a better san francisco
In 2015, I took a crack at Solving Homelessness. In 2015, I took a crack at Solving Homelessness. Really! I was so fed-up with the poor job San Francisco was doing that I thought the only way it would ever get better is if passionate outsiders stepped in and offered unorthodox solutions. And of course, I always love a good challenge – especially if it can help those in need.
What followed was a whirlwind education into solving one of the most misunderstood issues in the world today. And I’m pretty sure my team did an excellent job of finding the right answers. To this day, I believe there is a solution to homelessness and that solution is clearly outlined on A Better San Francisco’s blog for all to see. Our research indicates that the main thing holding us back from progress are the people currently in power who are scared of changing the current system for fear that things may get worse (or get better, since this would mean no more funding for homeless non-profits). You can read up on various solutions from:
- Transition Centers — free housing, job training and community facilities based in the center of the city, which actually allow the city to profit off of helping the homeless.
- The Regional Housing Solution — A regional take on homeless housing, which focuses on building life-long care center facilities in rural parts of the region where land is cheap and impoverished communities can receive economic stimulation by becoming caretakers for those unable to care for themselves.
- Shelter Tech — Installing WiFi into homeless shelters and giving out smartphones to underprivileged members of the community. Currently, we place the homeless in shelters, which are more or less jails that they aren’t allowed to leave for 12 hours a day, and that fail to provide connection to the outside world or enable self improvement.
- Homeless Town Hall events — Yearly town hall meetings with the community to discuss radical new solutions to homelessness which the city can try out.
My six month stint running A Better San Francisco taught me about PR, politics, homelessness, and community organizing. I wish I could say it was a fun ride, but there was nothing exciting about trying to change a city that is mired in bureaucracy. You can read hundreds of news articles over the past 10 years about San Francisco having one of the worst homeless problems in the world, about the continuous failures of San Francisco politicians at finding any working solution, and about rising crime and costs throughout the city in direct correlation with the homeless community. It’s sad. In the minds of those in power, they believe the status quo is the best we can do – either out of ignorance or stubbornness.
In the end, I felt we took A Better San Francisco as far as it can go until the city is ready to change. I don’t want to waste years of my life fighting a contentious battle with people who aren’t honest and are unable to see the reality of things in front of them. Many of the solutions ABSF put forward are still in motion and can very well become the backbone of homeless solutions used around the world. I’m proud of that. To this day I get emails from people around the world for advice on things like using Transition Centers to combat the growing refugee problem in Europe. I would not be surprised to see the solutions my team and I created be something the world uses for decades to come.
At least, that would be my sincere hope. This isn't about me, or any single individual's goals. It's about transcending the status quo and helping the less fortunate contribute to society so that everyone benefits.