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We moved to Turkey from San Francisco to continue working on our startup (shafyy.com)
126 points by shafyy 22 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 182 comments



Has the author watched the news in the last few years? German and Swedish online security experts were thrown in jail in 2017 basically for organizing a crypto party [1]. I know first-hand of several software engineers who basically had to flee the country with their families in order to avoid being disappeared. With all the possible countries to move your startup to, Turkey would be pretty low on my list. I wouldn't even enter the country for a vacation.

[1] https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2017/07/global-condemnation-tu...


>Obviously, VR will transform the nature of remote work.

The rest of the post makes perfect sense given their situation. This, however, is pretty silly. I do firmly believe that there is a need for better remote collaboration tools. I see pretty much zero evidence that VR is an essential part (or even an optional part) of that.


I 100% agree with the author on this. VR in its current iteration is clearly not suitable for this in any way, but down the line the fundamentals of VR align perfectly with some of the pain points of remote collaboration. With all current collaboration tools the parties are still bridging the gap of working in different places. In VR, everyone is inhabiting the same virtual space. It's just completely different. Practically, all things switch from n representations to 1 representation. Psychologically we register the interactions completely differently because the parties are saying things not in their room with a video displaying them in your room. They're saying things next to you, to the person sitting across from you, while turning and walking away. The fidelity of interactions (and in turn the interpersonal bonds and memories you form) is just an order of magnitude higher.

If hardware is good enough for this to be a practicality, we may be working in AR 100% of the time anyways, and depending on if you want to be remotely present with others, you just swap out your real environment for a shared virtual one. In that dream scenario, the glasses or whatever are high enough res anyways you'd rather use them to make virtual dynamic user interfaces than stare at a static 2d monitor.

It's going to be a long, long, long time before any of this happens but I'm guessing these are the kind of far-off things the author was implying.


Thank you, exactly. I would say in 10 years it will be normal to work 8h a day in VR. But we will see companies start doing it much earlier.


Maybe. But once you posit "long, long, long time" and the current iteration clearly not being suitable... Sure, some far future xR technology will almost certainly improve remote interactions and collaboration. But it almost certainly doesn't look like what we call VR today.


Sweating in a VR headset for 8 hours a day sounds great doesn't it?


Ahhh, but not with anti-sweat technology :)


Note that although OP's parents are Turkish they say they have never lived in Turkey before, so there may have been a certain level of underestimation about various factors of living in Istanbul (which is one of the most beautiful and vibrant cities in the world IMHO.

* Traffic: For those of you who complain about SF traffic, Istanbul traffic jams has to be experienced to be believed. In addition, people drive, how to put this mildly, out of the norm. After living in the US for 20+ years, it takes me 1-2 days to get accustomed to driving there (I go back twice a year and learned to drive in Turkey)

* Salaries: Although I only have anecdata, I think the engineering salaries are not very low, e.g. compared to Europe. In the US and esp. in the SV it's relatively easy to find people who'll work for chicken feed for a while at a startup to gamble at a chance to be millionaires later. IN Turkey such exits are exceedingly rare so many young people want to play it safer (the talent is absolutely top notch, however).

* Food: This is very cheap and great. 'Nuff said.

* Rent: Rent in Istanbul, depending on the neighborhood, can be stratospheric. This plays into the traffic problem: In order to avoid traffic you want to live closer to your office (at least on the same continent!) but this can be costly.

* Other: I left off the political situation from the discussion. Depending on your leanings, this may or may not be a problem.


I agree, if you don't speak Turkish or don't want to learn speaking it a little, life can suck. It's possible, but when you speak Turkish you have so much more to explore and experience with the kind Turkish people.

Yeah, agree. Istanbul traffic is like LA traffic.

We pay $700 for a great apartment Ortaköy, which would probably be worth $4k in SF (or $3k in Zurich). It's short-term and completely furbished, too.

There are definitely more hip areas, but I like Ortaköy, you can walk to Besiktas, and can take the tram to Karaköy (Walk + Tram I mean).


I think it greatly depends on the kind of startup you have in mind.

Traffic is one of the worst things about living in Istanbul, but as a founder if you choose properly where you leave and where to have your office you can use public transportation (which have their own set of problems) or better yet, just avoid having an office until you need to hire people

I completely agree about salaries and food (I love it), not about the rent. Of course rent in the old parts of the city can be very high, but if you're happy with office with sea view in a brand new 50-stories building close to the highway and a metro stop you can spend much less. If you are the founder hopefully you will choose it on the same continent where you live :-).


I just returned from a visit in Istanbul. For a certain kind of person -- and I suspect many of us here are such -- Istanbul or at least certain districts of it are hell on earth. The crowds in Besiktas are absolutely insane. I have never seen the like before.

You could add the ever prevalent attitude of "fleece the tourist" and my brain got overloaded in seconds.


I'm a startup founder living in San Francisco, currently in Istanbul, Turkey, for a half work trip, half hiring. First of all the same caveat applies: if you want to live in Turkey, you have to know Turkish. Turkey is closer to France than Thailand in terms of tolerance for English, tourists get a pass, but otherwise fiercely protective. If you're not a visitor, you are expected to know at least basic Turkish or be a social pariah.

The second thing is, also the reason I'm here — Turkey does have a good market for engineers, but the wages are fairly close to the US average in PPP terms. I think Udemy does have a team in Ankara, and there are quite a lot of local and profitable startups, so the competition for talent, while not at SF levels, is not nil. This is being exacerbated by the relative ease of leaving Turkey, lots of good developers have already left because of the illiberal climate of the past decade, for jobs in London, Berlin, Stockholm, New York and San Francisco. They're in pretty high demand far as I can see, because they do provide a good balance of western-ish values, decent langauge skills and an up to date tech stack.

Their willingness to move to the USA is pretty low, however, far as I can see. Berlin seems to be much more palatable to them. If the country recovers and ends up being a more livable place, I do suspect Turkish engineers' willingness to move to even Berlin will likely drop commensurately.

Third, the country is cheap, but it's not India, Philippines or Thailand cheap. It's a good deal for someone from Switzerland to live in an Aegean paradise and still be in the broad EU time zone, within 2 hours flight distance to Zurich. But it's probably not cheap enough to pull people from San Francisco, unless they're Turkish.

Why am I not moving there? Well, I need access to investors, potential customers, collaborators, and yes, even employees in San Francisco. Istanbul is a great city to live in, but it definitely has its fair share of predatory investors that you don't ever want to talk to — in fact, that's the vast majority of investors here, as you'd expect from any non-tech-hub — and mid-to-upper class tech talent, but SF / NY / Seattle still wins in terms of average skill. I do visit every 6 months, though, and I would love to have an office here eventually.

(If you live in Istanbul, we're hiring for a remote Go engineer position for Aether. Email in profile if interested!)


> If the country recovers and ends up being a more livable place, I do suspect Turkish engineers' willingness to move to even Berlin will likely drop commensurately.

After yesterday's vote, we're on a good path for this to happen :-)


I was going to ask if yesterday's election was a decision point for moving to Istanbul from Bodrum?

I think people underestimate the language barrier here. I think it is not going to be "hard", it is going to be impossible. Even in Istanbul, especially in some districts you can't find a single person who can speak English.

I am a Turkish student in the US right now getting my masters. Turkey would be the last place I would move to for many reasons. First being the language barrier and the corruption. I know the advantage in expense but I would guess there are countries with better opportunities.


Baby steps!


If you're hiring remote why do you care where they live?


Because clustering in the same time zone helps collaboration and it’s easy for me to visit Turkey to work together in person occasionally. Also, I speak Turkish, which helps Turkish engineers feel more at ease, if not for anything, so it’s especially suited for them.

Nevertheless, we would hire anyone with the requisite skill set anywhere in the world, so this position is open globally.


Very elegant plug


I try. ;)


As an outsider, at this point I have no idea why anyone would want to do a startup in SF. I mean, obviously, all the connections and resources are nice, but you are literally burning investor money on $5k/mo rent. That's absurd.

Rent out a house in Austin, Texas for $2k and each of your co-founders can share a room. There's investors and as deep a talent pool as you'll ever need unless you're GoogleAmazon and you need a constant stream of talent to feed your machine.

Heck, I live in Houston. I'm working on a startup idea in .NET Core and Vue. If it ever takes off, it will be extremely easy to find 5-10 .NET developers. Hell, if I ever need another really good senior developer I can poach them for $140k, which is a really good salary here. Aren't they paying juniors in SF that much now?

If I ever need to hire 500 developers and a few experienced distributing computing PhDs I'll be too busy rolling in cash to care. I'll just sell my company to someone else and be too busy sailing around the mediterranean to care about talent shortages in Houston.

For the record, I live in a 3 bedroom house right near downtown that costs less than a year's senior dev salary in SF. Are any of you SF people going to be able to get that, unless you become fantastically wealthy?

I'm not trying to be all sour grapes, it just doesn't make sense to me.


I mean, obviously, all the connections and resources are nice

You pretty much answered your rhetorical question there.


The main connections a startup needs is customers. The vast majority of customers live outside of the Bay area.


I assume it's a bit of inertia. Everybody wants to be there because everybody wants to be there, so the constant pool of individuals that didn't yet get the memo keep the wheels turning.

The bubble might already be deflating though.


People in the Bay Area are just people anywhere and don't like burning 2 hours a day on the road commuting. You can hire them just as easily as remotes as necessary, given location appropriate salary.


Or rent a house in Chiang Mai?


>I'm not trying to be all sour grapes, it just doesn't make sense to me.

Please allow me to offer a different perspective.

Doing a startup, at least a serious startup (instead of a side project), is an extremely costly endeavor, doesn't matter who you are. By costly I don't mean the office rent or employee payroll, I mean the toll it takes on your time, your personal life, and most importantly the opportunity cost you pay by giving up a potentially lucrative career elsewhere.

In addition to being costly, doing a startup has a very high risk of failure. So combining both of those factors, if you decide to take the leap of faith to do a startup, wouldn't you try to do it in a way that absolutely maximizes chance of success? Considering all that risk and opportunity cost, higher rent and more expensive cost of living is such a marginal cost. With all due respect, I know what kind of house you can buy for about $300k in Houston, and if keeping that standard of living is more important to you than maximizing the chance of success for your high risk startup, then I sincerely wonder if doing a startup is the right thing for you considering how low your risk tolerance is.

Now why do I think Silicon Valley offers a higher chance of success? Books can be written about this topic so I won't get into too much details. The talent pool is one issue (and no, even though I don't doubt there will be a lot of .NET devs in Houston, I think you will realize it's one thing to find good .NET devs, but another to convince them to work for you), the other one is the entire supporting ecosystem. I'm talking about cofounders, investors, people to bounce ideas off, people who show you where the doors are, and most importantly there is a culture of not punish failure that does wonders for encouraging taking risks and innovate.

Is SV a circle jerk? Oh absolutely. But it doesn't mean you can't get tremendous value out of it.

A counter example is when I tried to do a software startup in Austin. To be honest, the level of ecosystem in Austin is completely bush league when compared to SV. I think one of the biggest VC firms in town back then had an unofficial policy of "not invest in first time founders", and most of their investments are series B/C rounds following bigger SV VC firms. That is how risk-averse the scene is. I moved to Silicon Valley soon after that and I never looked back.

Don't get me wrong, there are plenty, plenty of reasons to do a startup else where. For example, if you are doing a startup that writes software for the oil/energy companies, then Houston would be a fantastic place! If you are doing a startup that promotes live music, then Austin would make sense too. I just don't think personal cost of living is worth much consideration in most cases.


This is a great answer.

The cost of living difference is minor in the big picture, if you are going to raise money. If you don't want to raise money, and want to build a whole company over 15 years instead of 3, then the location is less important.


Are people literally burning investor money?


Noted venture capitalist Peter Thiel agrees that Silicon Valley / Bay Area is no longer the best location for startups due to high real estate costs.

https://www.sfgate.com/expensive-san-francisco/article/peter...


> It’s true, though. The concentration of talented, hard-working, smart people in SV is astonishing.

I’ve lived in the Bay Area for a long time, and recently moved to Seattle; I find the rank and file talent in Seattle to be a good noch or two above SV. I’ve also heard that from startups too who looked to Seattle after not finding the talent they needed.


>who looked to Seattle after not finding the talent they needed.

Were they offering competitive salaries? I doubt it.


Wasn’t bad, but they couldn’t compete with the top companies, and the folks they were getting weren’t good enough.


You aren’t supposed to tell people that! Also it rains and is dreary all winter there.


Even a little before dotcoms, there was a perception in the Pacific Northwest, of Californians moving in and driving up prices, and there were the jokes: "It rains all the time! Always gray! And slugs everywhere! We have to check inside our shoes before we put them on!"


Those aren’t jokes but all accurate warnings.

E.g. the slugs: https://www.reddit.com/r/Seattle/comments/2fd5f3/banana_slug...


In all seriousness, you don't realize how many slugs there are in the PNW until you walk barefoot on the grass in your backyard after dark. It's a minefield.

And when a slug sadly squishes underfoot (worst: between your toes), it's this weird slick adhesive that you can't wipe off, but has to be scrubbed off before the noticeable slickness is removed. Then you probably want to keep scrubbing, for grossness.

When visiting the coast, in the morning we woke to find multiple large slugs scattered around up the glass patio door window that faced the ocean. It was a mixed view.


You forgot the food also kinda sucks, just about anything in the Mission beats the pants off the PNW.


You had me until you said 'the Mission'. I've never been to Seattle but it must be the only city in the US without good hispanic food.


Great post.

It's important to be close to your customers. If your customers are in SF, then being in SF can make sense. Another reason why you may want to be in SF is you need access to SaaS veterans at the VP level.

Having someone in the team who has already done it is the best growth hack.

But then, NY is getting as good as SF for that, and, you get to live in an awesome city (I live in NY).

All other reasons often raised like "pool of developers" or proximity to investors are BS.

Like mentioned in the post, you don't need to be close to developers and having coffees with investors is a waste of time especially in the early stages.

I lived for 3 months in SF. It was very unpleasant. The reasons are listed in the comments and in the post. And I am affluent enough to afford to live alone in a 1BR, dine out, drive my way around.

Raised money, got the hell out back to the east coast.


> We can’t grab a coffee with a random investor tomorrow. We don’t meet as many driven people who are interested in tech. We can’t go to fancy networking events.

In Bodrum, that's correct. That's where people go for vacations. But compared to Istanbul's 16m, San Francisco is a village with a population of less than a million people. Even the whole Bay Area has half the population of Istanbul despite being five times bigger. There are many, many universities located there which results in a huge number of startups, investors, incubation centers and alike. I feel this perception comes from a very biased viewpoint. SF isn't the center of the world.

> And there aren’t millions of coders who live nearby to potentially hire

Hell, just mail me the position details and I can max out your inbox with people who would love to work for less then a quarter of SV rates.


Not sure if you read my entire post, but this is exactly my point, too :-)


Given the only images many of us have of Turkey is the Western press what can you tell us are the biggest misconceptions and misrepresentations of living and doing business in Turkey.


Good question. I have only been living here for 2 months, but let me try:

- The cuisine is super diverse (not only kebap)

- The people are exteremly friendly, helpful and tolerant

- A bit like the US Trump thing, if you live in Turkey, in your daily life, you don't really notice that the government is shitty.

- The downside of being easy-going and torelant is that Turks often don't give a shit about rules (the opposite of Swiss), e.g. if there's a no parking area they will still park their car there. Also, people are less punctual or dependable (not in a sense that they will fuck you over but it's just normal not to show up and just reschedule or be late).

- Of course, these are generalizations, so take it with a grain of salt :-)


I think it's an interesting story, but one should be aware of political instability in Turkey that may be getting acutely worse in the short term: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/06/23/world/europe/istanbul-may...


I'm looking to move to Bodrum from NYC for many of these same reasons :-) Turkey has a lot of potential to be a remote work hub.


you do you but i'd highly recommend moving to a non-income tax state (and city) beforehand, alongside drivers license, cell phone bill in new place, etc. NYC and NYS tax authorities are getting more and more relentless as upper/middle class ppl leave the city, so you'll need serious documentation that you aren't just leaving and coming back soon if you want to avoid getting stuck still paying them.


Turkey is run by a near-dictator and is right next door to a country in the midst of a civil war; it certainly doesn't look like a safe place to move to.


Istanbul and Bodrum are probably safer than most US cities. Also, go search an google for yesterday's mayoral elections in Istanbul. A BIG step in the right direction.


Bodrum is heaven. Quite boring during winter though.


True, but summer season also sucks. So many tourists. In winter, you can concentrate and your work and do some sailing =)


I agree. Message me if you need more info or just want to talk (email in my profile)


We did 100% the same, moved from San Francisco to Germany (Munich, Berlin) and it was 100% worth it! <3


But was Turkey a convenient default option, e.g. because of some extended family support that you're getting there? What other countries, or what other cities in the US did you consider before deciding on Turkey as the best option?


I would imagine that the legal huddles alone (obtaining work authorization for instance) would present a multi-year mind-numbing experience, even with the advantage of deep pockets and well-heeled legal.


Well, if you work on your own startup you don't need work authorization. Just a tourist visa, which is pretty simple to get.


> Obviously, VR will transform the nature of remote work.

Forgive me if I'm wrong, but wouldn't network latency be an important consideration with VR-based remote work?


5g is so fast right now, you can even do real-time music collaborations.

https://www.ericsson.com/en/blog/2019/3/real-time-music-coll...


No, super low latency (<10ms) is only important for fast-paced games. For working, you probably don't even notice 20ms or 80ms.

Anyhow, as the sister comment says, 5G and further advancments are bringing down latency. By the time remote work will be done in VR in a mainstream fashion, this won't be a problem at all.


> We tried to raise money from VCs in SV twice, and we failed. Why? Our product wasn’t good enough and we didn’t have enough growth.

Maybe it's time to stop, or take your experience and re-apply it elsewhere?

The thing with software is that it's very quick to prove (or disprove) a business model. If you're working on something for years and don't have the profits (or free users) to show, it's unlikely that you'll succeed.

Now, let's be honest: Meeting people in VR is really cool. I'm sure that you can figure SOMETHING out that will apply in the K-12 space, even if it's not what your original vision is.


>The thing with software is that it's very quick to prove (or disprove) a business model. If you're working on something for years and don't have the profits (or free users) to show, it's unlikely that you'll succeed.

Uber is a pretty strong empirical case study in why this argument is wrong. The entire DotCom bubble, in fact, has been a similar case study. When you prop things up with VC funding it actually becomes very hard to disprove bad ideas because price signaling and market logic stops working. It becomes entirely driven by the animal spirits that govern pitch meetings for as long as the BS stream can be maintained.

I mean, people are still pouring money into cryptocurrency! And it's quite likely that lots of good and potentially successful ideas are being starved of funding because of oxygen being taken up by sexier and flashier ones that will flame out quickly.


I keep hearing that SF spends so much money on the homeless, but I don't see that to be the case. NYC spent $3.2b in 2019 [1]; they guarantee a bed for every person, every night, etc. If SF wants to solve the issue, look to NYC, and open it's checkbook.

[1] https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-05-22/nyc-doubl...


Hold on a second. NYer here. Yes, we spent a lot of money on the problem. But we did not 'solve the issue.' Not even close. Our problem doesn't seem as bad as SF's (perhaps just less visible due to more clearing), but we still regularly have human feces to deal with, train cars trashed, people screaming/disturbed, etc.

I think it's key to remember the difference, albeit overlapping, between homeless and emotionally-distressed. You can be homeless and nobody would know -- living in shelters, working a job, etc. You can also have a home and appear, as far as we're all concerned, to be homeless, by begging on trains or acting in other anti-social ways.


I don't think they are saying that New York has solved it, but that SF can't solve it without doing at least as much as NYC.


We could just pay them to sweep the streets or do very simple tasks that make things nicer for all of us. Not sure why it is so difficult.


NYC's budget is roughly 10x SF's budget. So proportionally, SF could spend ~$320m to match, which is actually right around what it does spend.

(NYC is also ~10x the population of SF, etc., so that also lines up pretty well.)


I can't even work in SF. The time wasted to drive to work kills me, I can't get desensitized to all the homeless shitting on streets, stabbing themselves with needles, talking schizophrenically in a dead language, every time I go grab a coffee or lunch in a cheaper area, it's like watching animal slaughter every day. Quality of life definitely much better in Mediterranean city I live today.


Oversimplifying here, but the homeless probem arises due to high housing cost and poor health care system. In addition to fighting the symptoms (which is already being done ok-ish), we need to fight the mentioned root causes.

Unfortunately, the health care problem goes back to CA or even on a national level. Often times, mentally ill or people that lost their jobs for another reason become homeless, and from there the downward spiral begins. So, a better security net for those who suffer from mental and physical problems would be a good start.


I dunno. As someone who lives in NYC where we really just don't have the same problem at all it's pretty clear there are some policy reasons involved too.


Are you sure climate isn't the main factor? If I were homeless I'd go to SF over NYC due to the mild winters.


The overwhelming majority of homeless people in California lived in the same county they currently do before they became homeless. Climate is clearly not the main factor.

71% in SF homeless already lived in SF, 90% already lived in California: https://socketsite.com/archives/2016/02/san-franciscos-homel...

the cite link in that article is dead but refers to http://hsh.sfgov.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/2015-San-Fra...

75% of LA homeless already lived in LA: https://www.lahsa.org/documents?id=2059-2018-greater-los-ang...


That is really ignoring the fact that people move to these cities with dreams and no plans, come from great falls Montana with money for a place to stay for one month, and then are homeless afterwards. Also, collecting statistics on homeless is notoriously noisy; eg in Seattle they did a survey that found most of the homeless lived in Seattle before they were homeless, but when asked where they lived, most put down pioneer square....


In the LA survey 65% had lived in LA for at least 20 years, 80% had lived there for at least 5 years. Half the people in SF who had already been there had been for at least 10 years when they became homeless, 89% had been there at least a year.


I think it's fair to say that people move to NYC in the same way, which is the city being compared here.


There is an issue with SF report (idk about LA one)

1) It was self-reported

2) "Lived in SF" in report meant they were SF residents and this is requires just any bill with city address within 30 days (consider cases like: moved to SF with hopes of better opportunities, out on the streets in couple of months - but sf resident for a short term prior).


From the report: "Eleven percent (11%) had lived in San Francisco for less than one year."


I found that fact surprising so I looked at that socketsite but their link to the original source is a dead link.



Thanks. 51% reported living in SF for less than 10 years, so Newsom's point that more than half of the homeless were sent from other places could still hold.


11% were less than one year.


Well SF get's also cold af. I would go to LA or San Diego. So, while it might be a factor, it surely isn't the main factor.


(A) It's cold

(B) Our cops are super aggressive with the homeless. I mean, technically that can be described as "policy", but probably not the way you meant it

I used to volunteer for an annual winter round-up, where a bunch of volunteers would get vans and go looking for homeless and try to get them into shelters. We did this on one of the coldest nights of the year, trying to prevent people from dying in the chill. We had no problem finding shit-tons of homeless folk, with the caveat that unlike in other cities I've been, they put a little effort into hiding from the public eye.

This was in the outer boroughs.


(C) NYC has a right to shelter law.

Combine that with your B and you can start to see the outlines of an actual policy decision.


So, I've never been homeless, but I do work in mental health. We see a lot of patients that are chronically homeless, and they view shelters as a place to dip into briefly when they have to show that they've got a physical shelter (so that we can do a "safe discharge"), and then promptly bounce. Some won't even make it to the shelter, and have their ride from the hospital pull over and let them out so that they can head out immediately.

There are caveats to be added to the above, but, I've never gotten the impression that our implementation of shelters has resulted in something people utilize in anything less than a crisis situation, for a population that doesn't consider "chronically homeless in the winter in a northern latitude" a crisis.


Yes, but the details completely determine whether or not it is any good. A real right to shelter plus police action against homeless camps _could_ be reasonable, but if the police action is real and the right to shelter isn't, it becomes evil again.


NYC gets cold in the winter, which helps to manage the problem somewhat as a forced migration occurs. The west coast doesn’t get very cold in the winter, meaning Seattle, Portland, Sam Francisco, LA, and San Diego are all nice places climate wise for homeless year round.


This seems like a stretch. I saw my fair share of empty subway cars which contained within them an unpleasant surprise when I was there last month. Not conclusive, but “at all” is a very strong standard.


I'm not saying there's no homeless people, there are.

But the SFO phenomenon of open drug use, screaming disruptive people, and street level encampments isn't something you see really anywhere in the five boroughs, excepting maybe a few errant overpasses or very industrial areas of Hunts Point or similar.


It was the same for me. I was in Manhattan two years ago, and I was amazed with how much worse the problem is in SF.

This was a sharp contrast to the mid 1990s, when I lived in New York. I found aggressive panhandling to be more prevalent in NY than SF then, with panhandlers following me for blocks, approaching me at the counter of coffee shops (once crowding me as I attempted to get my change from the cashier, quickly picking up it up when I dropped it, and then asking me for it while holding it away from me).

I'm always a little skeptical about anecdotes, though, as the "homeless" population, ranging from non-addicted or mentally ill people who are temporarily without housing to severely addicted and mentally ill people engaging in criminal level harassment of people, often clusters in a few neighborhoods in a city, sometimes at the outskirts.

I met a man from Paris who refused to agree that San Francisco has a worse problem than Paris. He said that he believes that in Paris, the severe poverty is pushed out to the edges of the city. I don't know if this is true, or if he didn't want to criticize too much, but it is an interesting observation, at any rate.


Paris suburbs are hardcore, riot police running around with big guns and armor, it is a huge contrast to the inner districts.


There's a much more tolerant attitude towards drug use, we've got a milder climate, San Francisco specifically doesn't prosecute quality of life crimes, and it's significantly harder to commit someone against their will or mandate that they continue to use psychiatric medication.

Notice the comment on this thread about how in the poor areas it was unpleasant to get lunch? That attitude carries over. Starting with the fucking super bowl there was a very dramatic effort to shoo away the homeless people from where 'super bowl city' was. The net effect was a dispersal of homeless encampments the likes of which I've never seen. Combine that with stagnating wages at the low end and rising cost of living and you have a lot more people on the streets. Make no mistake, the homeless population in the whole of the Bay Area is growing dramatically.

Meanwhile in some "street photography" (but really mostly creep shots) group a couple people have been posting pictures of indigent folks from the 90s. The difference is pretty dramatic. From a friend who works for the city -- both meth and heroin have hit San Francisco very hard. The type of people that you see on the streets these days has changed.

San Francisco is also paralyzed by extremely aggressive NIMBYs. Shelters are at capacity, but the city's efforts to build more shelters (e.g. Embarcadero) are being battled by carpetbaggers. A while back the idea of "wet houses" was floated to get addicts off the streets (where folks will call 911 and tie up a large chunk of SFFD/paramedic resources). Of course that didn't go over well with the punishment first crowd.

New York is also facing record homelessness and is actually buying property to house homeless folks — San Francisco is…


Yeah, same in Boston. We definitely have homeless people but they are usually polite-to-the-point-of-deferential to passers by — the complete opposite of SF.


What problem specifically? Because, minus the open-air drug use, I've seen the same thing in NYC.


How would that be clear? New York has developed over decades and have had plenty of problems to the point were the city becoming less seedy was seen as milestone. But even despite this New York continues to have plenty of problems. That a smaller city developing much quicker economically finds itself having social problems is entirely consistant with that.


When I last visited NYC (from SF) I remember walking by a guy who was older and clean but vaguely possibly homeless who as I recall was standing on the street corner minding his own business. And as I walked by, some police walked up to him and did the policey sort of "show id, what are you doing here" kind of thing.

I later marvelled to an NY-based coworker about how this could happen, since I've never seen it happen in SF (just random harassment of people who aren't even screaming/needling/etc.). His response: "oh, were you in Chelsea?" (Answer: yes.)

I guess that's one way to "solve" homelessness -- harass them until they move elsewhere.


I think the weather is a bigger factor than people expect.

If I was resigned to being homeless, I would definitely do whatever I could to be homeless in a city that hardly rains, never snows, and never gets freezing.


the real difference is winter, people who have nothing to lose and no ties in NYC hop on a freight train and head west


Listened to a Gavin Newsom interview a while back, where he had some pretty decent insight.

The interviewer challenged him on the homeless problem in SF. His answer was basically, "Yes, there are homeless people in SF now. The challenge is that during my tenure as mayor, we got people off the streets, but X x 2 homeless people came to SF from other places."

Newsom was far from blameless, but his point that homelessness in SF can't be solved on a SF level, or a bay-area level or possibly even a state-wide level, but needs a more global solution rings true to me.


The specific problems OP mentions are not due to high housing costs. What about rent being expensive means people have to shoot up or defecate in broad daylight on a public street?


You're on the streets, have no food, it's cold, raining, dark and you're wet. This is the 10th day. I offer you something to make it all go away for a couple of hours. Maybe you deny this time. But two weeks later you're more broken than ever, and you start shooting that Heroin or smoking that Crack. Just to make it go away for a short time.


When you have nothing else to live for you are more likely to turn to such escapes. The correlation is pretty strong, even though it isn't a strict cause-effect relation.

Yes of course people who own a house do drugs. Some of them destroy their mind to the point they can no longer keep their house.


The simplest hypothesis is that drug use and mental health lead to homelessness. And if that's the case, then the problem isn't housing costs (though high housing costs are a problem, just a separate one), it's that people have addiction and mental health issues.


The problem with your simple hypothesis is that the data doesn't back it up. Drugs & alcohol account for 15% of the reasons for homelessness in SF, and medical issues/illness account for 7%[1]. The data shows that housing costs and financial instability are the largest causes of homelessness in SF.

[1] http://hsh.sfgov.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/2017SanFranc...


Sorry, I should have been more specific: I am referring to visible homelessness, people living on the street, etc. The colloquial meaning of the term 'homeless', in other words. I should have been more specific, especially given that this confusion regarding the use of this term is a pet peeve of mine.


No problem, thanks for the clarification. It's a pet peeve of mine, as well.


When you're homeless, you don't have your own private bathroom.


> ...homeless probem arises due to high housing cost...

I heard an interesting theory during a discussion of how off the rails weird some cities' denizens were X decades ago, and how you no longer really see that any longer. The hypothesis put forward was that back then rents were very cheap relative to minimum wage, and minimum wage jobs didn't take much more than a grade school education to hold down. A lot of borderline or minimally-mentally-ill people could fit in between these cracks and live out their lives relatively peacefully coexisting with the broader mainstream, though to be sure adding "color" to the surroundings.

I think this hypothesis has legs. I've read that there were successful experiments at simply outright giving homeless a place to live of their own reduced the incidence of homeless-related crimes to a statistically significant degree. If that is true, then it is worth questioning our economic incentives making housing ever-more expensive.

From my perspective as someone outside the real estate industry, I'm perfectly fine with reducing values by 10X or 100X in more HCOL areas through removal of all state support for the industry. As far as I'm concerned, that's simply stranded capital idling uselessly instead of working for everyone. I wish Bezos would apply his "your margin is my opportunity" aphorism to real estate and healthcare.


Can't remember where, but I remember reading stats that a huge percentage (like a third) homeless people are military veterans :(


The largest percentage of homeless people are families. The largest causes of homelessness are job loss, arguments with friends and family whom they lived with, eviction, and divorce/separation. Drugs & alcohol are responsible for 15%, and illness/medical problems account for 7%. [1]

[1] http://hsh.sfgov.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/2017SanFranc...


There are also homeless regardless if they receive help, due to mental illnesses.


...and?!?


I heard rumors that a lot of towns just send their psychiatric homeless to SF with a one-way ticket.


That's been a rumor for as long as homelessness has existed. It's either SF, or San Diego, or Seattle, or some other large, urban, mild-weathered city.


In the path month two people have taken heroin leaning against the window of my cubicle. Homeless people are closer to me than the co-worker in the next cube, and I don't even notice them now unless they make a lot of noise. It's a mirrored window so I can see out but they can't see in.

I used to do a lot of work with homeless charities, and I often wonder if I would be a better person if I worked from home. Maybe I would have retained some of my sensitivity to these issues, or maybe that concern for the human condition fades with age, and I'd just be the same asshole but working in my pajamas.


Well your first mistake was leaving work.


It's strange that a rich area can't take care of this problem. E.g. supporting the homeless some way, cleaning them up and helping them to find some job and housing.


They spend vast amounts of money on the problem, but the way they approach the problem makes the solution intractable. To the extent the drug addicted and severely mentally ill homeless can want things, and want the right to continue their current life, they are afforded that right. That is to say, it is their fundamental right to use drugs, live, and defecate on the street (I know these things are illegal, but really, legality is determined by enforcement, not what is on the books. And as far as enforcement goes, these things are legal for all intents and purposes).

So long as they don't want help, and so long as it is their right to refuse and continue as they are, nothing will change. The alternatives are many, but they all start with some type of enforcement agency willingly stripping these peoples rights, and forcibly and potentially violently taking them into government custody, which the citizens of San Francisco find far more appalling than solving the problem.

Note: What I said above doesn't generalize to 'the homeless,' and people out of a job and down on their luck, It specifically is targeted to the worst offenders who scatter the city with waste and needles.


SF spends $250 million in 2017. 1/3 on actual homeless, 2/3 on preventing homelessness (e.g. rental subsidies).

https://www.sfchronicle.com/bayarea/heatherknight/article/Bu...


other rich areas violate civil rights. when people say "take care of it" they mean "we'll tolerate wild indiscretions"


That doesn't mean those programs are effective. Lots has been written on both sides of the political aisle on this.


There was a good article comparing and contrasting the way San Francisco County and San Mateo County handle their homeless. Summary is that both are a bit extreme (SM jails homeless for petty crime; SF basically does nothing, even in murder cases) and the middle ground is probably what will work. The question is how SF gets there.

SF's recent bill to involuntarily commit chronically mentally ill individuals is a step in the right direction, but it's so toothless that it won't matter much. An individual has to be brought to inpatient mental services 8 times in a year to trigger the rule. Why bother?


SF already spends an exorbitant amount on housing the homeless ($241M in 2016). Its poverty rate is also not particularly high by American city standards (9.6%, vs 11.3% for the surrounding Bay Area, 19.6% for LA, 19.0% for NYC, 34.5% for Detroit).

The main reasons there's such a visible homeless problem are:

1.) Housing crisis in general. A lot of that $241M goes to lower-income residents who are at risk of homelessness, not ones actually on the street, to keep them in their homes. From there, it largely goes to the landlords, if the apartment isn't rent-controlled, since it's more money chasing the same amount of housing. If the apartment is rent-controlled, it goes to the tenant + other landlords, since rent-controlled apartments drive up the rent for everybody else.

2.) A general laissez-faire attitude toward the homeless. SF has a strong culture of live-and-let-live; if you don't bother the homeless, they won't bother you. (This attitude may or may not reflect reality, but it's the culture.) There's widespread opposition to criminalizing homelessness and say arresting or tazing homeless people.

3.) Poor mental health & substance abuse services. This is a legacy of history: JFK moved responsibility for mental health services from the state to federal government, Reagan consequently cut the budget for the state of CA's mental health services, and then when Reagan was president, he moved responsibility back to the states, without any corresponding increase in funding. As a result, the mentally ill are nobody's problem, so they just sorta hang out on street corners or wander across major boulevards.

4.) Mild climate. SF is an attractive place to be homeless. I grew up in Boston; we didn't have much of a visible homeless problem. Why? Because come wintertime, they would all either freeze to death or huddle together in the subway stations, keeping them out of public view unless you took the T. In SF, they sprawl all over the Tenderloin, the Mission, the Civic Center, SOMA, etc, all of which are prominent neighborhoods that get a lot of gentrified and/or tourist traffic.


> 2.) A general laissez-faire attitude toward the homeless. [...] There's widespread opposition to criminalizing homelessness and say arresting or tazing homeless people.

I want to point out that it is a departure from laissez-faire to criminalise, arrest, and taze the homeless, but another conceivable departure from laissez-faire is to house them.

EDIT to clarify.


SF does this in a big way for the ordinary family that lost a job or suffered a health emergency and then got evicted because housing is hella expensive in SF. That's what much of the $241M goes to.

The homeless people that you see crowding Civic Center BART or the Tenderloin or the Mission are generally not people that want housing - they're addicts, or mentally ill, or veterans suffering from PTSD, or just rebel against the strictures of modern society. You can't force them into housing without involuntarily committing them, which is what cities generally did in the 50s and 60s. That's definitely not laissez-faire, and has its own moral issues.


California and San francisco are amongst the most corrupt states I know. Believe me, I am from Argentina, I can smell corruption a mile a way.

2.5 billion dollars spent on a broken bus station, and they are going to fix long-term homelessness with 800 million, and a poop patrol that earns 100k+ a year per employee?


Hahaha, this is so true. If you've ever lived outside America (esp. in the third world) you can see the corruption immediately.

These things don't cost as much as Californians think they do.


>It's strange that a rich area can't take care of this problem.

Apparently, it's a really difficult problem that nobody has really solved.

Yes, San Francisco is wealthy. And Monte Carlo is wealthy too with Lamborghinis and Ferraris. Why does MC not have a rampant "homeless problem"? Well, if a homeless person tried to lay down a blanket to sleep on the sidewalk across from the iconic casino, he's going to be rounded up by MC police. As far as I can tell, MC doesn't have a homeless shelter so I'm not sure where the MC police takes the vagrants. San Francisco police obviously do not remove all homeless people from the sidewalk. And nobody is suggesting SF emulate what MC does.

Can SF spend money on housing for homeless? Multiple cities have tried this with mixed results[1] ... poop in the stairways, drugs, etc.

Which city in the world has the best homeless program (especially dealing with mentally ill homeless) and what do they do differently?

[1] https://www.google.com/search?q=washington+dc+homeless+apart...


Presumably vagrants in Monte Carlo would just be deported. I doubt there are any actual citizens of Monaco who are homeless.


The resources exist, but San Francisco is very poorly governed, and one way that manifests is inefficiency at all levels. A unit of affordable housing costs $750k and a decade from site acquisition to occupancy.


There's a witch's brew of reasons for this. A lot of those who persist in living on the street are hardest to help, for reasons that often involve medical issues, psychological issues, addiction issues, or a general aversion to getting off the street. California makes involuntary commitment extremely difficult (for good historical reason), so people who refuse help or treatment don't get any.

SF is also incredibly bad at making use of a vast pool of resources. The amount of money spent to help the indigent is substantial, but no amount of ineffective spending can address real problems. Other changes that might help, such as constructing homes for the homeless, run into stiff political resistance in a permitting system designed to make it easy to block anything.

That residents and voters seem to care more about what makes them feel compassionate than what demonstrably helps also helps little.

The result is a mess.


Consider what does it mean to be rich? Rich is when you can afford the necessities of life: Shelter, food, water, transportation, medical insurance. Rich does not mean having lots of Money (just look at venezuella where they were handing out trillion dollar bills but everyone was extremely poor). SF has a lot of money and dollars but it is NOT Rich. Yes, if some of the residents left SF they'd be rich, but not while they remain there and certainly not the average person in SF. We have a serious lack of wealth problem here in SF and it's all directly or indirectly caused by the housing crisis. Throwing more money at it won't solve the issue, you need more actual "wealth". Wealth is not dollar bills. Wealth is houses, apartments, etc, that's what we need so desperately and it's not being allowed. SF really needs to take a good long hard look at why building costs so much in this city. Why do developers need to spend 1000$/sq ft just to break even? SF needs to start learning from other cities that have done it right, like Houston (building here costs less than 1/10th as much), Dallas, Chicago, etc. And, no it's not just because SF is landlocked - we have the same self imposed problem over here in the east bay where there's miles and miles of empty space right off the 7 lane highways.


The argument most commonly put forth by NIMBY types is that providing services for homeless people simply encourages more homeless to move to that city.

Here in Austin, the City announced plans to build a new community center to help the homeless. Nearby residents are losing their fucking minds over it.


I have a friend who's neighborhood had a community center for the homeless put in, but with strict rules on violence and drug usage. So homeless people migrate to the neighborhood to get into the shelter, but are often quickly turned out because they can't stop fighting or shooting up. And because of this, my friend's neighborhood is now a dangerous, very crime ridden place to live. Two weeks ago he and his wife were leaving for work and a junkie walked around from their backyard, leaned into his wife's open car window and reached for her purse before he could jump out of his car and run the guy off. They're losing their fucking minds over this.


Same in San Francisco... I think we might actually get it built anyway though.


San Francisco is a net-exporter of homeless people, according to a piece by The Guardian. Aproximately half the homeless population was sent to other states.


It’s not a problem for the really wealthy. If you’re really wealthy and live in SF you live at elevation where homeless are rare. Pacific Heights, Ashbury Heights, Nob Hill, Russian Hill—the occasional homeless person but nothing out of that ordinary.

The homeless problem is a sea level problem.


Not really. Tends to be the same in any booming city. The opposite is the exception.


We just came back from Nashville, a fast growing city with 150 new residents every day. We did not experience any of the issues we saw in SF earlier this year (and last year, and the year before that).


As another anecdote, I encountered some fairly aggressive panhandling in Nashville. I was there for a convention but got out into the city a bit. At the crosswalk near music row toward the river, a man asked for change and heckled me until the light changed and I crossed. In east Nashville, I definitely saw things that reminded me of home (in SF): very ill, almost certainly addicted people wandering around, attempting to stop me and ask for "five dollars", with a bit of menace thrown in.

This was a year ago. It was not as bad as SF by a long shot, but absolutely present.


I wouldn't put Nashville in the same category as San Francisco. The Bay Area is the home to one of the largest industries in the modern economy and therefor to a significant part of the richest companies and people in the world. Go to other places with accelerating inequality and you will see largely see the same thing. Finding a counterexample is more challenging. But I am not so sure people are that interested in the facts anyways.


Progress and Poverty, Henry George


> talking schizophrenically in a dead language,

I'm not sure "dead language" is the term you are looking for.

> every time I go grab a coffee or lunch in a cheaper area,

A "cheaper area" area where they can access what they need to get through the day (cheap food, etc) is also what those homeless people are after, so it's no surprise you might end up in the same space.


Yeah, I was over-exaggerating the "dead language" bit, it's random noise.

Leaving Twitter headquarters gets me in an uncomfortable place, even without the need to find cheap food.


> talking schizophrenically in a dead language

Speaking Latin or Aramaic while never having studied it is like #1 sign of demonic possession. I'd definitely avoid those guys.


Where do you live now?


Split, Croatia. Weather is equivalent, smaller city, lots of foreigners, and a growing IT industry. For a foreigner it's also very easy to just come and live in Croatia, they give staying permits to anyone who comes to just live and spend money (not work) but after you find work, getting an EU blue card is a piece of cake.


Re "weather is equivalent": I was curious, so I plugged the comparison into Weather Spark to see: [0]. Split is warmer in summer, colder in winter, a bit more humid, and moderately less sunny in the summer. It's very similar, but also a little bit different, and I find this site to be super useful in nailing down the differences.

[0]: https://weatherspark.com/compare/y/80692~557~1098/Comparison...


Sounds like a great place to work. In Turkey, it's also quite easy to get a staying permit, even if you don't plan on being emplyed by a Turkish company (e.g. if you just want to work on your startup). Just need to show that you have $500 per month you want to stay on your bank account.


Did you consider other cheaper countries like in Eastern Europe (Hungary, Slovenia, etc?)


Yeah we looked at a couple of options, including South East Asia and South America. In the end, the fact that I spoke Turkish, had a cultural connection, the closeness to friends and family in Zurich and the great cuisine did it for us :-)

To be clear, you'll have a harder time if you don't speak (or willing to learn) Turkish in Bodrum, whereas more people speak English in Istanbul.


Which areas of Turkey are safe for non-muslims at present?


What if we don't speak any language other than English? Is it difficult to live and work there as such?


Every cheap country (Vietnam, Nicaragua, Thailand, Bali, etc.) will have a hodge podge of backpackers, ex-pats, retirees, etc. Enough locals will speak English to support providing necessities and socialization can happen with the other ex-pats.

Working there is a different story, but generally you don't want to work there since the reason they're cheap is that the people are poor. The local jobs are low paid. The trick is to be able to work remotely or more rarely as a well paid employee of a foreign company.


Language is not a requirement to live/work in Croatia. There's a huge expat community in Croatia, I have met many Canadians and US citizens who came here and got their job because of their great English. Yes, working as an English teacher, or translator, or any language related job is a bit boring, but for tech people there's a huge demand and English-only is perfectly fine.

Food has labels in English, restaurants and everything else, because of tourism, are very English oriented. It's a great place for foreigners.


I've been to Croatia a few times. It is very English friendly. Even a lot of the local TV was often in English. Croatia is a great place, and I highly recommend visiting.


Montenegro might be a good alternative with 11% income tax


Tax is irrelevant if you are an employee in your own Croatian company. The paycheck is yours to choose and you can pay the company income to yourself (12% or 18% tax, depending on the amount). Yeah, you lose the social benefits of the future but have more money to save.

Companies here do not mind paying to your business for services because it is cheaper for them too, and as a tech worker, all the benefits of an employer are not that important.


7% on 100k is 7k that's not irrelevant


As I've said, 100k puts you in the 12% bracket for company income. If you were receiving the salary as an employee, you'd give 35% of that. Employer would have a cost of ~200k. If your services are charged through your company, the cost is 100k for the employer, and you keep 88% when cashing out.

It's not that bad. Yes, you give up the Croatian pension, but it would be miserably small after inflation. You still keep the healthcare.


That's not a bad option provided employer is game


Seems unlikely. Montenegro is for example not member of the EU. Chances are it is a better idea to 'trade up' to somewhere like Slovenia instead were you can find yourself with a low tax rate in some situations.


If you are a US citizen or a citizen of any other country that has visa free travel with EU why would you care?


The EU offers a lot of advantages in terms of labour market, services, payments etc. There are also reasons why Montenegro isn't allowed to join the EU that could be considered disadvantages. And of course if you don't care about those things there are plenty of other choices.


In Europe with same climate access to sea trivial ability to become a resident and similar tax level not that many :). Say you are US Citizen with remote position making 120K your tax bill in Montenegro is 13k. In Spain, Portugal, Greece etc you would be looking at 3x that.


Isn't it annoying/limiting to live in a "tourist town" or maybe that is just part of the year?


It's mostly August, town is small and tourists are concentrated in historic areas. Traffic is jammed but you can walk around, everything is 15 mins away.


I should have been more specific. I don't mind tourist, but when I was living in Malta for awhile it seemed like being a tourist destinations affected it negatively. Rents would be higher than expected in many attractive areas, but it would be pretty quiet off-season. And outside the attractive areas the standard of living and services would be less. I guess some of that you would figure out living there longer, but it seemed like the "bang-for-buck" was less than expected and a lot of that had to do with being a tourist destination. Would you think that would be a concern in Split?


Yeah, Split is expensive when it comes to buying stuff, but still cheaper rent than capital city Zagreb. City is really small, so all the services are here. I haven't noticed that I miss anything or that anything is too expensive.

Families that want to save more go live in Solin, Stobreč or similar costal outskirts, and these are 15-20 minutes by car from city center. Roads get congested around historic core, unlike Zagreb where congestion issues are ridiculous (can take you an hour to get to where you want).

According to Numbeo, I'd have to have impossible income to keep the buying power at the same level if I moved to Vienna, Berlin, or other more attractive European towns.

A quality engineer earning 2-2.5k euro in Croatia has no reason to move to Berlin or Vienna if paycheck does not double. An experienced engineer earning more really needs to get insane offers to move.

My SF salary was no where near the current living standards.


Nice ;-)


[flagged]


That seems unduly harsh. He left somewhere where quality of life was poor and moved away to a better place. He was honest about his reasons for leaving too. Perhaps instead of getting on your high horse it would be beneficial to understand that the people you need, to fund via tax, services for the homeless can and do leave. It's not their fault, that lies with whoever is distributing tax money to these services. So be angry at the local, state or national government. Not someone giving an honest opinion.


This comment violates the HN guidelines for comments, specifically the first section here:

>Be kind. Don't be snarky. Comments should get more thoughtful and substantive, not less, as a topic gets more divisive.

You can find the full guidelines below:

https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html


How do you know the person you're responding to is white?


Cause they're a meanie!


that's a harsher reply that it needs to be, mate


well we live in an era where internet outrage is replacing activism


Where's the indifference? They just said they moved away from it. Do you have a problem with that?


Homelessness should be illegal.


Homeless encampments are illegal in NYC. But on the west coast there is this strange idea that you should be allowed to set up your tent wherever you like.


Thats because the west coast refuses to provide shelter that can replace the tents, unlike NYC.


Absolutely! Put them all in jail, where they have a roof over their head, a bed to sleep, 2 square meals, sanitation... paid for by tax dollars.... errr or some such.

/sarsasm in case it was not evident. some days I just don't know whether it would be evident here.


I think/hope parent was sarcastic as well ...


It is in New York. It's illegal for the government to not provide people with shelter to live in. Is that what you meant?


That only really works if you combine that with the government providing homes for those with no money.




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