By Cole Feldman
San Francisco intends to designate a parking lot near the Balboa Park public transportation depot as ‘safe’ for the city’s increasing homeless population. The space will provide people with access to showers and bathrooms, as well as counseling professionals for rehabilitation. Approximately 30 vehicles will be able to stay at the lot for up to 90 days at a time. The Homeless Outreach Team will be in charge of admittance.
The city aims to open the new refuge site by winter to help the growing number of homeless living out of their cars. Additionally, Supervisor Ahsha Safaí said the city owns the land across the street and plans to turn it into a social space.
Many cities on the West Coast have followed the lead of the East Coast. The city of Seattle has seven sites similar to the proposed lot, referred to as “villages,” where homeless may stay at night. Seattle’s government website says, “the villages provide up to 300 people a tiny house structure that locks, access to restrooms and showers, case management, a kitchen and a managed community.”
The goal of these projects is to provide a space that allows homeless people to get back on their feet, and avoid the risk of staying in unsanitary and unsafe areas. Government-owned real estate in California, Oregon, and Seattle is expected to be used at an increasing rate to help the large displaced population.
Volunteers conducted a survey in January which found a 30% percent increase in the number of people living on the streets of San Francisco since 2017. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, “35% of unsheltered homeless people lived in vehicles, up from 13% in 2015.”
While the residents of the Balboa Park neighborhood in San Francisco are mostly accepting of the project, the last major homeless rehabilitation effort was met with a large pushback. Earlier this month, residents of Mission Bay, South Beach, and Rincon Hill filed a lawsuit with the Sacramento court to shut down development of a new 200 bed Navigation Center. They argued that the temporary residency center would attract more homeless to their areas, and cause an increase in crime.
On a city-wide level, San Francisco spends a fraction of the national average on projects such as these.
The San Francisco Chronicle calculated that the city spends an astounding $305 million dollars to combat the issue of homelessness as a whole, but only a sliver of the money provides aid for those currently on the streets. Nearly 70% of the tax dollars are used to provide subsidies and prevent eviction for rehabilitated homeless people. After the other expenses, the city spends around $4,000 dollars per current homeless person, compared to $17,000 by New York City.
For comments, questions or concerns, please contact Dennis Kaiser