This site recently requested anecdotal commentary from its Social Media users relative to what we perceive as a mounting problem with homelessness in the 24/680 and, as usual, the readership had plenty to say.
Sky-High rents in our urban areas have put more and more people onto the streets, it is generally agreed, as those areas – and, increasingly, ours – attempt to deal with the human tide driven to a life on the pavement or under canvas.
Friends and readers from those urban areas to our West have said the increase in homeless populations in their areas has “tripled” in recent years and while hard data can shift it is generally not disputed that the quality of life in those areas, and now also ours, is being impacted.
“It appears to be almost a wave of people, starting in San Francisco and gradually working its way East,” said Marcus Wong of Walnut Creek. “I keep hearing that the weather is better out here and that the people are more likely to give someone money. It’s an attractive environment for them. Many of them move around using BART.”
Daily accounts of homeless people attempting to carve out some semblance of normalcy are commonplace as this highly mobile, often multi-challenged population tends to cluster under bridges, freeway overpasses, swim clubs, and – as one reader recounted – in the hot tub of her condominium complex.
We’ve noted an uptick in the number of encounters between the homeless and their sheltered brethren, with deliberate attempts to provoke and – apparently – get money or some other commodity from others in play. This is not always leading to congenial interaction as local police and cities attempt to clear established encampments and find shelter for those who may not want it.
Business owners unwilling to go on the record lest they face a backlash from unwitting supporters of the homeless report almost extortionate behavior by some members of the population they say know “how to game the system.”
“At first we had a woman named Betty who would come, ask for money outside and then use the bathroom to wash up,” said one local business owner. “We felt bad. The staff felt bad. They would give her coffee and try to accommodate her. Then another person showed up, and another. After a while all we could do was call the police. And that made us feel worse.”
There are ongoing efforts underway to help alleviate the problem but we’re uncertain if they have met with the expected results. If you’re on the front lines of this effort we would love to hear from you (and so would our readers) so please consider dropping a line in the comment stream about your experiences.
Right now we’re just trying to get a picture of the overall problem and a feel for what people are experiencing. Off-topic commentary should be thoroughly reviewed for insight, contribution to the comment stream prior to posting, please.
In my opinion, the idea that the homelessness crisis is primarily caused by the expensive CA housing market is a big misconception, used as an excuse by politicians to promote development (like apartment complexes in suburban BART parking lots). Most of the homeless aren’t on the street because they were “priced out” – they are drug addicted and/or mentally ill and wouldn’t know what to do with a house if you gave them one. Plus many are drifters who choose the street life. The lenient environment in California (PC culture, generous social services, drug use and shoplifting essentially legalized) is what draws vagrants to our cities. “If you build it, they will come”
I will always have compassion for the homeless. I’ve been volunteering helping people in need (including the homeless) since I was a teenager – quite some time ago. I believe the main reason for homelessness is poverty, followed closely be mental illness. Nobody chooses to be homeless – they’re homeless by circumstances. Some choose to “remain homeless” while others choose to get their life back on track. What I’ve seen through the years – most who choose to remain homeless have given up, and a lot of them are mentally ill. Some of them self medicate with alcohol and drugs as a coping mechanism.
I understand why people have “mixed emotions” towards the homeless. They can be very trying, and they cost society – financially and otherwise. I will never understand cruelty towards the homeless. Homeless people are people too.
I have successfully gotten people off the streets by offering a hand up, not a hand out. But so many don’t want help. Sadly, many prefer the streets. It’s a sub-culture, and a very sad one.
Please be kind to them. It’s a win-win situation…
I know I am going to anger many with my comment, but maybe the homeless need to relocate. When so many families are work so hard and even working double jobs, have to relocate away from the Bay Area to the Central Valley, why should the homeless have some sort of right to remain in the more expensive areas? Many people think they do. Walnut Creek is the latest upscale City to see an influx of homeless attracted by Outreach programs. It’s funny the more Outreach programs there are, the more it attracts homeless. Seems like Concord Heaven. Services for the homeless including Medical job placement and shelter. Big cities like Walnut Creek but they’re kind heart are out reaching trying to help attracting those same people to Walnut Creek. I personally think the government should have a program to make these people work sweeping streets digging ditches Etc to help them get back on their feet. It would surely build their self-esteem and confidence. My other gripe is that we keep talking about all the mental illness,which in reality is really their drug use that makes them that way.
I may sound harsh, but I have, for decades help the homeless. I have paid rent, given the, given cell phones even shelter in my own house. I worked in a pantry and I bought numerous meals and personally tried to help them. Ive come to realize that most are really abusing the system and have no intention of helping themselves. I even found that many have close by relatives that would give them a place to live, if they would only give up drugs or work a bit. Well, that’s my take on things and trust me I’ve been working at this a long time. I know many are going to disagree with me.
Still breaks my heart every time I see it and I’m seeing it everywhere. It is a very complex issue as people are pointing out and yes some of these people are aggressive and perhaps unbalanced and sometimes even looking for trouble. A woman came into our Starbucks the other day and just went off – yelling and screaming and challenging people. I felt sorry for her and the business and the people who work there – and also the police. I don’t think there’s a simple answer to this.
It’s going to get a lot worse before it gets any better. More people, less resources + some of what others are posting here = antisocial behavior and an overall degradation of our living spaces. We are not currently equipped to deal with the problem so I would prepare myself for more of the same and then worse. Sorry.
I’ll let this Chris Hedges piece speak for me…
Richest country on earth can’t afford to deal with its homeless population, yet little old countries like Denmark can handle it just fine. It’s a choice. It would be cheaper to provide food and shelter as many will end up in emergency rooms and in the criminal justice system– and that costs society exponentially more– yet Americans would rather squander that money when compassion is actually far more cost effective.
It does seem that other countries are better able to deal with the problems that appear to befuddle us. I have a hard time understanding why this is but I think it is some demented form of American ideal — this is the land of opportunity, if you can’t make it you should just go away or die. We do seem to be reaching this point of no return and people are dying on our streets. And it seems to be getting worse locally too.
America USED to be the land of opportunity. Economists and sociologists measure this– the term they use is “social mobility” and it has been measured steadily since the 1930’s. It measures the probability that a child born into a lower income household can, by working hard and following the rules, end up better off than their parents, and/or make it into the (now shrinking rapidly) middle class. This is the metric that measures the strength of “the American dream”. In 1980 that probability stood at about 80%. Today that probability stands just below 40%. Add to this that wages and salaries, when adjusted for inflation, have been stagnant for more than forty years. Add to this that the share of the US GDP growth that used to be distributed to the the middle class in the form of higher wages, salaries and benefits stood above 35% in the 1970’s and today that percentage barely rises above 2%. See where I’m going with this? Highly unequal and unjust societies produce things like more homelessness, more poverty, more suicides, etc.