It is possible by now that you have seen this article from the SF Chronicle, so I wanted to share a few thoughts about the current state of our city – San Francisco.
I am torn about what to think, but not surprised. On the one hand, are we saying that a parking lot is more valuable or preferable than people? Or, is it just certain people?
The biggest problem the street population face is the stigma of being homeless. The go-to lament for the public at large is that “All homeless are drug addicts and mentally ill!” Not exactly true!
Of our almost 8,000 homeless now (the January count should be released soon), about 1/3 suffer mental health issues alone, just over half have some form of substance use disorder (SUD), and a little more than half of those with SUDs are comorbid. From that, is it accurate to assume that slightly less than half, around 4,000 of these people are victims of poverty alone? Recall that the Nav Center proposed on Bryant and Embarcadero is only 200 beds.
Some of you right now may be thinking to yourself, “It’s all Reagan’s fault, that capitalist bastard!” Before we have that conversation, I would encourage you to read up on John F. Kennedy’s “New Frontier Act,” passed by Congress in 1963. Kennedy realized that asylums were becoming dumping grounds even back then. It’s possible that Kennedy had the right idea, but when the ACLU got involved, Congress changed, and federal responsibility was transferred to the state level, the attention to detail and care needed to fully implement the finer points of a morally intricate and arduously complex plan went completely out the window! Now the chickens are coming home to roost.
(‘Anybody recall Milos Forman’s cinematic commentary, “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” from 1975?)
I wrote an essay this week on the public perception of SUDs and how it might be influenced toward positive change. I concluded that there is no simple nor obvious answer to that question. I realized though, as, in most things, the first step toward a new tomorrow is for people to become educated about the issue – including an understanding of how many of these people got to where they are today – and perhaps that’s the hardest step to take: the first one. That requires putting aside personal biases sometimes learned over a lifetime and being honest and open to the possibility that the world – and our City – have changed.
Regardless, we are here. Like it or not we are all responsible for the state of our society. To the NIMBY’ers – it’s already in your backyard, and it’s time to face reality. Everybody wants to complain, and solutions are few in number and slow coming… Those who do propose solutions, viable or not, will more than likely be shouted down by the intolerant vocal minority (because you will never please everybody – seemingly here in San Francisco more than anywhere else)!
Society is great at creating problems for itself – don’t you think – but it is usually somebody else’s fault, right? On a personal note; I may have been (probably) the only supporter in the immediate local community here on the Wharf of the proposed 50-bed Nav Center across from Pier 35. I think it would have been a good thing for us, for the community, and for the 1/160th of San Francisco’s homeless population that it would have served. If nothing else, Breed has thus far proven she is a malleable mayor and if we can agree on one thing, it may be that the people’s trust in government to manage anything competently is about at level-zero, don’t you think?
Have a great day!