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.