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Why The Chron Drives People Crazy, Part II

Sep
8
2003

The Chron has devoted two days and many column inches to a set of stories on the city’s homeless problem. The paper sums up the politics and history of homelessness in San Francisco, providing some useful history and a look at the differences in the proposals put forward by the eight folks running for mayor this year.
But, as is often the case, the stories are a little fuzzy on the details, the kind of details that make it easier for readers to decide what proposals might offer the best solution. There’s a lot of heat around this issue. There’s still not a lot of light.
So, for the editor once known as Mr. Stone, here’s a handy-dandy story budget. One for every day of the week.
1) When someone turns to the city for assistance, what happens? Do they get a bed in a shelter? A room in a residence hotel? A check? Where do they go? How do they get there? How much do these programs cost?


2) How many shelters exist in San Francisco? Are they public or private? Where are they? Do they have rules? Are they safe? What kind of occupancy rates do they have? Do shelter managers keep track of residents and offer them other kinds of assistance?
3) Pretty much everyone agrees that substance abuse and mental illness are responsible for most chronic homelessness. What sort of drug rehab and mental health programs exist in the city? Where are they? How much recidivism do they have? What kind of vacancy rates? If you qualify for assistance and the program is full, what happens? How much does these programs costs? Are they public or private?
4) Many have suggested that state and city laws prevent the city from property treating people on the streets who are mentally ill. Should those laws be changed? How? Is it politically realistic to think this can happen? Why? Why not?
5) What are the relationships between the city’s homeless advocacy groups? Do any of them receive payments from the city for their work? How much? What are the politics between the groups? Apart from the need for more state and federal assistance — a false hope that should be dismissed out of hand — do these groups agree on solutions to the city’s homeless problem? What are they doing to reach that goal? If they disagree, why?
6) There is constant talk that the city’s so-called ‘quality of life’ laws are not enforced. How many of these sorts of violations do police officers write up every year? In which neighborhoods? How are those cases resolved? How are the feuds between the San Francisco DA’s office and the police department and the DA’s office and Mayor Willie Brown affecting the ways in which homeless people are treated by law enforcement and the courts?
7) The Chron package including the intriguing suggestion that the Bay Area’s counties cooperate on regional solution to the homeless problem. Alameda County feels its approach, stated in 1997, has succeeded. Why? How much does the county spend to treat how many people? What services does it offer? What sort of thinking went into its planning? What obstacles did that county have to overcome? Will such an approach work in San Francisco? Why? Why not?

Share  Posted by Chris Nolan at 2:14 PM | Permalink

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