably would have. Looking back, in light of your post, I wonder if there was a "help me I'm injured" grift that I just missed.


My general feeling is that the smoother the story, the more it is fake. If someone comes off exacerbated, blending the chronologically and details of the story, it is most likely true; extreme situations lead to extreme behavior. Now, when the story is smooth, it’s like a well trained actor orating a theater. The reason it’s so convincing is because the fraudster has had practice.


Why would society want to reward people who go to great lengths to defraud others?


You're right, I suppose I should have said "because he's human", but I don't think this was a scam. Another point: he never once asked me for anything. Only after >30 minutes of conversation did I offer him a meal.


Someone needs to tell the homeless guy that with the right doctored up resume he'd be perfect for a Fortune 500 CEO position. The skills are the same.


I don’t think you understand what the role of a CEO of a company is. Despite your flippant implication, being an incredible liar isn’t even close to qualifying you for CEO of an F500.


Have you never seen a shitty movie ? A good advertisement ? Not as much difference as you might think. This society is built upon rewarding frauds. Homeless people with engaging stories are only punished for being poor, not for fraud.


Comparing objective truths to subjective opinions makes no sense to me.


It's just something we tell ourselves to assuage our embarrassment at getting conned.


And that’s just something we tell ourselves to assuage our embarrassment of being cynical and too powerless to help.


Reminds me of a guy who went to my school. He lives in Williamsburg as an artist. His family is very wealthy. He is always manufacturing crises (mostly health) to get (more) cash. Once I went over there to see my friend (his roommate at the time) and he'd dressed up a wound and setup a photo of himself "passed out" in front of his art work. People are so weird.

I guess he's doing the same gig just a bit more fortunate about his circumstances.


Years ago, and in a town that isn't Portland, I met a street dude with a similar story, including a broken finger supposedly incurred during the assault. His story seemed a little too "just-so", so I didn't stick around, nor give him any money.

Talking later with a local from that town, it turns out dude has been running that line for years, and regularly re-breaks the finger to give it that little touch of verisimilitude.


I have seen many scams over the years - the "ran out of gas" scam used to be common but it's finished now, etc.

As many people (even the Pope!) say, the best thing is still to give directly to homeless people but to never give more based on a story. The people with stories have a job, of sorts and I'll let them collect from their "employers". I just give a dollar here and there to those who ask.


On the last bit, that was all over the news for a while. CA and NV had a big fight over it:

http://www.sfexaminer.com/sf-reaches-400k-settlement-proposa...


Correct. This was literally nuts. Nevada bused in and dumped over 50 mentally ill patients onto the streets of San Francisco, and the consequence was that you couldn't walk in downtown San Francisco without encountering 1 of these patients acting crazy on the streets.

It's somewhat lame that the City settled for a measly compensation of 400K. They should've all been rounded up and send back to Nevada, to the hospitals that they belonged to.


Sorry, but rounding up American citizens who didn’t commit any crime and shipping them somewhere else seems extremely un-American. This is the kind of thinking that has lead to some of the worst human rights abuses in the 20th century in countries like Germany with concentration camps, and in the US with internment camps.


Not that two wrongs make a right, but isn't that what happened to begin with? Or did they go to SF voluntarily?

In any case, the legal argument was that Nevada had a duty of care. It's not about "rounding them up", it's about the state of Nevada providing them with shelter and psychiatric care. Which presumably, they would do in Nevada.


> but isn't that what happened to begin with? Or did they go to SF voluntarily?

Correct. They didn't come to SF voluntarily. Since they had mental issues, most (if not all) didn't even know what was happening to them.

It's the most cruel thing to do.


That's what happened first. I mean how do you know - these people are crazy, they may have been able to function in their home town but are lost in SF. If they dont want to go don't force them, but it seems ironic and cruel to just assume they're happy in this new place they were thrust into.


The term "concentration camp" can be applied to the US camps as well.


Not if you abide by the definition.


"a place where large numbers of people, especially political prisoners or members of persecuted minorities, are deliberately imprisoned in a relatively small area"


Ohhh so that's why SF downtown is unbearable! As an international tourist there I hated my stay in San Francisco because of the amount of crazy people in the street.

I am ok with homeless and poor people, but having to dodge a crazy guy almost doubling my size throwing punches in the air is not a pleasant tourist experience. Or being robbed of my water bottle while I waited my wife just outside Sephora.

It was scary for me, and definitely left me with no desire to go back.


Nevada didn’t help, but the homeless they sent are a drop in the bucket. 50 extra homeless isn’t super noticeable since there are lready 8000+. The real problem is decades of lack of enforcement of trespassing laws, letting people go to the bathroom in the street, and openly use drugs in public places. This has all led to a downward spiral.


How do you determine what hospitals (or city) they belonged to? Just that they were checked in there first? That they had legal residence in some city at some time?


You may inspect the "case-by-case nevada patient dumping" document[1] on the SF City Attorney's site to get your answers.

[1] sfcityattorney.org - Nevada Patient Dumping => https://www.sfcityattorney.org/category/news/nevada-patient-...


> Las Vegas was apparently giving free bus tickets to the homeless to come to Oregon, because our homeless services are top-tier.

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/ng-interactive/2017/dec/...

If you send someone half way across the country, it will be difficult to return. They also mention Key West contractually bans anyone who returns from using their homeless services.


> If you send someone half way across the country, it will be difficult to return.

Nevada is actually very close to Oregon, and transportation to LV is quite cheap.


The distance between Portland and Las Vegas is roughly the same as the distance between Atlanta and Boston.

Not very close, and the ones sending homeless out of Las Vegas know that.


I suppose you're right, however there are much less interesting stops between PDX and LV. So if you're say, hitchhiking, the chances of finding someone going your direction might be better than someone traveling on the East Coast. On the other hand, the overall population on the Western half of the states is nearly logarithmic of the Eastern side.


When I was homeless in San Francisco and applying for services, they made sure to mention I could get a one way bus ticket to pretty much anywhere I wanted to go.


Not sure if you're saying this is good or bad, but fwiw: Personal social support networks are important :) This is a great offering. If someone can get to family or a place where they have a supportive network of folks, that is a billion times better than the system on its own trying to take care of them with only institutional compassion

I say this as a socialist, not a libertarian or whatever :)


I think your homeless BSD guy could have worked for me. I had a guy on my team in the mid 00's. Ended up getting fired for repeated creepy and bad behavior towards people in the office. I heard that he later he did some time in jail. He has a connection to the Portland area and was a brilliant guy but had serious mental health issues. Did you get this guy's first name?


I can't remember, but he says he grew up in Beaverton. He looked maybe 40-50 years old. In fact he did say his SSI was given due to some kind of illness he has.


I just googled my guy. He is homeless but he's in Salt Lake and apparently in jail, unable to post the $200 he'd need for a $2000 bail for assault on a police officer and illegal camping in a public park.

Crazy to think that this guy was tuning PF firewall rules thirteen years ago. Mental illness is a bitch. We need to make it easier to get conservatorships.


Once you're on the street, life becomes incredibly more difficult. Physical security, shelter, food, good hygiene, human relationships- everyone needs these things, yet a person's options absolutely dissolve when they're forced onto the street. The best opportunities available are now illegal, making them rethink their moral and ethical responsibilities, further turning the crank of depression, anxiety, suffering.

This man I talked with, one of our conversations was about the daily offerings of free food in Portland for essentially anyone willing to show up. He listed off several places, praising the eggs and waffles at one place, but dismissing the bland oatmeal of another. It gave me hope to see him happily reminiscing the generous efforts of those willing to offer their time, skill and supply.

I think it's important to understand that the homeless are more like regular people than we want to admit. There are some sweet and kind people who try really hard to maintain, and there are some bastards who are fine, or even excited, to ruin it for everyone. The question is, how do we identify those willing to work hard at rehabilitation, against those who are happy to commit real crimes against people? How can we offer them cheap housing and meaningful work?


These are my personal observations:

When I first moved to the SF Bay area, I was surprised by the amount of visible homelessness and by the number of service economy workers who drove nearly two hours to and from work.

I also had my first experiences with the "campuses" of major technology companies, where money was made hand-over-fist. I think the recent widening income gap is a natural consequence of the technology we have invented. A relatively small number of people are able to generate a relatively large amount of profit; this is the nature of the software industry.

But that relatively small number is still enough to dominate the economy of a major metropolitan area, and so it has, and the demand for labor routinely outstrips the supply of housing for those laborers (artificially constricted, but also geographically constrained), and so those who work in software and electrical engineering and cetera can afford to live in the area. Those who do not, can not.

I look at the cities where this is an issue and I see similar threads: industries where money from everywhere flows to a relative few. Technology skims off the top in San Francisco. Finance skims off the top in New York. Government skims off the top in Washington, DC.

So the rise in visible homelessness is perhaps the expected result. Cities are economic systems, and it is easy and myopic to cater only to the demands of the prime mover. But the prime mover has auxiliaries it needs to function, without which the system will collapse.

And my experience with collapses is that they are not gradual, but rather, they are sudden.

Last night, a fire raged through abandoned vehicles parked under Interstate 280. Black smoke poured out from under the freeway and choked Portrero Hill. I watched fire crews advance on the flames and extinguish them. What will happen when the people we rely on to extinguish our flames cannot afford to live in our cities?


I agree with the post, but firefighters in the Bay Area are probably not the best example. There are many millionaire, early retired FF in California. Some in my old neighborhood that I knew personally even that were much wealthier than I am as a SE (I have since relocated to the southeast). Compensation is quite high, especially when considering total pay, often 250k+ and as high as 500k+ is possible.

Source: https://transparentcalifornia.com/salaries/search/?q=fire&y=


Thanks for pointing this out. I don't know any FFs personally; I do know plenty of teachers, social workers, and people in service jobs who are either making long commutes, living in shared arrangements more cramped than intended, or have left for places where compensation for those jobs compared to cost of living equals a better quality of life.


> But that relatively small number is still enough to dominate the economy of a major metropolitan area... So the rise in visible homelessness is perhaps the expected result

I'd imagine the expected result is that prices increase to support higher wages for service workers... which they actually have. Just one example: a take-out salad for lunch now costs $15 in San Francisco. The place I'm thinking of has huge line at lunch, so business seems extremely good.

Regional economic prosperity being a _cause_ of homelessness makes no sense to me, unless that economic prosperity for the few took away every business opportunity for everyone around them (e.g.: robot manufacturer replaces all jobs in all industries). The people making money are going to have to spend money.

So I wonder if it has more to do with other societal/economic changes going on that have changed how money is spent:

* Could it have something to do with Amazon/Home Depot/big box stores impacting local retailers?

* Could it have something to do with local manufacturing jobs going overseas?

* Could it have something to do with the 1099 gig economy work making it infeasible for companies to employ people full time (in that type of gig work), and driving down income for those jobs?

* Could it have something to do with the massive increase in drug use[1]?

Or all of the above? Or more reasons?

Also, the fact that it's happening in a period of very low unemployment does not bode well.

ps - Firefighters get down-payment assistance in San Francisco. I personally know a couple who live near me, thanks to this. https://sfmohcd.org/resources-first-responders

[1] - https://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/Number-of-people-shoo...


One major factor is simply that housing is too expensive. Yes, an employee at the $15 salad place is probably making more than minimum wage, but it's still not enough to comfortably afford the high rents in the city.

SF has, and has had for awhile, some of the most restrictive construction and zoning laws in the country, and as a result demand has far outstripped supply. A decent number of people in SF become homeless for the most obvious reason that they just can't afford housing.


And the question is:

Does the demand outstrip the supply in large part because of the zoning laws.

What other cities had a similar population and vibe to SF 40 years ago, but followed the path of rampant housing growth?


My main thought is that it's the intersection of economic prosperity that rewards individuals in certain sectors extremely well combined with natural and artificial restrictions on the housing supply. If housing is short, the people who make the most-- and can pay the most-- have a strong influence on the market rate. And if they're making a whole lot more than the other folks, the other folks get priced out of the market.

BT

I am very glad to hear that there's down-payment assistance for first responders in San Francisco.


> ps - Firefighters get down-payment assistance in San Francisco. I personally know a couple who live near me, thanks to this. https://sfmohcd.org/resources-first-responders

Another way big tech actually COSTS taxpayers money


> What will happen when the people we rely on to extinguish our flames cannot afford to live in our cities?

We’ll pay them more.

Ditto for teachers, janitors, waiters and gas station attendants.


Or we don’t and the rich suddenly notice that dollar notes can’t provide nourishment and don’t do laundry.


The rich got by for thousands of years without cooking, doing laundry, or running affordable housing programs. The service sector lived on its customers’ estates, often as part of their households.

I expect this is where we’re headed. Several people I know who work on poverty wages in the arts industry here pay their room and board in elder- or child-care for a homeowner.

We often hear that terms like “feudalism” and “landed gentry” applied to Bay Area housing policy are over dramatic. I think they’re dead on.


Considering what childcare costs, room & board sounds like a heck of a deal. As a parent, it actually doesn't sound like a bad arrangement.


It's a common arrangement for upper-middle-class families in much of Europe.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Au_pair


Happened in the Midwest, too. Though my parents may have just been a tiny bit weird...


Well the idea of an au pair never ever went away. A friend went to do this in Paris. There are lots of sites for arranging one.


> Several people I know who work on poverty wages in the arts industry

I don't have much sympathy for anyone who chooses to work in the arts... One must see the risks taken, and that the rewards are unpredictable.

> elder- or child-care for a homeowner

Are you talking about the very wealthy here? The upper income? The middle or even low income earners that made good financial choices? Looking after children and elderly is honest work.

Are these art workers tied to the Bay Area by anything apart from their choices?


> I don't have much sympathy for anyone who chooses to work in the arts... One must see the risks taken, and that the rewards are unpredictable.

You have different goals in life than other people.

Please try to be aware that the path you've chosen is not the only right one. Some people have different goals.

Some people even have the cognitive ability to regard the goal of fulfillment in life and creativity as more important than the run-of-the-mill goal of survival that most people are seemingly satisfied with reaching towards.


You can have whatever goals you like, but that doesn't entitle you to live in an area you can't afford.


We're not talking about people trying to live in Ginza here. We're talking about a ww2 era and under developed city where housing culture has failed to develop to meet the needs of the city.

This is a failure of city planning and should not be excused or ignored as if this fialure was inevitable.


What a massive oversimplification of extremely complex socioeconomic and cultural issues. Your argument is either deceptive or ignorant.


I think the basic argument here is that many of the people in careers earning significant money do not find those careers fulfilling, but chose them knowing that. Other people chose careers that ARE fulfilling, but have shit compensation. For the people in the first category, people in the second complaining about not being able to afford things sounds like wanting to have their cake and eat it too.

Careers in the arts are generally regarded as belonging to the second category for all but a handful of lottery winners.


> Please try to be aware that the path you've chosen is not the only right one. Some people have different goals....[snip]

I am old enough to have family, friends and acquantances from plenty of different ages and wage brackets: minimum wage hospo, the retired poor, sickness beneficiaries, young and unemployed by choice, successful land-banked hippies, successful founders, successful artists etc. I support my friends and family, even when they are making lifestyle choices.

Your reply comes across to me as condescending.


Your entire premise of lacking sympathy for an oversimplified group of people that only exists in your head was a bit condescending.


> A relatively small number of people are able to generate a relatively large amount of profit; this is the nature of the software industry.

This makes sense, but does it explain the issues?

You mentioned yourself that people working in software are a "relatively small number of people". Can they have such a big impact on everyone else?


It’s not the inequality of capital ownership that is the problem. It’s the inequality of land ownership (specifically zoned housing capacity). A few thousand hundred-millionaires hardly hurt people any more than a few thousand millionaires. But a few million middle-class homeowners hurts when they are not allowed to share their land with the landless. So the most worrysome inequality is the numbers of landed vs. landless, not millionaires vs. ten millionaires or hundred millionaires.


> when they are not allowed to share their land with the landless.

this seems to be aggravated by zoning laws and NIMBYism in the US where localities will not tolerate high-density housing that is an eyesore but provides little homes to people who'd otherwise not have one (or have to pay higher prices than they otherwise would)


When they geographically cluster in sufficient numbers to out-compete everyone else for a limited housing supply, they certainly can. And it looks like they have.


the people we rely on to extinguish our flames cannot afford

What a strange example for you to use. First, firefighters in most urban areas make muchos, muchos dollars. Second, firefighter jobs are extremely desirable, for that reason and many others ("heroism", firefighter groupies, extreme lengths of downtime, early pensions, etc) Third, in poorer areas, volunteers are all-too happy to be firefighters.

As I said, strange example. Maybe you could fret about garbage collectors instead...?


California (https://www.businessinsider.com/firefighter-salary-every-us-...):

Firefighters

Median annual salary: $35,440

10th percentile salary: $20,520

90th percentile salary: $57,060

First-Line Supervisors of Fire Fighting and Prevention Workers

Median annual salary: $53,180

10th percentile salary: $28,270

90th percentile salary: $78,740

(Firefighters in Alabama make more than in California?!?!)


He said in urban areas. Here's a job posting for SF:

https://www.jobapscloud.com/SF/sup/bulpreview.asp?R1=CCT&R2=...

Entry Level (H-2) Firefighter

$78,676.00 - $121,420.00/year

Entry level and before any overtime. If you look at individual salaries you see things like one fire fighter making 220K in overtime alone(!). Other make less, but lots and lots are making 300-400K:

https://transparentcalifornia.com/salaries/search/?a=san-fra...


Cops also make money similar to firefighters. Yet in Atherton (close to Palo Alto), the cops turned part of their station in to sleeping quarters. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be on the wrong side of a gun from a cop who is sleep deprived and probably overworked.


Information, professional, and business services collectively account for less than 25% of Bay Area workers. At least 75% of the people currently affording lives here are not in tech.

There’s a big difference in what happens in the housing units that are up for grabs vs. the city as a whole.

http://www.vitalsigns.mtc.ca.gov/jobs-industry


From your link: the fastest growing industries are information, professional, and business services.

And it is the growing industries that drive the market rate for housing. Someone who bought in to the market via purchase or rent-regulated lease five or ten years ago has a significantly lower cost of living than someone entering the market today.

Exempli gratia: (in California) If you're living in a $2 million house that you bought for $400 thousand, you might not be able to afford to sell and buy something else at a similar price due to the tax code.

Exempli gratia: If you're living in a rent-regulated apartment that's now leased 40% under market value, if you lose your lease for any reason, you may not be able to afford the market rate. And your landlord has greater incentive to get you out of the unit.

Thus the well-tenured school teacher making $100 thousand per annum[0] can afford to live comfortably, but when this teacher retires, a qualified replacement offered a salary of $66 thousand[1] may choose to live and work elsewhere.

[0]http://www.sfusd.edu/en/assets/sfusd-staff/contract%20and%20...

[1]ibid


What happens on the margins is not the same as what happens. You do not need a tech job to live here. Instead you need to have established or inherited a claim on land, sometime in the past.

If this is to become the norm, it's a monumental shift in the fabric of American society. Meritocracy/justice/feudalism arguments notwithstanding, the implications are huge. Parenting strategy changes. Not even the very best wages are going to cover your child's cost of living near a decent job at market rate. Setting her up to be a valuable worker is a poor investment.

Instead of researching school districts, research cities and economic trends. Instead of saving for college, buy property in the cities you think will be employment centers in 18 years (and keep it empty to avoid a potential tenant-rights battle). Instead of living in the best school district, live in a rent-controlled apartment in another favored city, maybe the one where you can least afford ownership today. If your family can't afford this alone, go in with another family or two. Choose wisely. Your kids will be roommates for life.

If one of your bets is correct, then your kid gets a decent life. It doesn't matter that she's less educated; a worker's most important qualification is to be there. Whatever the growth industry is will be elated to find any young adult. And she'll have 100x better living arrangements, at 1% of the cost, compared to any sucker whose parents didn't set this up for them like you did.


> So the rise in visible homelessness is perhaps the expected result.

But this happens in the US disproportionally more than, say, many countries in Europe.


Because the social safety net in the US is almost totally absent. As an European that is one of the main things that keeps me away from ever wanting to work in the States, down there it looks like you're either a successful person, meaning you have a house on which you can afford to pay mortgage, which in turn means that you have a successful job which allows you to navigate the inevitable recessions, or you're always one-step away from being homeless, there's no in-between state where you can live an ok-ish life on a not-so-great job without having nightmares about your economic prospects each and every night.


I'm not sure what you're on about. The US does have social safety nets, and most people in America work okay'ish jobs and live okay'ish lives without constant nightmares.


Half of the homeless people in that Seattle video someone linked above should have had a roof over their heads provided by the State, either some mental-health institution or an elderly care house.

I've heard of way too many US ok-ish jobs that don't provide adequate health-insurance (just to give an example). Maybe I'm a little paranoid but I'd have constant nightmares thinking that a couple of days of hospitalization for a benign medical intervention could set me tens of thousands of dollars in debt (or worse).


I think what he is on about is the fact that even if the US has the safety nets you describe, it apparently isn't working.


He/She should have said that then.


Not sure why that would keep you away. By your definition a huge percentage of the population is successful.


As far as I know, most people are not successful by his definition. Almost everyone who is not rich is living paycheck-to-paycheck. There is no baseline system where working 40 to 60 hours a week guarantees a normal home/living/health situation.


People live paycheck-to-paycheck on a surprisingly wide range of incomes.


doubt it. there are just a few areas in the us that are really bad, but the rest of it is fine. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_homeless_...


Firefighters live in the station when they are on duty. So they'll commute in from wherever they can afford to live. If there aren't enough who will do that, we'll pay them more.


I don't think a society can work if there are large inequalities. The winners have to pay for the losers. At least enough to get them off the streets.


KOMO TV in Seattle recently (last Sunday) did a big report on this called "Seattle is Dying." Down south in Portland, it's the same thing. Down in San Francisco...same thing. Down further, same thing. This is spreading quite quickly, all over in the big cities. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b53uiRFq4Ds


A symptom of drug use, that is a symptom of a sickness spreading through our society. It isn't a US problem. Across the border, Vancouver is famous for it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I6-1oo-b3Ds It is spreading to colder climates as well. Tiny in comparison, but it has recently turned into a problem in Toronto. The encampments are already growing again: https://globalnews.ca/tag/gardiner-expressway-homeless-encam...


Yeah, of course. We sold out the last vestiges of small-town America but are not socially prepared for a world where the entire economy is focused around a select few cities.


In 1930 5.9% of all Americans where living in NYC. The importance of cities has seen minimal changes, the issue is we stopped building enough housing and transportation infrastructure.

Many US issues come from where we place the borders of our local governments. Local was more meaningful before the car, but with increased mobility that’s no longer the case.


This. My commute crosses five incorporated cities in three counties, all barely distinguishable, but I can only vote in the one where I sleep.


My commute on BART and Caltrain in the Bay Area touched 4 counties and dozens of cities. The Baltimore-Washington Metropolitan area now officially spans five state-level entities: Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia. Yet our political structures don’t recognize this new regionalism.


Suburban political boundaries were drawn this way intentionally. The “solution” for integrated school districts was to pack up and leave for places that minorities couldn’t afford to move to, so you could keep your kids going to all-white schools.

Even today undoing those boundaries is fraught by the specter of history. https://www.ajc.com/news/local-govt--politics/fears-about-ma...


It's not about all-white for the most part. It's about having a "good" school that does the most for your kid. The racial profile is an artifact of many other social issues.

If we want to solve racial issues in our society we have to stop demonizing people for wanting good things for themselves and their families as being racially motivated, when the racial correlation is almost purely incidental.


Watched this last night. I live in Midwest and used to visit Seattle 2 or 3 times a year. Haven't been there in 6 years. I do remember seeing a lot of homeless people in the city, but I don't remember running into homeless camps, especially the middle of the city. So when I saw this in the documentary I was totally surprised it's become this bad. What in the world is happening there...


Made me dust off my HN account for this.

I’m a fourth generation resident of Tacoma, WA just south of Seattle, so I might be able to shed some light on what’s been happening. Please pardon spelling errors, I’m typing this on my phone.

Washignton state is very passive aggressive as a whole. You see it in the politics as well as the people themselves. In this case, Seattle does want to help the homeless but doesn’t want to make the effort to build a proper facility. We’re quick to jump in social issues like gay marriage, but will absolutely balk at anything that requires more money, time, or effort. So Seattle, in the most passive way possible, stops enforcing public camping laws.

There are other significant components to it as well. In the case of the Seattle Police, they just got shaken down by the Dept of Justice for corruption and racial profiling as well as by the WA State Supreme Court (the death penalty ban cites a Seattle prosecutor being openly racist on the record in King County Court). My guess is that the police is being super careful right now to avoid another legal confrontation, so a lot of grey area stuff (like homelessness - illegal to camp but they gotta sleep soemwhere) doesn’t get enforced. The freeway camps get even trickier since they’re on Department of Transportation land, which only the State Patrol has legal jurisdiction on under current law (city laws don’t affect highway land).


I am center-left (recovering socialist) and I thought the documentary was fair (harsh and judgmental but fair). It seems like the residents are not happy with what is going on, and the city government is not providing satisfactory results. Clearly arresting and returning drug addicts and the mentally ill back to streets next day is a bad idea. I wish they spent a little more time digging into why they are just returning offenders back to the street. Suppose the cost of incarceration is a factor for the city's budget, would they be able to institute and sustain a comprehensive rehab program? The documentary seems to have presented guaranteed solution (comprehensive rehab) at the end, but they might be masking complexity.


Just watched this. As someone from SF, this is EXACTLY how the situation is here, just worse. I completely understand how Seattle residents feel. I really don't understand how this is allowed to continue year after year with so much money thrown at it clearly not doing anything.


I was totally interested in watching this, but this youtube is complete garbage, and does not belong on HN.



I read that and I don't see an alternative presented, just criticism.


That's the gist of how it is in Seattle. You're not allowed to address or discuss it. You're not allowed to observe there may be a problem. You can only help in the permitted ways - serving or donating to some shelters. Everyone else, be on your way. The city will tend to all, you need not worry yourselves.


FWIW KOMO is now owned by Sinclair, and is increasingly rabidly right-wing. What to do about the homeless situation in Seattle is a big topic of discussion currently; we had an attempt to tax big companies to get some money to deal with this get shouted down by all the folks in Amazon's pockets.


The solutions proposed by the Seattle City Council are to aid and abet addictive habits, and to pursue 'more of the same' for every policy that put things where they are today. No amount of tax money they would receive would fix the problem, because they have shown they cannot spend it competently.


Care to elaborate and point to specific policies? Are you referring to safe injection sites or something else?


That's the primary example, yes. This in addition to curbing police enforcement of actual drug use and possession, from what I've heard in reporting and from officers themselves.

One anecdote I've heard through my brother, who has been in law enforcement and monitors things in our old home region. He told me an officer he knew left the force because those types of restrictions were becoming untenable to deal with. Secondhand, so take this, too, with a grain of salt.


What is the advantage in cycling addicts in and out of prison?


Did you watch the video? Removing access to drugs and providing them with I assume subsidized medication that is used to treat addiction.


Do you honestly believe that throwing mentally ill and addicted people in jail is the right solution to this problem?


I do believe that when someone is slowly dying of addiction on the streets, that it might be more compassionate to help them cure that addiction, even if it is against their will (not like you normally get to decide you don't want to go to jail when you've comitted a crime anyway).

I know it's not a one size fits all solution by any means, and has the potential for tons of liberty infringing issues, but it sounds better than doing nothing.


The goal of Safe injection sites are specifically aimed at getting people care while letting them deal with their addictions, under monitoring. Whether they'll work here in the us or if we'll let them is a different question. They worked where the idea came from.

That's what gp didn't like. What do you think since you seem to want a better option. Is that better than jail as a default?

It's supposed to do what you want without prison.


Do you have evidence they worked, short or long-term? Are there any substantive differences between the two programs?


I'm not a policy wonk. Research them and make your own opinion. Portugal and another country have tried them. Portugal to amazing success. Turns out many people wanted off the drugs and just needed help is the summary I saw there.

I think we do have data on how well the current system works.

The two programs being what? I know Seattle is having a lot of troubles even implementing them well due to stigmas so I don't know if we even have finished.

I do anecdotally know one of my hyper liberal teacher friends was against them on the east side as she associated heroin use with only downtown Seattle homeless. When I pointed out they were more likely to use the center downtown instead of a 2 hr bus ride and the ones on the east side were for all the people you hear about being hooked on oxygen... She actually started thinking about it instead of just reacting. It's a hard sell with a lot of stigma and fud around it.

It's not my goal to argue you one way or another in a post like this. It's my goal that you actually make an informed decision instead of an uninformed one off of anecdotal data.


I was in jail once. Apart from weed it seemed like illegal drugs were readily available and much cheaper than they were on the street. I've also been in a mental hospital where unprescribed drugs were impossible to get, they put me on some crazy stuff though. I met addicts in both of these places and honestly neither of them seemed to offer much help for that condition.


I'm not saying that just throwing a person into jail will help. But a jail with a working treatment program could.* Maybe everyone in the video they talked to in the CT treatment program was being disingenious or dishonest, but it sounded like it was effective.

* Which also implies a lack of readily available drugs - and guards who aren't accepting bribes to let them in.


Money! Prison is a business in America.


Actual drug use is a loaded term now that weed is legal in wa. Care to ellaborate?


Just watched the documentary and it is entirely fact based. I hate Sinclair, but this was quality work.


I feel like KOMO being owned by Sinclair is not relevant. This documentary was really well done and on the whole, realistic. Mentioning that KOMO is owned by Sinclair or claiming they are increasingly "rabidly" right-wing (which I've not observed thus far) will only serve to keep people from watching the documentary and making up their own mind, since they will 'pre-judge' it. I don't feel that's what this video deserves given that it is bringing light to a problem Seattle residents have seen right in front of their eyes, building up over the last 10 years.

If anything, local publications like The Stranger are skewed towards the far-left and keep playing up a misplaced "compassion" angle that serves to stifle any pragmatic counter-arguments through a vague moral argument. And of course, the city council (literally all its current members) is completely inept and has been gas-lighting residents this entire time, as if we can't see the trash, the drug abuse, the usurping of public spaces by transient campers, the rise of crime, etc.

Lastly, claiming that folks in Amazon's pockets shouted down the head tax is not a balanced evaluation. My read of discussions online were that many people were against it, from all walks of life, from all parts of the political spectrum except perhaps the far-left. Construction workers, who don't have the easiest or the most well-compensated job, were the ones shouting down Kshama Sawant's head tax (see their counter-protest at https://youtu.be/ycEa1l01_A0). And it's not just the Amazon ecosystem - over 100 businesses signed a letter to the council against the head tax (https://www.seattlebusinessmag.com/policy/more-100-seattle-b...).


I didn't detect any rabid right-wing bias in this documentary, despite whoever owns it. It seemed pretty neutral, if not from a humanitarian perspective. I don't think I've ever seen a rabid right-wing org point out that drug addiction is actually the biggest component of this homeless problem, and showing a solution working elsewhere that was primarily based on getting people off of drugs.

> we had an attempt to tax big companies to get some money to deal with this get shouted down by all the folks in Amazon's pockets.

It sounds like people need to vote for politicians with spines then if shouting them down is all it takes, assuming the majority of people actually wanted it because they believed it would solve the problem.


> we had an attempt to tax big companies to get some money to deal with this get shouted down by all the folks in Amazon's pockets.

> assuming the majority of people actually wanted it because they believed it would solve the problem.

The poster is omitting that most people in Seattle were opposed to the tax, because it would have significantly harmed labor unions and regional businesses, like grocery stores.

The Seattle city council crafted a tax without consulting businesses about how economics works, doubled down and told people to stuff it when they pointed out that it was going to damage the local economy by crippling mid-tier businesses that had high-gross, low-margin revenues, and were then forced into an embarrassing retreat when labor unions started campaigning against it and neighborhood organizations circled the wagons to protect their historic businesses.

It was also a pocket change, feel good tax: Seattle spends over a billion dollars a year on poverty, between low-income subsidies and homelessness, and has nothing but a degrading situation to show for it.

People in Seattle just have a simple question: both Amazon and the SCC have spent about $25B over the past decade -- Amazon to rebuild SLU, and the SCC on anti-poverty; why does Amazon have a campus and tens to hundreds of thousands of lives changed, while the SCC has literal poop on the streets to show for it?


I live in Seattle, and work for Big Tech. Your description is basically spot on. It's frustrating to me because the Seattle City Council seems so disconnected from the strife that a lot of these people face - as correctly depicted in the KOMO documentary. If the SCC wanted to extract some value from Amazon then fine, just do it explicitly. This was a half-handed way to go about it, and so disconnected from how local economies work.

I will live here for a few more years for sure. But if the SCC keeps on this same path, and Seattle turns into SF I'm leaving. It's sad, because I've been living here off and on since 2011 and I genuinely love the PNW, since it's got everything I want - access to nature and the water, smart people that I'd consider starting a company with, and a beautiful aesthetic. I'm not the only one that feels this way. Coworkers, especially those who just had kids or are about to, plan on leaving for the suburbs or ditching the city altogether.

Edit: was googling city council videos and, well, here's an example of what I mean:

https://youtu.be/gMrBFNoHBkg


If you want to get involved with housing politics in that area, these are some good places to start:

* https://www.sfyimby.org/

* https://cayimby.org/

Look at the crazy tweet quoted by a Palo Alto city councilor for instance:

https://twitter.com/benedictevans/status/1109500565971763202

"Why there's a housing crisis, exhibit #29393911". People who don't believe in supply and demand.


This sort of thing is why I've started to wonder if employment rate is really all that meaningful as a general socioeconomic index. It is what it is, of course, but I'm not sure it's use as a proxy for well-being is really justified.


> This sort of thing is why I've started to wonder if employment rate is really all that meaningful as a general socioeconomic index. It is what it is, of course, but I'm not sure it's use as a proxy for well-being is really justified.

Great point. Look at how paradoxical it is.

Every time unemployment is high, they pump in more money (raising asset values). But unemployment is not high because of "lack" of money.

The real problem is unequal distribution of money pumped into the system. Unemployment is a joke. It's not like the world has run out of things to do. I can think of so many more jobs that need people (like more Boeing testers, more street cleaners, more infrastructure repairers, more artists, mores school teachers, more nurses etc.) None of that is happening because of lack of money. No, its happening because money is being sucked by the few at the cost of the society.


Actually - no they don't. Changing interest rates doesn't change the money supply. But you're right, the real problem is the uneven distribution of money - the precise causes are a little more complex though.


> Changing interest rates doesn't change the money supply.

It does by discouraging creation of new money by way of loans.

The uneven distribution of money is because of an unbalanced wealth creation system. Money trickles down from the Fed into assets (owned by banks and wealthy) who then loan that money out to others.

Some of that money goes into business activities such as procuring goods and services, thus creating demand. The rest of that money goes into speculation and buying up more "assets" that will pay out in future.

Notice how labor is not important in any of this at all. Labor is almost a side-effect of this economic system of assets vs assets.

Unfortunately, no human is born with assets. Most humans still make money from labor. If money printing goes into assets but humans make money from labor, it's obvious that this will throw most humans out of the system.

This is like a video game where some people got the cheat code while others didn't.


Unemployment rate has only been a part of the factor, and the U3 number is a VERY VERY bad indicator or economic health which is the number the news reports

U6 is much more comprehensive but even it has its limits, you have to contrast it with Workforce Participation numbers which is still at a Decade low number though it on on the rise

2009 (peak of economic rescission and unemployment BTW): 65.7% of people where in the workforce

2018: 62.7% of people where in the workforce

U6 Unemployment sits at almost 7.3% where U3 is 3.8%


The adoption of slavery can reduce employment rate to 0 quite effectively.


Kinda a dark point, but defintely a counter example to why unemployment may not always be the best index/stat to look at.

However, I think there are probably better counter poonts than such an extreme.


A little bit unrelated, but does anyone else get severe anxiety reading articles like this? I’m currently employed in a well-paying tech job, but it always seems like I’m just one giant disaster away from this kind of thing. Granted, I have a family “safety net” to fall back on in a worst case scenario, which I realize a lot of people don’t have, but it’s always in the back of my mind that the economy could crash, that my skills are suddenly not in demand, or some weird health insurance disaster wipes out my retirement savings. I constantly feel like I need to save up as much money as possible to reach financial independence as quickly as I can so that I’m prepared for some kind of unforeseen catastrophe.


I was wiped out back in 2017. I was a web developer living in Dallas and making 90K a year. My manager and I didn't get along and I eventually ended up on a PIP. After 30 days I realized I wasn't going to meet the PIP goals and resigned before being fired. I wasn't worried, I had about 50K in cash and 20K in credit, and I surly could find a job before it ran out. I was wrong. I got very few interviews and when I did, they were more fit than technology focused. I might as well have picked a number between 1 and 100 to decide the interview.

There comes a point when you go into emergency mode and start planning for the worst. We made it to tax season and got our return. we bought a used car and moved to Tulsa, Ok for the cheaper rent. I had also spent 20 years there when I was younger and felt confident I could find a development or any job. It didn't go as planned. I got plenty of interviews, but none panned out. Many employers questioned my time without a job and I think that and my rusting skills keep me unemployed. Hell, I can't even get a blue-collar job. And it didn't help that the used car broke down and I had to walk and ride public buses every where. Now my wife works for $8.50 an hour at a diner and that's what we make it on. I'm in a worse position than before I went to college and it makes me bitter about life, people, hiring practices, and that so much depends on luck and timing.

So yeah, you never know what's coming. Save all you can and keep working towards financial independence, which is the only real guarantee.


Just wanted to give 4 quick suggestions to help you get a job:

1) Add your email in your HN profile in the “about” section. I’m certain there’s a lot of people who really resonated with your story and potentially interested in hiring you, but have zero ways of contacting you. You have to do everything you can to increase your “luck quotient”.

2) Post in “Ask HN: Who wants to be hired” when it comes up again. Mention either remote or local depending on what you’re looking for. Be very honest with your story and what you’re looking for.

3) Reach out to founders in startups in the Oklahoma area if you want to work locally. I know a lot of founders and almost all of them are desperate to hire good developers. Even if your skills are "rusty" the smartest ones will realize it won’t take long for you to get up to speed.

4) Send me an email with a resume. I might be interested or know someone who is.


How are you applying for jobs? Are you spraying and praying or are you going to meetups and such to network and get recommendations? Cold resumes won't get nearly as far as a recommendation. Have you applied to remote jobs? Contract jobs? Looked for freelance work?


I'll be real, it sounds like you're giving the generic "I just Googled how to get a job" advice and in my personal experience - this kind of advice rarely accomplishes anything and leaves you more distraught than before.


>I just Googled how to get a job

It’s worse than that. It reads like something a LinkedIn “influencer” who hasn’t had to actively look for a job in 30 years would write.

Here’s some insights from my current job search:

>Meetups I live 45 minutes away from Seattle. On a good day, it’s a 1.5 hour round trip commute. With Seattle traffic factored in, it can balloon to 3-4 hours round trip. The last two meetups I did go to were full of boot camp students and very few actual employed devs. (Side note, only one of the five boot camps that were there had the WA state technical school accdredidation.) The Meetup talks were glorified sales pitches for B2B AI analytics products (with one company admitting that its AI was actually third world upwork contractors in an news interview a week later).

>Remote work Not in a position to negotiate that unless you mean 1099 freelance work. 1099 is a hardship since I’d have to basically set up my own business at that point. (I will never do a sole proprietorship since the personal risk is too high if the business fails or I get sued for something.)

>contact and freelance jobs Did you read what I just said?

Anyways, I’m logging off HN again and working on my blog. I really need to block this site since all I see here anymore are innane comments like these.


Sorry if I came of condescending, that wasn't my intention. I was trying understand the situation in case there was something I could do to help.

>Remote work Not in a position to negotiate that

There are many remote jobs available now. Check out https://github.com/lukasz-madon/awesome-remote-job#job-board... for a list of boards that show remote jobs. Remote work isn't for everyone but it opens up a much wider selection if you're having trouble finding something local.


Didn't mean to be hard on you! It's just frustrating as someone who's sought those avenues before only to fine people who want to underlay, sketchiness, people who just wanna feel the waters or even people who are trying to catfish for recruiting. It just came off as tho you had never tried to do those things before because they're so generic and rarely produce results. But thanks for that link I'll be looking through it later!


Yeah I know one person who's had success using meet-up for pretty much anything other than trivia night at a bar and even she thinks it's in the way out. It's too bad our search engines are so poor at finding quality results these days. Maybe that's part of the problem, but I don't see a next Gen search engine coming any time soon.


Jesus. I almost had a panic attack reading your story mate. I'm so sorry I hope your life turn better soon. Where did you go to college if you don't mind me asking?


Not severe, but every so often I am reminded of the big picture of life. So many industries, economies, societies, nations, etc, have been upended throughout, leaving large numbers of well-meaning relatively prepared people in ruin.

I'm happy that the money is flowing into tech. But on the same token, maaaaybe it's a bubble? My brain won't dismiss that thought.

I think the fundamental lesson is that we can't take anything for granted, and the stability of the tech industry is just one of those things. Nothing guarantees the USD (my currency) won't plummet, the housing market won't implode, another financial crisis caused by psychopathic bankers won't happen, or ISIS won't nuke NYC.

It's part of "growing up", too. When you're young and have a decent set of middle class parents, you see the world as being very reliable and rigid. Thing are they way they are and you can depend on them. The grown ups take care of stuff, they practically make magic happen.

As you age, you see strong things now that didn't exist before, and weak things now that were strong before. You keep seeing the world as more fluid. And you learn about all the crap that's hit other people and you know, deep down, you weren't born specially exempt from it. The people who "take care of these things"? They're your peers. They can't work magic. And if they understand their job as well as you understand yours, things start to feel uncomfortably like a house of cards.

But hey, Netflix has a new season of $popularShow. That and a refreshing beverage sound like a good way to spend the evening.


> Netflix has a new season of $popularShow. That and a refreshing beverage sound like a good way to spend the evening.

And that's a good way to spend a Saturday evening. It's also also not an excuse to not prepare for the future.


Right, it's more commentary on how much of our society is built around ignoring life's pressures.


I'm a big worrier myself, and these thoughts often get the better of me. I have been unemployed for a couple of months last year, and although I live in a scandinavian country, it was still tough to see others in the same situation struggling.

I think society has a great responsibility in educating citizens correctly. A lot of the people I met had no grasp of technology, or its role in society, which is a big warning-light in my eyes. Everyone is saying "AI and robotics wont take your job", but it absolutely will, as the jobs the new industry creates seems to be STEM-jobs that require long STEM-educations - something not everyone is cut out for.

I feel like we're yet to see the full consequence of technology's role in our society, and I fear that we will end up with a big chunk of people who cannot actively contribute to the workforce.


One of the big advantages of having a good welfare state is that (apart from lower inequality and dignity for all) people just worry less!


absolutely, and the scary thing is that

> I’m just one giant disaster away from this kind of thing.

this is true for the vast majority of Americans, given that somewhere between 60-70% have less than $1000 in savings

https://www.cnbc.com/2018/01/18/few-americans-have-enough-sa...


I'm sure most Americans have "savings" in the form of "maybe I can beg and plead for a credit limit increase if something really bad happens".


Yes. I won’t survive a perfect storm.


It need not be perfect, we're all one modest car accident away from a life on the streets.


Welcome to being a grown-up. These worries have been part of being a responsible adult for forever.


The US has an annualized growth rate [0] of ~.7%, or ~2M/yr, and this an historically low rate (probably b/c of economic problems)

Annualized "new housing starts" is 1.28M/yr [1]

And we already have a housing deficit, proven not only in homelessness, but in adults sharing rentals, the high cost of rent, new grads completely besides themselves in lack-of-prospects, student debt, etc... In other words, it's getting worse.

Clearly, the only answer is building more housing, and the market is not answering that call. Or give me 40 acres and a mule...

[0]: https://tradingeconomics.com/united-states/population-growth... [1]: https://tradingeconomics.com/united-states/housing-starts


The market is constrained by rampant, rabid NIMBYism, among other things.


They all want to own a rental too, since it only costs a down payment to possess the property iff somebody else pays the bank.

But it's more than NIMBYS. There's foreign capital holding land and property, dog-eat-world construction developers operating nationally and globally, and infestations of anonymous YUPPIES who are basically living in w/e city like it's an extended career commute, and have no incentive to gaf about local problems, but want their sensibilities and stuff to be safe and protected by police—it's these people's tax dollars city politicians clamor about needing to attract in order to fix local problems and ofc pay expensively to police.


Surely life in a tent or on the street is far more dangerous than life in shoddy but formal housing, like the complex the protagonists of this story were living in before it was condemned for being unsafe.

Of course such a moral quandary shouldn't be necessary: allow and subsidize the cheapest possible permanent and safe housing everywhere.


Do you have evidence that such houses are actually used when made? I've heard - and this is hearsay at the moment - that when those have been built in Seattle, they were unused.


Are you saying that somebody build a home in Seattle and put it up for rent or sale, and nobody was willing to move in, at any price? I would find that hard to believe. I can more easily imagine a poorly-administered housing subsidy program that failed to utilize some housing.


Looks like it was a women's only experimental camp, 'low-barrier'. https://komonews.com/news/local/seattle-to-close-controversi...


Here is one database on homelessness in the U.S.:

https://www.usich.gov/tools-for-action/map/

At least with this database, homelessness appears to have decreased over the last ten years.

----

Posting this because it isn't clear whether the "changing face of homelessness" is such that current methods for calculating homelessness are problematic or not.


It's unfortunate for this family, but as long as there are some desperately poor, you'll be able to find stories like this. If the changing face of homelessness is not actually going hungry that often, being given notice when the police are coming through to clean out the encampment, this might be an improvement over recent historical trends.

I'm disappointed with the lack of data and style reporting on homelessness as a whole. Inconsistent statistics or lack of any context makes it hard to form an opinion. The site you linked which should be a good source of data makes it hard to see data over time and inexplicably colors the map by total population, rather than fraction of population (https://xkcd.com/1138/).

From https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homelessness_in_the_United_Sta... it appears it has fallen over the past 12 years without much correlation to the economy.


Yeah, the lack of high-quality, public databases for certain issues is unfortunate.

A couple years ago I sat in on a talk by a guy in D.C. who had led a small beltway coalition for over a decade to get data processes standardized across the largest departments within the federal government. Things they achieved, that made one think the U.S. was simply moving from being stuck in the 70's to being stuck in the 80's ,were quite clearly exciting wins for him.


Having come to the US with a few dollars behind me, I totally understand the circumstances of being poor. having said that, there is no way you need to be homeless in the US. There is more social help here than in a lot of places in the world. subsidized living support is real, food stamps and church support, among other things. I cannot judge the people in the article, I dont know them but I think when two people work, are not disabled, they do not have to live on the streets in the US, unless they have some kind of a psychological disorder. yes, life is tough, but there is no way it is tougher than in a lot of other places where people in worse conditions monetarily make do. if they are not on social security or not in subsidized housing, then they make enough to not be on it. homelessness in the US is a very odd state of affairs to anyone to was truly poor before.


I've lived on the streets of NYC since 2017 & been employed (min-wage job) but only do so in order to afford more free time to creative write.


That is fascinating, can you share more of your experience? How does living on the streets work, how did you end up in this situation?


It started w/ an Aladdin story & dream-chasing .. but to cut to it, @ present, I basically operate in / out of a storage unit.

The routine basically goes: Wake up, run / shower @ gym (some days, meditate in tanning booth), go to cafe & write for ~3-4 hours, Citi Bike to day-job, work it & once finished, go to sleep on soho-streets @ night.

I ended up in this situation because I put myself into it so as to be in New York City (publishing house Mecca)

I am from CA but going for it ;)


do you have any public writing? I'd be interested in reading what you've written.


Wow, that'd be 100% awesome ..

If you visit my site, https://blondyn.com , you will find Episode 1 of my Aladdin adaptation (Aladdin Exponential) for which I moved to the city.

Also, I recently self-published an NYC short story compilation (Lit Art: Vol.1 - LOL POP), which right now is free to read if you've Amazon Prime.

If you're interested in a fun & light read, I'd recommend the short stories.

Aladdin Exponential is a novel - a spin on Aladdin ~ the premise ~ instead of a Genie coming out of the Lamp, the Aladdin character gets pulled inside to discover a Whole New World .. adventure ensues.



Thanks. There's something funny about a publication subtitled "democracy dies in darkness" fading to black.


Getting a 404. Did they take it down or is this one of the new EU block things?


It's up, but behind one of those garbage begwalls.


I echo others' sentiments here, that these problems will not be fixed unless people from all sides stop trying to 'win' on ideological grounds, stop trying to gaslight each other, stop trying to demonize, and simply evaluate the situation for what it really is. This requires making hard decisions, selecting the right incentives/disincentives, accepting that no solution is perfect, and instituting transparent well-audited policies that serve the interests of local constituents.

Here are some of my thoughts regarding this topic:

- No one is entitled to live wherever they want, doing whatever job they want, at whatever pay they are able to demand. Different places carry different degrees of desirability, and the resulting demand for locations means that prices will be different for different locales. People need to show some personal responsibility and choose locations, jobs, etc. that are feasible. Choosing to move to a location in a line of work that is not compensated enough is going against the incentive structure built into our market dynamics - namely that a reduced supply of labor for some job will result in wages for that job increasing.

- Long-time residents of an area may find it unfair that they are being displaced by newcomers or a sudden boom or other changes that push prices upward and beyond their reach. Those cities could consider establishing policies for subsidized rent for those long-time residents below some income level. That is, not rent control that impacts individual landlords but subsidizing the cost of housing for long-time residents (e.g. 5+ years) across the entire city's tax base. I keep saying "long-time" residents because there has to be a disincentive for someone moving to expensive locales and using the safety net/goodwill of the public as a means to enable an otherwise irresponsible move. For example, those moving to Seattle or SF in the 2010s have no excuse for expecting anything other than an expensive life, and need to carefully evaluate if they can make it there.

- Cities could assist residents in finding viable jobs and locations to live in if they can't make it locally. They could even help pay for it. For example, it is possible there are people that are homeless in some expensive city and could make it elsewhere, but don't have the funds necessary to get over the hump of moving. Cities could pay for them to move and get settled. In the Seattle area, we spend over $1B a year on homelessness (https://www.bizjournals.com/seattle/news/2017/11/16/price-of...), which comes out to $83K/year/homeless person (since there are 12000 homeless persons in the area). For $25K we could move someone to a more affordable middle-America location, pay for a year of their housing, and potentially even their food/utility costs during that time. Perhaps we could go a step further and match them to jobs. The flip side is that those people need to accept that they may not do a job they want to do. Sometimes you need to suck it up and do something you might consider menial or unmatched to your skills or unmatched to your passions - but that's just life and everyone has to make tradeoffs. And as with my other idea, such services have to only be available to long-time residents so as to not induce free-riders.

- Not all homeless people are 'bad'. Some are well-meaning people down on their luck job-wise. Some are long-time residents who have been priced out or displaced from their locale. Some may have encountered some one-off hardship. Either way, we need cities to meaningfully identify these various cohorts precisely, so taxpayers can selectively provide support to those who deserve it. The mechanisms used for such identification need to be trustworthy. As an example of an untrustworthy process, in Seattle the city uses self-reported answers from homeless people to claim that most are from here. But most video interviews you see on TV (or anecdotally, when I've spoke to homeless people myself) indicate they are not actually from here. Those point-in-time surveys are facilitated by homeless activists, who are likely coaching people towards certain answers, which is why the only viable answer is to rely on positive identification for claims about local residency.

- Homeless folks need to accept services. Refusing services (whether by way of housing or for addiction treatment) is a non-starter. The law-abiding tax-paying residents who support a city don't have an obligation to forfeit their public spaces to transients, permanent nomads, or addicts.

- Cities need to enforce laws. They can't look the other way when property crime is committed, or when littering takes place, and so on. Or worse, they can't selectively apply laws differently to different people (see http://mynorthwest.com/1046331/construction-worker-rv-ticket... for an example). People pay taxes and elect local governments to serve their interests and support their quality of life. The trend of urban transient campers usurping public spaces is unacceptable - people work hard to make it in expensive places to enjoy those amenities, after all.

These are just some off the cuff ideas - I'm sure there is room for improving them and I'm sure there are other good ideas as well. But I do think the current direction of many of these cities - which is basically spend more and show no result for it - is the wrong answer.


The thrust of your argument seems to be "lots of homeless people don't belong here, and if we figure out who belongs here and who doesn't, and help them accordingly, we can improve the situation dramatically". Not a great opinion to have if you want to work with homeless people. They aren't bad people, and they aren't stupid people either, and will see the condescension from a mile away. So even if your solutions are pragmatic, I don't see how a city government could implement them without a backlash that would make their efforts ineffective.


I think you're demonizing, just like GP observed people are doing.

It is unwise to assume that 'homeless people' are a single group that have identical traits. There are many subcategories, each with its own causing problems, attitudes, and required solution if they are to escape homelessness. Lumping them all into one category of 'not bad, not stupid, avoiding condescension' is itself condescending and reductive.

If we're to make any headway addressing the real human cost incurred by this problem, we have to have some nuance in identifying these subcategories and the individual people who occupy them.


I didn't say that they have identical traits. I just wanted to take GGP's post Not all homeless people are 'bad' one step further, and I don't think it's inaccurate to say that homeless people aren't bad people.

BTW GGP put bad in quotes and that makes sense (though an editor would probably strike the quotes). I think calling someone bad is reductive, as you say.

As far as demonizing, the only thing in this article's discussion I'd demonize is KOMO's video, which I concur with Real Change [1] is a hit piece. I don't know enough about any commenter to judge them like that, nor do I think it's my place. So if it came off this way to GGP (I don't think I did), mea culpa.

1: https://www.realchangenews.org/2019/03/20/komo-asserts-seatt...


It's not a hit piece, having lived there and witnessed this on a daily basis.


(Past edit point)

Fair enough, you were targeting a single point specifically. Bad assumption on my part.


> No one is entitled to live wherever they want, doing whatever job they want, at whatever pay they are able to demand.

Why is it the case that one is entitled to pay someone less than a living wage to do work needed in a city?

I've recently observed a society full of ridiculously unimaginable wealth, with zero homeless people.

How is this possible? This wealthy society decided that any person who lives in it should be able to exist with a minimum standard of living which includes housing, no matter their situation. I believe this actually makes society more wealthy due to network effects.

Why can't the US do the same? I bet it would cost a lot less than the mess we have now.

Before anyone asks, I'm talking about Switzerland. Not without its faults, but in this area it's quite refreshing.


Pretty good. I disagree on long term residents. Just as nobody is entitled to live wherever they want regardless of whether they can afford it, nobody is entitled to live in the same place forever if they can't afford it. The history of America is people and families moving to where the work is. Expecting to live your whole life in one place often isn't realistic.


Nobody is entitled, but I think in general most people do not want to live in a world where anybody can be elbowed out of their long-time home, especially in retirement, against their will. Moving away from your community, especially in old age can be devastating and even shorten your life. So there's some built-in empathy there (although not always). "That could be me in ten years".


As someone who deals with this every day in Seattle, the core issue is that the US doesn't have a cheap and effective healthcare system that can deal with addiction and mental healthcare issues.

So cities are forced to try and patch holes where they can. But the reality is that without coordination at the federal level there's little chance of success.

It's a national problem that requires a national solution, but our response is only at local levels.


Is there a win win business model that helps these homeless people while not being a charity?

There are so many issues: drug addiction, mental health, a changing economy. It doesn't feel impossible though.


It's awesome she can keep her dignity, and have hope and the means to advance. I admire her gumption.


If, in the Soviet Union, people had to live in tents while working, most sensible people would blame the economic system in place.

Yet in capitalist America...?


> Yet in capitalist America...?

Restrictive zoning is the prohibition of creating housing capital, so it’s ironic and incorrect to blame capitalism for the housing shortages in restrictive metros such as the Bay Area. Landlordism or rentierism might be better words for the capital repression.


Its still an economic system in place, whatever you wish to call it that causes these issues.


If this was caused by the economic system you would see it in every city not just the wealthiest.


But the economic system in place is not producing those effects in all countries that subscribe to such a system, so saying so is a poor conclusion. Many capitalist countries do not have housing shortages, so it seems very glib to blame capitalism when there are more accurate and more granular phenomena to point to.

I mean out of these, which seems more accurate?

1) In some capitalist countries, there is a housing shortage.

2) In countries with restrictive zoning regulations, there is a housing shortage.


I would blame are current economic system, which is pretty damn far from Free market Capitalism as over the last 80 or so years we have instituted a wide range of socialist inspired programs and regulations that have largely stopped and in some cases rescinded the gains against poverty that a actual free market system brings.

if you look at any economic data you will see Poverty rates where Plummeting until the "War on poverty" began and the government started trying to "solve" the problem.

Government: If you think society has problems, wait until you see our solutions


Free market capitalism has never existed and will never exist.


the housing market, especially in the US, is far from being capitalistic. You have all kind of weird rules, zoning laws maybe are the first culprit, and guess what is the result? You don't have enough houses, people are homeless and prices are most often ridiculous. This despite the fact that you have really a lot of land and the kind where you could build really high structures to house people.


I would point you to the following expose on Homelessness.

https://komonews.com/news/local/komo-news-special-seattle-is...

It is an excellent discussion on the causes and remedies.


Article is paywalled for me, does anyone know if this was in the paper version? And if so what issue?


Is there a non-paywalled mirror of this article?


[flagged]


Yikes. You're a great HN contributor but please don't do this here.


It's harsh, but may not be wrong. One day I was eating at the Burger King near the cable car turntable in SF, and listening to a group of homeless people. They were printers. Or used to be. That was a good-paying skilled trade for several hundred years. Now it's dead. Typesetting is automated, modern presses take very few people to run, and short-run jobs run at FedEx Office, not a printing plant.


That's already a more informative and substantive comment than the first one.


What is the problem with people living in tents? Why are they forced to dismantle and kicked out by cops? It makes no sense. How can Americans be so cruel to the most vulnerable, most helpless people in our society that they won't even let them live in tents and insist on disrupting their lives constantly? What kind of sick society does this? Is it just so rich assholes don't have to look at them and be reminded that this is one consequences to them being rich? It's utterly disgusting and indefensible. These are real people just like everyone else, with emotions and feelings and hopes and dreams. Are Americans really that callous that they are impervious to the suffering of so many? Are they really that entitled and naive as to think that only people who can afford insane costs of living deserve to be treated with dignity and respect? The homeless don't hurt anyone just by living in tents. They are just trying to get by like everyone else. What is wrong with that?


Not all homeless people are alike. The left only seems to see victims and the right only sees cheaters looking for a free ride.

The truth IMO is a continuous distribution between those two extremes. And as long as the proposed solutions only target one tail or another, no progress will be made because of the other tail being ignored. This should be a solvable problem in my opinion we are a rich country and we can afford to feed and shelter everyone.


> This should be a solvable problem in my opinion we are a rich country and we can afford to feed and shelter everyone.

The problem is figuring out what to do about the homeless people who refuse to accept shelter and other forms of government assistance.

What are you going to do, arrest them? That's been tried in San Francisco and it went badly. If you force them to move they will set up camp somewhere else, so that doesn't really solve anything.

A few years ago in San Jose there was a very large tent encampment called "The Jungle" with over 1000 people in it, and many of them were there by choice. They preferred the independence of living in the camp versus living in a shelter. In the camp they were free to own pets, smoke, consume alcohol, and do a bunch of other stuff that is not allowed in shelters but that most of us do in our homes on a regular basis.


> The problem is figuring out what to do about the homeless people who refuse to accept shelter and other forms of government assistance.

Does San Francisco have shelter beds that are sitting empty? We just don't have that problem yet. The people refusing shelter are refusing to throw away all of their remaining possessions for the promise of a few nights inside and then getting kicked out.


> The people refusing shelter are refusing to throw away all of their remaining possessions for the promise of a few nights inside and then getting kicked out.

That's true for some. But there are many who would not accept a guaranteed permanent shelter bed because they prefer the freedom of living on their own. If you won't accept the reality of that, you'll never solve the problem.


The solution is likely the same here as it is elsewhere: not a permanent shelter bed where you are stripped of dignity and any facsimile of a normal life, but real homes and real independent lives surrounded by real people and the social connections that make permanent escape from poverty possible. And all of it, ideally, before destitution rather than after. But that's expensive, so we will continue to see handwringing about the deplorable plight of the homeless while the glittering lives of the wealthy grow ever more gilded.


Those shelters are only useful for sleeping (that's the only thing they were optimized for). The people that go there still don't have a place to call home. During the day the homeless go outside and will cause all the same issues that come with regular homelessness.


Every shelter is full. Every mental health facility is full. The need for more of them is the most immediate problem to solve.

> there are many who would not accept

You're blaming people for how they would make a decision that they don't actually have. That's not dealing with reality.


It is not a matter of "refusing shelter" it is a matter of refusing the strings that come with the Shelter.

Like the story says most shelters have a litany of rules that most reasonable people would find objectionable. Some even require you to attend religious services, or preform some other act.

Then you have the one that refuse pets (homeless people will not and should not have to give up their pets)

then you have a Single Sex only shelters where couples would be split

Then you have the fact that in many cities there is an extreme lack of Men's shelters as most of the funding goes to Women and Children shelters.

I could probably list a dozen or more other facts more than "the damn homeless just refuse help"


My review of a Salvation Army shelter I stayed in https://goo.gl/maps/TpjnpVLgQPp

There are good programs but man, it's become fucking business.


> I could probably list a dozen or more other facts more than "the damn homeless just refuse help"

I never said that. It is an unfair misrepresentation of my argument.


Apologizes if that is not what you meant, I have been following this issue for many years and I have encountered a large number of people that shift the blame on to homeless themselves because they believe the current programs that are out there should be more than enough to solve the problem is the homeless would just "accept the help"


Text is an imperfect medium etc, but for what it's worth this is what I read in your statement above as well.



It's not just rich assholes, a surprising majority of the population want all evidence of poverty out of sight in their lives.

Santa Cruz made it illegal just to sleep visibly in public in an attempt to criminalize homelessness so they could hide the problem.


It's not about criminalizing poverty. It's about trespassing and having campers at your house 24/7/365 who are criminals. It's an awful drain to your quality of life.

Stop demonizing people for not thinking it's "progressive" to let people crap on the streets and shoot up in public. I voted for Bernie, but I live in SF and I see how much money we waste by not addressing the problem directly and in more common sense ways. Just allowing criminals to take over the city and make everyone else feel unsafe is just not fair.


San Francisco is neglecting to enforce existing laws regularly broken in the open by folks largely overlapping with the homeless population.

I've mentioned this before on this forum. At one point when I worked in the mission we watched daily a homeless encampment operate a bicycle chop shop in broad daylight from our second-floor lunch room. The police did absolutely nothing until it had been operating for well over a month. They would drive by occasionally, doing nothing more than slowing down, while a pile of stolen bicycles and bicycle parts sat next to the tents covered by nothing more than a tarp. We saw a constant flow of people coming with newly stolen bicycles and leaving with rebuilt permutations presumably to be sold on craigslist. They didn't even try to hide it.

Apparently the police stopped bothering to arrest people for petty crimes because nothing would come of it. The criminals would be immediately released back on the streets.

That has nothing to do with tolerating homelessness and some people living on the streets. We don't need to make homelessness illegal to arrest people operating a bicycle chop shop in broad daylight.

Sometimes I wonder if the city is deliberately neglecting to police crimes being committed in broad daylight independent of homelessness to further an agenda interested in criminalizing homelessness. If they can let things get so bad that everyone conflates homelessness with rampant uncrontrolled crime and destruction of the city, then it becomes much easier to garner support for such laws in a panic.

The police should do their jobs in at least enforcing the existing laws and we should be punishing criminals.

You could clean up the homeless problem in San Francisco pretty easily by simply enforcing laws and incarcerating criminals who happen to also be homeless. It's exceptionally easy when they're operating out in the oppen without even a roof and walls to hide behind.


Oh I see the chop shops too. There’s one guy downtown with one of those huge flat shopping carts from Costco that has an electric angle grinder. He has literally cut the locks off dozens of bikes on Market street and the cops do absolutely nothing. It’s surreal. No other city this rich is living in conditions like this. Something is broken in our society that is allowing this level of apathy. No one bats an eye at most of this stuff anymore, but it’s absolutely not something I am willing to tolerate as “normal” and that we can’t do better...

The police don’t enforce the law because there’s no point and the chief of police tell them no to unless they are a risk to others or themselves. Then there’s no penalty to not pay the fines and even if they don’t show up to court they never get jail time, DAs rarely prosecute (unless violence occurs), juries rarely convict, and even when they do the judges here make it so the consequences are meaningless. I really don’t think it’s the cops who are the problem. Their hands are tied by the incompetent politicians we send to City Hall. Although I really don’t understand why cops don’t walk a beat or do any kind of foot patrols in the worst areas... there’s no excuse for that.

I agree, we need to enforce the law. I’d even go so far as paying another jail in a cheaper area to hold all of the criminals so that they aren’t here where it’s prhobitively expensive. Good luck finding a city that would want to deal with our criminals though.


Might want to update your user name, Diogenes slept rough


I hate to be that guy, but I had a cousin who drove down to Santa Cruz and lived out of their van there after hearing it was paradise for the homeless. While I don't condone these laws, I do understand wanting to shed that reputation given the sheer scale of the problem there.


We should not hide the problem, and we also should not elevate it to 'a valid lifestyle'. Surely we can try to find other options between those two.


What’s the problem with someone of sound mind (i.e. not due to mental illness or addiction) living on the streets by choice? The only issues I have are that sanitation is a problem, and the places we force them into are not safe for them, or for non-homeless people, for that matter.

Would you criminalize someone who’s eternally “backpacking through Europe,” metaphorically speaking?

No one should be forced to live on the streets in a country that has a large multiple of vacant homes per homeless person, but if someone makes a voluntary choice to do so, why stop them, as long as it doesn’t harm public safety? Broadly speaking, you’re allowed to do stupid things in the US, as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone.


When I lived in Santa Clara there was parking in front of the row of townhouses where I was renting. Most days I would park directly in front of my unit, some days one or two spots away.

Then one day a very old rusted camper appeared in front of a house 3 doors down, parked out front. No idea how it got there, and it had no car or truck attached to move it.

About 6 weeks later, a second one in front of the first. Now these were taking about 4-5 spots and the neigbors were running out of places to park.

I inquired with the local police and they told me there was nothing they could do because overnight parking was not illegal in the street and it was not resident permit parking only.

By the time I moved there were 3 or 4 campers along the street at any one time. Of course the windows would always be blocked, and the inhabitants did a good job of never really being seen. Aside from not being able to park in front of my house anymore, there was also quite a bit of associated litter, to say nothing of the stench probably from overflowing holding tanks. It also left me with an uneasy feeling of who these people were and if they posed any risk to my children, or if they might try to break in.

It’s a tragedy of the commons issue, as well as safety, and sanitation. Generally speaking when unknown people with no tie to a community can come and go as they please, it ends badly for the residents of that community.


It's the same in Seattle's Sodo district. It's now filled with campers.


Sanitation, and sometimes (though certainly extremely rarely) infrastructure damage, as seen in the 2017 collapse of an Atlanta overpass. I don't think this is the best point to argue on, especially as it's arguing from extremes, but it's a point to consider if more examples crop up. I've heard of similar fires starting in Seattle, but with less risk since the're not being set near other material likely to catch fire.

I also don't think that you can group together /transients/ like who you describe and the /tent and tarp settlements/ that are prominent and overwhelming Seattle at this time. These only pronounce and concentrate the sanitary and fire risks, and invariably leave swathes of trash about them.

One of these tent settlements near Pioneer Square was in the middle of the city, not even near the highways, and gained some infamy and even a title name, the 'tent mansion', when it accrued a full keg. It's one thing to say we shouldn't hide problems, another to let a problem run so wild and concentrated that the surrounding area is made useless for other public use in the process.


I suspect many of the tent and tarp folks are doing it because there’s no better alternative. If cities would just build simple housing with proper sanitation (tiny houses, SROs, whatever) to get those people off the street, I’m sure that would take care of a majority of the public sanitation issues.

Once you get someone into a home, it is vastly easier to help them stabilize their other issues (mental health and drug abuse among them). Housing first works, and it’s been proven to work time and again.


> If cities would just build simple housing with proper sanitation (tiny houses, SROs, whatever) to get those people off the street

I don't think it's that simple. This isn't a fixed constant set of people living on the street that you find homes for and that's the end of the problem.

It's more of a revolving door; there's a constant supply replacing whoever gets off the street.

I think what the article mentioned about Seattle is actually a reasonable approach:

  Seattle, meanwhile, has allowed some tent cities to operate as de facto communities —
  long-term, regulated, even with phone numbers and addresses.

That might be a good compromise. Provide enough infrastructure to be sanitary, like California's state campgrounds with hot showers and toilets, with the addition of mailing addresses. Give them enough stability to maintain a job and a state ID, but don't make it so comfortable as to incentivize exploitation. It's a difficult balancing act, effectively helping the homeless, without making it an attractive path of least effort.


Except there is no infrastructure beyond what can be accessed via a cell phone - these are strewn along highways or streets, or beneath overpasses, unless there are some that really are more formalized than I've seen yet.


I get the impression some people see criminalization and housing the homeless in jails as more than just hiding the problem.


Sorry, but things aren't that simple in Santa Cruz. The reality is more complicated.

Currently, there is an SF/Seattle style camp that has sprung up on the entrance into town. The current city council is made up of a majority that sides more with homeless uses than the concerns of others including families. The first 5 (bi weekly) city council meetings of the year have been stuck on what to do with this camp that has sprung up (there were others before it).

The reason this topic has dominated is due to the current council make up. The head of county health is on public record stating that the county hands out between 3 and 600 needles each day for a camp of between 100 and 150 people. This does not account for a "volunteer" group that hands out other needles things like Narcan.

City staff has been working towards "other locations" for "transitional camps". During a recent presentation one of the pro-camp council people is on record asking "as we move people out of the camp to more permanent housing, what happens to those that move in filling those vacancies. In essence, implying he has an expectation to handle every Tom, Dick, and Harry that comes through there.

People who have "met with the campers" (including camp members themselves) indicate people don't want services or housing. Specifically the demand is for "a space for a low barrier camp that is private and allows for self-organization within the camp". In otherwords, those that have spoken and (campers and representatives) are demanding something outside what the city and county are wanting to provide.

In reality, the working homeless, those trying to make it (including homeless students) aren't in these camps. They are parking in quiet neighborhoods, camping in areas away from people, etc. I've talked with many at a coffee shop (no longer open) over the last half dozen years.

Many are right to point towards the main issue being drugs and mental illness. (The Seattle Dying Video is spot on). The problem here in Santa Cruz is that most of the "homeless advocates" and the 30+ non-profits (why so many for a city of 60k) addressing "homelessness" are perpetuating the current lifestyle of enablement. There are those that do get help and move up and out.

A recent, newly minted "advocate", is living in an RV and was living near her parent's house in Saratoga. She was requested to moved along and magically landed in Santa Cruz. She is one of those engaging with the camp, but has also made demands on the city that they provide her a space to park safely in her RV. She literally has been in Santa Cruz for less than 6 months. Oh, and has a couple of small children.

Why? The city of Santa Cruz is really good at providing a bunch of freebies to those that want them. It also has a city staff that is pretty incompetent and tends to lose when they get sued. Further, yes they are the county seat, but they have dug themselves a hole over the course of decades and the county is right in not helping the city dig themselves out.

There was even an article recently in SFGate where Berkeley is moving RV dwellers along (Sorry side tangent).


It's always complicated.

> I've talked with many at a coffee shop (no longer open) over the last half dozen years.

The Perg I presume? I spent many days working from that place with my car parked for free in the adjacent now-pay parking lot.

Santa Cruz has changed a lot in the last ~6 years.

I used to visit regularly from SF, practically every week, when there was still free parking downtown with The Perg and LOGOS used books to patronize. Nowadays there's practically nothing there of interest to me personally, not worth paying parking for, on top of the long drive anyways. The last few times I made the drive down there the high point was the strawberries from Swanton farms en route.

It's more than just an assault on the homeless. The city has transformed quite a bit in general. Much of its hippy/artsy/punk culture has diminished and everything is trying to be more sterile and bourgeoisie IMHO.

LOGOS and The Perg closing marked the end of an era.


They marked an end, but on the other end, the enablement of the tweaked out and mentally unstable with catch and release policies also marked an end.

The city is in a spiral of it's own creation - lax policies and pretty lax enforcement of violent crime and "hard" drug use (coupled with county policies of no services and releasing them back into the community) are pushing people away from the commercial areas. Residential areas are gentrifying, yes, but with people that are busy somewhere else most of the week (or potentially second homes).

At the same time, a vocal minority is insisting, as I mentioned, on solving all the worlds problems without any expectation of rule of law, decency, etc.

This isn't sustainable.

However, it has engendered a significant non-profit industry base that work towards "solving homeless issues", but there is a lot of overhead, overlap, and little consensus on how to move forward. When there is a request for accountability (for renewal of funding), nearly all of them scream bloody murder because that means rules for them.

It's not a healthy community.


We hate the constant reminder that we're two missed paychecks away from joining them. So get'em outta here!


Seriously, man! I'm broke as hell!


Serious question: this is what an emergency fund is for, no?

You can earn the same income and spend the same dollar amount over your life, but if you build up a buffer of 6 month's expenses, you are no longer chronically broke.

This is what I was taught at an early age. Why is this advice not more commonly followed? It's not about being rich or poor or having a high or low income. The advice is truly agnostic to those issues. It's about shifting consumption over the course of your life so that you always have a buffer.

Edit: I guess truth hurts.


The average emergency fund can be wiped out quickly by a bad bout of illness.


It should go without saying that your emergency fund should exceed the deductible on your insurance. I know there are multi-year illnesses, or illnesses that cause one to become unable to work and keep health insurance, but those situations are exceedingly rare. Being broke, on the other hand, is exceedingly common.




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