Opinionator

Op-ed: Why oppose building new homes for the homeless?

By Jason Budge

Jason Budge is a junior at UC Berkeley. He is an Interdisciplinary Studies Field major focusing on globalization and development, and he worked with the Berkeley Food and Housing Project as part of his minor in Global Poverty and Practice.

The homeless are the most marginalized and dispossessed people in the United States. To be homeless is to experience a wide spectrum of discrimination. In the past decade, legislation seeking to criminalize the homeless has gained popularity in cities that are fed up or exasperated with the “homeless problem”.

The National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty reported that between 30% and 50% of major American cities criminalize some form of homelessness, ranging from “aggressive” panhandling to simply sitting on the sidewalk.

Our own city tried to pass such an ordinance last fall, Measure S, which would have criminalized sitting on the sidewalk. These laws take away the last and only home of the homeless, and in effect question their right to exist.

Criminalizing the effects of homelessness does nothing to solve the crisis of homelessness. So what do we do? How can we end homelessness in Berkeley?

More affordable housing is the answer. The National Coalition for the Homeless, one of the nation’s largest homeless advocacy groups, claims that the recent rise in the number of people living on the streets is caused by a decrease in the levels of affordable housing. Rent has increased in the last decade while wages have fallen for low-income workers. Government support for these workers to afford their rent, rather than increasing to meet the growing demand, has actually dropped by 50%.

Constructing more affordable housing is the best way to solve this crisis.

The Berkeley City Council is considering just such a proposal. It is beginning to discuss the possibilities of building a new affordable housing complex where a parking lot is currently located on Berkeley Way and Henry Street. Councilmembers Arreguín, Capitelli, Worthington, and Maio have proposed creating a “super-green affordable housing project with zero net energy use”.

With only 135 shelter beds for over 800 homeless persons, this affordable housing project is critical to the ending of chronic homelessness in Berkeley.

Many residents are asking how this will affect the city’s budget. In fact, according to a major study conducted by University of Pennsylvania Professor Dennis Culhane on New York City’s homeless, providing affordable housing saved the city over $16,000 per homeless person per year. The savings were due to a reduction in city-financed emergency medical care and criminal justice proceedings, including arrests, court hearings, and jail time. Portland has an affordable housing program that reduced city expenses on the homeless by $25,000 per person per year; Denver saves $15,000.

Affordable housing has a number of other positive effects on the homeless, too. One study conducted in Seattle shows that homeless alcoholics placed into permanent affordable housing showed a 33% decline in alcohol abuse. It is well documented that children who live in permanent homes do much better in school. Health seems to universally improve with permanent affordable housing. The results are clear: permanent homes do more to help the lives of the homeless than anything else.

So why would some members of the Berkeley community contest this proposal? Some downtown business owners argue that the replacement of the parking lot with an affordable housing complex will deter visitors to Berkeley given our notorious parking (un)availability. Yet many of these same business owners who supported Measure S last fall argued that the homeless living on the streets were deterring customers. An affordable housing complex would absorb many of the homeless persons who loiter outside downtown businesses and thus improve the atmosphere for shops and restaurants. Business owners should be in favor of affordable housing!

It is time that we as a community support the proposal to create new affordable housing in Berkeley. Constructing permanent affordable housing is the first, necessary step in eliminating homelessness from Berkeley.

Berkeleyside welcomes submissions of op-ed articles. We ask that we are given first refusal to publish. Topics should be Berkeley-related and local authors are preferred. Please email submissions to us. Berkeleyside will publish op-ed pieces at its discretion.

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  • guest

    Build more affordable housing in Atherton, Orinda, Lafayette, Blackhawk & Danville. Make Berkeley shelters allow their guests to spend their days indoors at the shelters instead of being forced back onto the streets every day.

  • Chris J

    Hadn’t considered that providing housing would reduce costs that homelessness causes in Berkeley. Don’t really get the math, though. I always that a large facility with beds, like an army dormitory with communal services would work, rather than individual apartments. I’m sure that there is a reason why army-style barracks living could cause difficulties with folks, half of whom are probably emotionally, mentally, and physically challenged due to mental disease, etc.

    I’m not opposed.

  • FabBerkeley

    One of the biggest problems in this debate is how we’ve labeled the issue. Because we’ve called the drug addicts, alcoholics and those with mental illness “homeless” people, we are trying to solve their problem by giving them shelter. This is the wrong solution.

  • Guest

    This essay is weakened by its failure to define terms; also to a somewhat lesser extent by its liberal use of simple assertion, and an uncritical approach to the little evidence it cites.

    “Homelessness” can mean many things, and there can be many reasons why an individual lacks a defined home. No discussion of the subject is complete without a clear understanding of what the writer means when he/she uses the term. Anyone familiar with the seemingly endless wrangling about the “homeless” in Berkeley should be aware that there is significant disagreement about the meaning of the term, and the causes of Berkeley’s “homeless problem”.

    Assertions such as “These laws take away the last and only home of the homeless, and in effect question their right to exist” are mere rhetoric: they do not in any way address the real problem, its causes, or its solutions.

    The essay makes no attempt at a critical analysis of the evidence it cites, much of which comes from organizations whose raison d’etre is the existence of “homelessness”.

    By citing claims such as “…the recent rise in the number of people living on the streets is caused by a decrease in the levels of affordable housing. Rent has increased in the last decade while wages have fallen for low-income workers…” the writer implies that this is the cause of homelessness in Berkeley. Yet he makes no attempt to demonstrate that any proportion, significant or not, of the “homeless” in Berkeley are local working residents who are unable to find affordable housing in the area (since Berkeley is part of a large urban area, it is important to consider it in the context of that area). He does make oblique references to other causes of “homelessness” that might clash with the “affordability” scenario, but without any attempt to reconcile them.

    The writer needs to ask himself what “homeless” really means, how many people in Berkeley fit the definition he constructs, and why those people are homeless. Only when these things are known will it be possible to consider the likelihood that any given solution will have a positive impact on the situation. When carrying out this analysis it might be useful to consider the views, so widely disseminated on Berkeleyside and elsewhere, that a large proportion of the “homeless” in Berkeley came from elsewhere with the intention of living “on the street”, or drifted here and stayed because of the availability of things that help them to live on the street. Without a discussion of these issues, your plea is likely to be dismissed as another ploy by the “homelessness industry” to get more resources for itself.

  • Ozzie

    Several years ago, I read about a similar study done in LA. People who were housed cost about $600 per month, whereas the same person living on the street costs over $2600
    per month in services. A citizen calls the police about a passed out drunk under a bush or in an alleyway. The police officer cannot just leave the person there exposed to the element, so the ambulance is called, and the person is hauled off to Hyland Hospital where he sleeps it off. With all the documentation and time at each step, there goes over half the monthly cost for one sleepoff. One problem is that housing is a city issue, whereas Hyland falls under medical, a county issue and budget. Different fiefdoms and pots of money.

    Berkeley imports homeless. I have been at Berkeley meetings where several homeless people were advocating for increased services, while explaining that social workers
    elsewhere in the Bay Area recommended that they (the homeless) relocate to
    Berkeley because Berkeley provides so much more in homeless services. There is a reason that taxes progressively decrease, city by city, as you move from Berkeley (highest), to Oakland, San Leandro, Hayward, Union City and finally to Fremont and Newark (lowest, about half of Berkeley’s taxes). The homeless services need to be equalized, perhaps done at the state level. Berkeley cannot do it all alone.

  • djoelt1

    There are homeless youth who are sampling the lifestyle. Nothing needs to be done for them.
    There are homeless people that are working, perhaps ever a regular job, that can’t afford housing and that aren’t well enough behaved, or that don’t have enough money saved, to live in a shared housing situation (very common among the college educated, I did it in Berkeley as an adult for 11 years). They might have a child. Seems like this should take first priority, but the city does not have a big enough tax base to house all the people that will move here once that is available. If people can come here and get an apartment for free, the homeless population from the rest of the area will be sent to Berkeley.
    A person made homeless after losing a job needs a chance to get back on their feet. Unless the city of Berkeley made them homeless, the cost of the care of these people should be borne at a state or national level. The place these people should be housed is not in one of the most expensive places in the country. There is plenty of empty housing all over the state in cheaper inland areas and it will be most cost effective to relocate people to those places. It would be far cheaper for Berkeley to purchase houses in abandoned parts of Cleveland or Philly, send them there, and pay for their services, than to build a building here.

  • Longtime Berkeleyite

    Yiu seem to have decided there are “the worthy” and the “unworthy”. Clearly you dont why most people or young people are homeless on the streets. These folks are primarily those with mental health issues. They use drugs and alcohol to self medicate which is why once they have hiusing this decreases. Additionally, I worked with homeless youth for years and the are not ” testing out the lifestyle”. These kids primarily come from severely abusive homes. Many are survivors of sexual abuse, most of physical abuse. Others are there because after years of unemployment and no safety net they ended up there. I pray this never happens to you but as they say, “there but for the grace of god (or whatever yiu believe in)”

  • Guest

    Boy, I sure am tired of students who will leave town in 4-5 years trying to tell Berkeley residents what they should or shouldn’t do. I pay a lot of money in taxes to own a home in Berkeley and I’m tired of the constantly declining quality of city infrastructure and services as more and more money is funneled off into feel-good pet projects instead of dealing with the basics.

    Our own city tried to pass such an ordinance last fall, Measure S,
    which would have criminalized sitting on the sidewalk. These laws take
    away the last and only home of the homeless, and in effect
    question their right to exist.

    Grossly misleading and totally untrue. Measure S would have banned sitting on the sidewalk only in a small number of business districts and only during business hours.

  • guest

    People with mental health issues that force them out onto the streets should be institutionalized to help them overcome their problems not just given free housing.

  • Tizzielish

    when you put human beings in army dormitory-like spaces, the humans living there cannot come and go and do not have any private space to ‘be’, no door to close. I have made an effort to get to know some of the homeless who live near my home. And I have attended Councilmember Arrequin’s meetings on his efforts to address homelessness. I heard people who work with the homeless address army-style barracks living saying many chronically homeless choose to remain homeless becuse army-style barracks living is similar to living in a jail-like atmosphere, where someone sets the hours you can come and go, you have no privacy so it’s not really a home. She said, at one of Arrequin’s public meetings about homeless task force, that most chronically homeless would accept housing that amounted to a room of their own they could come and go into as they please, just like everyone else. Because it does feel like living in jail if you are an adult but the barracks supervisor tells you you have to be ‘home’ by 10 and out by 10, or whatever hours are set. A bed in a dormitory-barracks-style room is not a home. A small room with a door and a key is a home and providing them is cheaper than what it now costs the city to deal with our homeless population. As this Opinionator piece points out, it really would be cheaper to give the homeless modest homes.

    One thing this piece does not address is the weird paradox that Berkeley Housing Authority (BHA) has sold its public housing to a billionaire real estate developer and, because of the federal budget sequester, the BHA does not have funding for all the housing vouchers promised to the residents of our now-sold-off public asset of public housing. Supposedly the private owners will rehab our former public housing and rent it out at ‘affordable’ rates but affordable housing is not, at all, like public housing. In public housing, you can get a room even if you don’t have proof of income. You can pay very minimal rent, I know in Seattle public housing the lowest rent accepted is fifty dollars — I don’t know what the policies were for our now-sold public housing in Berkeley. Public housing is housing of last resort and met a need for people who come up with minimal rent payments by panhandling, not working, typically because they can’t work due to disabilities, including mental ones or addiction issues. Even disabled humans need a room, a door and a key.

    Additionally, BHA is going to have less funding in each of the next few years and people now relying on housing vouchers are going to lose them. I think BHA has taken housing vouchers from 71 households this year, will have to take more away from present households relying on vouchers to pay rent. This means the need for truly affordable housing will intensify. If someone uses a housing voucher to pay their rent is eligible for a voucher, that means that they cannot pay market rates. TAke away their voucher and where do they rent?

    BHA and landlords that own and manage affordable housing are cracking down on the rules for keeping vouchers so they will be able to find households to take vouchers away from. Landlords that own and manage affordable housing tend to take housing vouchers and have a majority of residents in their buildngs who pay with vouchers. That suggests that many who live in “affordable” housing cannot afford the affordable housing without the voucher. Where do people go when they lose their voucher? They can’t turn to public housing anymore. Oakland is also selling off its public housing to private developers and also turning it into ‘affordable’, ignoring the fact that affordable housing is not actually affordable to the poor without housing vouchers. A vicious circle.

    One way they are ‘cracking down’ is they are strictly interpreting a voucher rule that prohibits voucher holders from how many nights each year they can have an overnight guest. If your sister and her two kids come to visit for four nights, that is counted as 12 overnight guests and the residents can only have 30 overnight guests a year. In reality, sometimes a relative that loses their housing will double up with another poor relative that is lucky enough to have a voucher. And then this kindness can put the voucher holder’s ability to pay their rent at risk.

  • Tizzielish

    Why do so many comments refer to giving the homeless free housing? I don’t think the Opinionator piece called for giving free housing to the homeless. The piece says providing more affordable housing will make affordable housing more likely to be available for the homeless and such housing can be provided for less than what the city already spends dealing with the realities of our homeless population.

  • Tizzielish

    There are no beds in the very limited state ones that exist. Your comment seems to ignore the fact-based opinionator piece that described how housing, which gives someone with mental health issues the beginnings of stabililty, is less costly to society than what we are doing now. I don’t know the full facts but I am pretty sure institutionalization runs more than a room with a door and a key, with support social services to help the person get mental health care.

    And by the way, do you know that Obamacare does not require Medicaid programs to cover mental health? Who’s gonna pay to institutionalize people in nonexistent institutions anyway?

    This country decided in the Reagan administration to deinstitutionalize the mentally ill, which sorta kinda created a lot of our current homeless issues. If people had access to competent mental health care in the community — and poor people do not — they might not be homeless.

    It’s a vicious circle. Do you really think throwing them in institutions, getting them out of sight, is going to help them overcome their problems when their problems are based on an inabilaity to cope in the world? How is institutionalizing them going to help them lead stable lives in the world?

  • guest

    university at shattuck is downtown

  • ndcal

    As many have pointed out, one of the bigger problems
    surrounding homelessness (perhaps more so here in Berkeley because of its
    prominent culture) is that many of those living on the streets have drug abuse
    and mental illness problems. Public housing doesn’t necessarily mean that the
    “homeless problem” will be taken care of. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I find
    it hard to believe that any tax-funded (even in Berkeley) will allow the
    implementation of progressive drug policies and provide the mental health resources
    and treatment programs that those suffering from mental illness need.

    Until the City of Berkeley and State of California can
    successfully organize a program that convinces this city’s self-proclaimed
    “liberals”, who wouldn’t dare eat anything non-organic/grass fed and proudly
    display their Gore ’00 bumper stickers, yet quietly propose measures that
    further marginalize those less fortunate than them, that public affordable
    housing to help get rid of homelessness cannot push strict drug policy that discourages
    those struggling with addiction from inhabiting and participating in such
    programs, no real progress will be made.

    More progressive drug policy and a more understanding
    approach to mental illness are necessary to address the “homeless problem,” not
    only here but also in every other city in the United States. Don’t complain
    about paying higher taxes and claim that we, as college students, don’t have a
    right to voice our opinions on matters pertaining to the city of Berkeley, when
    the University has been an integral part of this city’s historic tradition in
    addressing civil issues since before many of you even moved here. Students and
    those living in the area surrounding campus are the ones having daily interactions
    with the homeless. I highly doubt you walk past a group of highly intoxicated
    homeless people while walking to your house up the fucking hill.

  • nature guide

    You could cut folks a little bit of slack on one minor point: Funding and authorization for various services and for capital projects like building new housing are generally assembled piecemeal, from public and private sources, in an ad hoc way. There is no one agency or jurisdiction where it would make sense to centrally plan and enact a comprehensive approach of the sort you describe. That’s why you see things like advocacy for new shelter space and affordable housing separate from advocacy for drug policy reform and separate from advocacy for radical expansion of mental health services.

    Other than that, and leaving aside your attack on Berkeley stereotypes, I think you are basically right. There is something self-defeatingly puritanical about how we offer assistance. For example, we’re apt to insist on imposing strict conditions on access to housing assistance (e.g. sobriety) even when confronted with evidence that more relaxed conditions may produce better outcomes. We’ll consider maybe possibly increasing funding for aggressive mental health outreach programs but not without authorizing an unproven coercive element to these programs.

    You can learn something about the essentially religious, superstitious view you are up against from the comments here and in similar threads. They simply take it as a given that the homeless can be neatly divided into those with faulty character who deserve to be given no quarter; those of defective nature who ought therefore be deprived of agency; and a tiny left-over group of the righteous but temporarily embarrassed who with minimal assistance can surely dust themselves off, straighten up, and fly right.

    If one starts from that mindset then policy is to be judged first and foremost by whether or not it allots punishment to the wicked, restraint and supervision to the feeble minded, and alms to the few virtuous poor. It is an article of faith that if we just stick to these principles hard enough, somehow the outcomes will be the most favorable and fair.

    That’s the perspective you’re up against and so try to imagine how something like your “progressive drug policies” sounds from that perspective. It’s incomprehensible to that mindset. It comes across like some kind of scam. Go farther and try to talk with them about the idea that our economy and civic order is structured to reliably reproduce a steady stream of destitute people and they’ll look back at you like you’re from mars.

  • Charles_Siegel

    This is proposed for Berkeley Way west of Shattuck, a site that has residential buildings right next to it and right across the street.

  • Jack Litewka

    There is, alas, little connection between reducing homelessness and creating affordable housing (unless “affordable” is the near-equivalent of “free” or very heavily subsidized. The wonderful and sad fact is that the more Berkeley tries to provide for the downtrodden, the more the downtrodden from all over the state and all over the nation are drawn to Berkeley. If you were homeless or down-and-out in, say, Newark, N.J., and heard about all the amenities and services and housing that Berkeley provides for the homeless, you too would figure out how to move from Newark to Berkeley.

  • guest

    Arguendo, I am going to propose here that Berkeley has almost no “homeless” if the term is used in the sense of “individual who has lived here for an extended time as a working and productive citizen, has lost his/her housing because of economic hardship, and is unable to find affordable housing in the East Bay”. What we have instead is people who, due to mental illness, substance abuse, or a desire to take part in a transient culture, have no fixed place to live. Remember, this is arguendo: I am ready and willing to be corrected.

    It may be perfectly legitimate to provide services and shelter for the “instead” group above, but this is very a very different thing from providing affordable housing for the “homeless” as above. For one thing, what homeless family, particularly with children, would want to be housed in a facility that is inhabited by persons of the other variety?

    Any discussion of housing the homeless that does not take into account the distinctions among the different sorts of homeless people is just empty blather.

  • get real

    No one would want to live there: wouldn’t work.

  • guest

    Oh please god STOP framing the homeless problem as an economic one. This is why we will never solve it. The chronically homeless are not temporarily down on their luck. There are clearly mental illness and drug addiction issues. Many are not actually employable. Yes, we need housing for those that are priced out, but providing shelter without penalties for staying on the street would never work. The left (Yes, I am a lefty) have taken up the torch to fight for a bill of rights for people to come to berkeley and live on our streets. It is a tyranny to allow severely mentally ill to exist on the street. If you think this housing is going to solve our problem, you have to ask whether they will be able to bring and use drugs inside this housing. Meanwhile, my family has to deal with the tyranny of feces and trash and verbal and sometimes physical harassment by those who clearly need medication.

  • guest

    “when you put human beings in army dormitory-like spaces, the humans
    living there cannot come and go and do not have any private space to
    ‘be’, no door to close.”

    when you refuse to be productive and work for a living you should take what you can get and not complain

  • Rofflecoptors

    >this opinionator piece
    >fact-based

    ROTFLMAO

  • Mapper

    it is less than one block from the intersection of university and shattuck.

    it is downtown.

  • joannatheresa75

    A month or so ago Berkeleyside posted an article describing a proposal submitted to the City Council requesting a site on Berkeley Way/Milvia be converted from exclusively open-air parking to use as a multi-story structure with underground parking. A portion of the above ground floors are to allocated for satellite government social service agency use. The remainder of the space would be under the control of Berkeley Food and Housing Project and used for their administrative purposes along with offering a new site for the Men’s Overnight Shelter currently at 1931 Center Street. The agency would operate their meals program, housing advocacy, payee services, etc. from this new building. Additionally, it is reasonable to assume the affordable permanent housing described for the site would be in a style once upon a time typical of single-room occupancy hotels (SRO’s) and paid for on a monthly rental basis through other government subsidies – Shelter+Care, SSI/SDI, etc.

    A grand plan. In most cities where non-profit agencies operate similar multi-service centers with supportive housing components, the agency takes the fundraising lead v. going hat in hand to the local government. If Berkeley determines that this is a use they are interested in permitting and funding then the city should own and operate the building not underwrite a non-profit venture that has not competitively bid or responded to an open Request for Proposal. The Food and Housing Project is not the only agency in the city serving the stated population.

    Non-profit agencies with valid track records and clear mission statements should be able to source financial commitments from private individuals and foundations that support their efforts and willingly underwrite the proposed good works.

  • GeorgeDorn

    I up-voted you for well-argued analysis of the clash between moral attitudes and pragmatic solutions, but I think you miss the practical concern behind the morality. As many other posters here have pointed out–if the city provides services for “the undeserving”, aren’t more “undeserving” people going to come here, or be shipped here, leading to an endless spiral of increasing outlays for homeless services?

  • Mel Content

    The homeless are the most marginalized and dispossessed people in the United States.

    Total BS. The most “marginalized and dispossessed people in the United States” are the working-class and middle-class taxpayers who have to spend their lives working with no chance to put away anything for retirement, thanks for the increasing demands from liberal progressives that those who produce support those who don’t…

  • Mel Content

    Arguendo, I am going to propose here that Berkeley has almost no
    “homeless” if the term is used in the sense of “individual who has lived
    here for an extended time as a working and productive citizen, has lost
    his/her housing because of economic hardship, and is unable to find
    affordable housing in the East Bay”.

    Absolutely. Spend any time talking to the local homeless, not just in Berkeley but in SF and Santa Cruz as well, and you will find few to none who were actually local working people who fell through the cracks through some type of misfortune beyond their control. The vast majority are economic migrants, just like the illegal aliens (I refuse to use the term “undocumented alien”, which is meaningless). Unlike the illegals, who are (usually) able and willing to work, most of these so-called “homeless are in fact druggies, alkies, bums and derelicts who show up in places where not only is the climate moderate, but where the pickin’s are good and locals have a laissez-faire attitude about enforcing quality-of-life laws. Berkeley’s mixture of 1960′s radical hippie holdovers and naive college students mean it doesn’t take much work to play on people’s sympathies and panhandle a slice of pizza here or a buck there. Berkeley has a long established reputation of having a “bum-friendly” environment. The people who wring their hands about the homeless are no different than the eccentric “bird woman” spending her life savings on feeding the birds while wondering why more and more keep showing up…

  • Mel Content

    But why does his idealism only extend to the homeless? Why isn’t he
    equally concerned about people trying to raise their children in
    Berkeley, who take children to their neighborhood park and find that it
    is filled with drunks?

    Read “The Vision of the Annointed: Self-congratulation as a Basis for Public Policy” by Dr. Thomas Sowell for an excellent analysis of how feel-good activists adopt certain groups as “mascots” and hold them to different standards than everyone else.

  • Mel Content

    Yiu seem to have decided there are “the worthy” and the “unworthy”.
    Clearly you dont why most people or young people are homeless on the
    streets.

    Most young people are on the street because they are irresponsible and naive. What else can I help you with today?

  • Mel Content

    when you refuse to be productive and work for a living you should take what you can get and not complain

    Thank you.

  • Mel Content

    when you put human beings in army dormitory-like spaces, the humans
    living there cannot come and go and do not have any private space to
    ‘be’, no door to close.

    Young recruits in all branches of our Armed Forces spend their several years in a dormitory-like environment, and they often have a lot of responsibility placed on them (and the chance of being killed or injured) for rather low pay. You’re far more worried about bums, junkies and inebriates being inconvenienced and not having special privileges than you are about the young men and women who serve our country. I can clearly see where your sympathies lie in the greater scheme of things.

  • nature guide

    Thanks. I’d like to take you up on this:

    -if the city provides services for “the undeserving”, aren’t more “undeserving” people going to come here, or be shipped here, leading to an endless spiral of increasing outlays for homeless services?

    I interpret that question as asking: If we improve services to homeless people, will that attract more homeless people to travel (or be dumped) here?

    When people have tried to measure that effect in other cities they have consistently failed. Better services does not attract a higher number of homeless people.

    People have measured that there tend to be more homeless people in regions with low income households. There tend to be more homeless people near possible work.

    I would personally speculate that Berkeley is also an attractive destination because of its busy downtown and south side, abundance of low-price restaurants, accessibility by rail and public transportation, proximity to San Francisco, comparative safety compared to some adjacent areas, and so forth.

    I can’t prove to you that the “magnet theory” is wrong in Berkeley but I would ask you to consider the alternative explanation that it isn’t services leading to homeless people, but the presence of homeless people leading us to try to mediate the situation with services.

  • guest

    Agreed. Working poor are much more marginalized.

  • guest

    I am glad you agree, and I hope you see the obvious implication:

    We should not be hostile to the homeless generally, regardless of their behavior, just as we should not be tolerant of the homeless generally, regardless of their behavior.

  • guest

    There’s nothing “religious” about noting that “homeless” people fall
    into a variety of categories that need different solutions. Comments that suggest that there is are straw man attacks.

  • Chris J

    If I were so down on my luck and not messed up with mental or emotional problems and was clinically sane, I’d be happy to live in a dormitory setting. Of course, being mentally and emotionally stable, I imagine I wouldn’t be in those circumstances for long. For those who are homeless and mad or crazy (you know what I mean), sure, it wouldn’t work. Those people need a lot more help.

  • one-way traps

    If I were so down on my luck and not messed up with mental or emotional problems and was clinically sane, I’d be happy to live in a dormitory setting.

    I’ve met people who were down on their luck, sane, and not addicted who avoid the dorm-style shelters when they can. Turns out they are too often fantastic for getting your stuff stolen, for being assaulted, and for spreading disease. Sleeping outside can be safer.

    Of course, being mentally and emotionally stable, I imagine I wouldn’t be in those circumstances for long.

    The service providers report that a lot of people start off with that belief and learn otherwise. I have the impression a lot depends on what assets (including social assets) you might have remaining, and what pushed you down in the first place. Like me you probably want to believe that, no matter what, your good attitude, decent smarts, and willingness to work hard can pull you through anything but in real life it just ain’t so.

  • Charles_Siegel

    Or get to know them before you give them change. I only give change to homeless people I know well enough that I am convinced they will not spend the money on alcohol.

  • Sarcasm Man

    Turns out they are too often fantastic for getting your stuff stolen, for being assaulted, and for spreading disease. Sleeping outside can
    be safer.

    Yes, no disease assault, or theft in the out of doors.

  • Magnet Theory Still The Best

    I can’t prove to you that the “magnet theory” is wrong in Berkeley but I
    would ask you to consider the alternative explanation that it isn’t
    services leading to homeless people, but the presence of homeless people
    leading us to try to mediate the situation with services.

    Unfortunately for people who try to disprove the magnet theory, when asked about why they came to Berkeley a large number of homeless report having heard about the public services and lack of public civility laws in Berkeley and traveled here as a result.

  • one-way traps

    Yes, no disease assault, or theft in the out of doors.

    That’s particularly ironic use of sarcasm since, of course, there is quite a bit of disease, theft, and violence out of doors. Shying away from dorm-style shelter is playing the odds. Odds that are miserable both ways.

    Ha ha?

  • You Can Do Better Tom

    Complaining about the better of two options, and then choosing the worse instead, makes zero sense.

    You can’t force a horse to drink or whatever.

  • one-way traps

    I’m confused. What option are you saying is better than what other option? What complaining are you talking about?

  • Diane B

    Unfortunately you’re lumping low-income with ‘homeless.’ Who we call homeless are the dual diagnosis: mentally ill and drug addicted. We need to provide facilities for them, kind, safe facilities, but unlike low-income people, who need subsidies, maintaining any kind of independent living is just not possible with the severe disabilities with which our ‘homeless’ are burdened. Non-sobriety shelters like those in Seattle are somewhat effective in keeping people from dying on the street. Facilities like the ones in which San Francisco are experimenting which delivers psychiatric and medical services to people in their rooms rather than expecting them to attend appointments are also useful. Mr. Budge needs to learn who he is talking about when he seeks solutions…low-income and ‘homeless’ are a universe apart.