[Podcast] Juan Cabrera is a videographer of the homeless condition and has observed San Francisco transform itself into a deranged city due to malfunctioning local and state level policies. He is a Mexican immigrant who grew up in The City by the Bay. Read the full blog post for this episode (137) at safetyphd.com.
DIRECT LINK to MP3 of this Episode: https://tinyurl.com/SDP137-AUDIO
HOW MANY PEOPLE ARE HOMELESS IN CALIFORNIA?
At last official count 151,278 individuals are homeless in California, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. That’s the highest number since at least 2007, and represents a nearly 17% uptick since 2018. Estimates place the homeless count in San Francisco between 8,000 and 17,000 people per various sources. As Juan notes, the definition of homeless includes people who are without a permanent residence and might be staying with relatives – although the media portrait of homeless is often that of individuals living on sidewalks or parks. The true numbers are higher than anything that’s reported.
HOMELESS LAWS IN CA AND BAY AREA.
In California, there are hundreds of “anti-homeless” laws. Although there is nothing that specifically bans or restricts homelessness, cities in the Golden State have created nearly a thousand codes and ordinances that experts and homeless advocates argue disproportionately affect unsheltered people. One such ordinance – known as the “sit-lie” law – makes it a criminal offense to sit, lie or sleep on a public sidewalk anywhere in a city. Some cities put boulders on sidewalks to prevent homeless people from sleeping or camping there, but these practices are ineffective at solving bigger problems and often just make things worse for homeless people.
WHAT INSPIRED JUAN TO BECOME A VIDEOGRAPHER OF THE HOMELESS CONDITION?
Six years ago, Juan and his brother began an annual tradition to purchase and distribute socks to homeless people on Christmas. It was through this act of kindness, meeting and observing homeless people, that Juan found himself wanting to learn more about homelessness in his city.
JUAN’S OBSERVATIONS OF HOMELESSNESS IN SAN FRAN
As a father, Juan perceives that exposure to the raw elements of San Francisco are impacting his children. “They are becoming conditioned to it.” Traveling through parts of the city, such as “The Tenderloin,” brings risks of mentally ill homeless people darting into traffic, defecating in public, or littering the city with needles. Public transportation is no longer safe due to fights on busses and drug paraphernalia tucked between seats.
Photos taken by Juan Cabrera
WHAT IS MAKING THE SITUATION WORSE?
Juan shared that policies are exacerbating the homeless condition. Policies that include police told to not prosecute most property crimes under $1000; pervasive bartering of EBT cards for cash; public-financed alcohol and drugs for homeless people to allegedly support them during the COVID19 lockdowns; and no fines for public urination, defecation or lude acts. Per Juan, none of these steps are improving the quality of life for people that are homeless – or anyone else in the city.
HOW THIS IMPACTS JUAN
The homeless issues are amplifying. The city provides many resources to homeless people, the climate is favorable, and Juan has observed a type of inertia in the homeless community – meaning that once people claim a patch of the city, they are unlikely to trade it for a stay in a shelter as doing so would force them to surrender their possessions and have to eventually find another place to stay after they left the shelter. The despair of the situation weighs upon Juan and he contemplates moving his family away from the urban decay. Juan also explained his approach to vehicle insurance was simple: liability only. Due to increasing vandalism and vehicle break-ins (which aren’t investigated or prosecuted), Juan budgets for 2-3 replacement side windows per year.
Photos taken by Juan Cabrera
WHAT COULD BE DONE TO MAKE THINGS BETTER?
It’s clear that actions to help remedy this situation will be highly-charged in the political arena. Juan argues that enforcing laws, such as consequences for breaking into vehicles, and stopping public-funded distribution of alcohol and drugs must occur to slow this spiraling situation. He’s also aware that if nothing is done, homelessness will swell and businesses will close due to lack of viable store fronts; diseases such as typhus will take root; and fewer people will invest in large sections of the city – essentially leaving those areas to rot.
This is episode #137 of The Safety Doc Podcast
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