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Why are there homeless people in San Francisco?

Why are there homeless people in San Francisco?

As you know, I’m visiting here.  And one thing I’ve noticed is that there are quite a few homeless people.

Why are the people of San Francisco so heartless?  They must all be Tea Party supporters.

Why don’t the politicians here care about the poor?  They must be Republicans.

How can citizens just walk by without helping?  Probably too busy with their capitalism.

San Francisco is a beautiful city, but I don’t know if I could live in such a heartless, Republican, capitalistic place.



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I was just wondering if I missed something. I see other contributors listed, but I don’t recall ever seeing their contributions.

In your description of SanFran, how could you leave out Nan? Terrible representative for her district!!

I love your sense of humor….you just brightened my day. Thanks 🙂 🙂 🙂

VetHusbandFather | July 18, 2011 at 11:25 am

That’s just because the people of San Fran aren’t really Mega-Rich because they care. We can find other people we don’t like to take money from. Why should the people of San Fran contribute their money, when they already contributed their votes. We can just give them all waivers for being so caring.

Keep one eye on the markets…

1) “It’s getting very scary out there. First there has been an unsubstantiated rumor that Spanish PM has resigned based on an El Pais editorial, and then we have the fact that Greek 2 year bonds have just collapsed by another 2% to an all time record 35.19%. The cherry on top are reports that Intesa Sanpaolo and some other volatile bank shares are suspended after continuing their last week plunge.”

Zero Hedge

2) “Over 3 weeks ago, before Italian treasury spreads blew out by several hundred basis points, and before Italian bank stock trading halts became a daily occurrence, we suggested that the European contagion was shifting to Italy based on Goldman dark pool Sigma X trading. To wit: “Today’s most active names are Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena, Unicredit and Intesa Sanpaolo. Translation: someone is actively positioning for serious action in Italy shortly.” That someone sure was right, and it is precisely this trifecta of stocks that at last check was halted on the Borsa. Well, based on today’s action at Sigma X, the next, and probably biggest domino may be about to fall: the UK itself, because coming in at position #2, just behind UniCredit, we see Lloyds Banking. And if Lloyds goes, the ones that will follow are Barclays and RBS. At that point, the financial crisis got global.”

Zero Hedge

A crisis will be a terrible thing to waste.

JimMtnViewCaUSA | July 18, 2011 at 11:40 am

Homeless people are icky from the Whole-Foods-lifestyle point of view.
And hey, liberals don’t have any (direct) responsibility for the poor and less fortunate, that’s the job of the government. That’s why we need to increase taxes on Republicans and other people who have jobs.

common tater | July 18, 2011 at 11:47 am

San Fran doesn’t like to think of them as “homeless (carless and shoeless) people.” They’re smaller carbon footprints.

Joan Of Argghh | July 18, 2011 at 11:54 am

A report in 2008 pointed out that 75% of the homeless in San Francisco aren’t.

San Fransisco PAYS their homeless although they reduced the size of the payment a couple of years ago.

I’ve witnessed public defecation in progress so many times on Nob Hill and other chi-chi areas that I started taking taxis rather than walk when I have to go there.

I have wealthy clients up there but I don’t like San Francisco. It’s a very strange place whose reality is rarely portrayed in the media. Beautiful but bizarre.

LukeHandCool | July 18, 2011 at 12:20 pm

Here in the upscale lefty utopia of Santa Monica we still see quite a few homeless people but fewer than before. The progressive city council made it known the city would be homeless friendly and they came in droves.

Of course, soon sh*t happened, as they say, often at the doors of stores, and the merchants, like my sister (who had the same scary looking homeless guy enter her store twice screaming gibberish in a threatening manner) pushed back. The city council flip-flopped a bit on the enforcement of certain laws, but the council progressives will only backtrack so far in the face of reality (especially when it’s not their businesses or children that are being threatened). A male tourist was raped by a homeless man (who, like most of the homeless really need to be institutionalized) in a restroom on Palisades Park overlooking the beach …

There’s often a heavy price to pay for progressives to feel good about themselves … and it is to the benefit of nobody. It only benefits the progressives’ self-image.

LukeHandCool (who, like his sister, would give you the shirt off his back if you’re really in need … but most of these people need to be institutionalized … and who, after giving a homeless guy standing behind him in line at McDonalds $5 when he was a teenager, only to watch the man leave McDonalds, walk across the street and enter a liquor store … no longer hands out cash to the homeless, but will happily buy them a meal and hand that to them and make sure they eat it (and not return it to get cash back).

I’m sure they would argue that the reason they still have homeless is because the homeless from other areas come to San Fran and they just can’t handle it all, but if only every other area were required to take care of people the way they do, there wouldn’t be homeless.

They’d be wrong, but I’ll bet that’s what they’d argue.

To give you the literal answer: the same reason that there are a lot of homeless in San Diego. The weather is so mild that being homeless is not like being homeless in Cambridge, MA, wherein you stand a good chance of dying of hypothermia in the winter (or at least losing a few fingers and toes to frostbite).

That said, the liberal response to homelessness – refuse to institutionalise the mentally ill, treat them as victims even if they were heirs to a good amount of money, let them harass whom they want, and shove them out of sight – is incredibly harmful, but does wonders for their self-image. I feel like channeling Thomas Sowell on this one.

Until a couple of years ago travelled to San Francisco almost monthly on business. Now I avoid that city entirely, even if I am in the Bay Area. Any business with people there is done by video-conference or by phone. It is one example of the destruction of a once-great American city.

HollywoodNeoCon | July 18, 2011 at 12:48 pm

Professor Jacobson,

I spent 7 years marching with the Blue Devils Drum & Bugle Corps from Concord, CA (a suburb of San Francisco), and another 8 years or so living across the bay in Daly City, and I can tell you that the homeless population in the Bay Area is among the most plentiful, aggressive and violent in this country.

At least in Los Angeles, they have a script or a story idea to pitch. 🙂

Cowboy Curtis | July 18, 2011 at 12:52 pm

Just because they’re poorly dressed, smell bad, and eat really gross stuff, that doesn’t mean they’re homeless. They might just be hippies.

My partner and I have a friend, a self professed champion of the poor, who routinely lectures us on the moral necessity of paying more taxes to the help the ‘underprivileged’.

She demonstrated her convictions admirably on one occasion when we boarded the subway after an expensive evening at a midtown restaurant (where she had emerged with a saintly radiance having delivered yet another lecture on liberal compassion to her heartless republican friends)

As the train pulled out of the station, we noticed the sudden dimming of her fluorescent halo… for a disheveled panhandler had appeared from the next car. This patron goddess of the poor, who just moments ago, had thundered about Republicans being tight-fisted, was now clutching her designer bag for dear life, desperately averting eye-contact with one of her ’cause’. This seemed to have touched the panhandler who went straight to her seat and serenaded her for the rest of the ride.

It was thoroughly amusing. And though her lectures persists, we would never think of citing this incident to disprove her genuineness.

There are two reasons, or perhaps one condition and one reason. The condition is that, as Roxeanne has noted, the weather is quite temperate. It rarely gets very warm, and it almost never gets down to freezing. The reason is that both San Francisco’s government (both city and county; San Francisco is its own county) and many of its citizens want to take care of the homeless. There are lots of programs in place to feed the homeless, provide places for them to sleep, provide needles for those homeless (and others) who want to inject themselves with drugs (they’re called “needle-exchange” programs, but, in truth, no exchange is involved; just ask for a needle and you’ll get one), while there is a well-organized segment of the citizenry that will oppose any attempt to keep people from lying on the sidewalks, urinating on the sides of buildings, panhandling aggressively, etc.

I spent June 1999 to April 2001 working on the south side of Market Street between Seventh and Eighth Streets and got to see the consequences.

…A complete one? Easy.
The Harding-Coolidge 18 month Recovery from the quantitatively worst Twentieth Century American Depression, the “1920 Depression” that was a reaction against and end of “The Progressive Era”

But also

Lest it be said I’m going “Off-Topic” the smaller scope of the question the best outcome would be a Lowering of “The Debt Ceiling”

In a more serious vein the real purpose of the current administration is to Lever Up the “Baseline Budget” numbers,
thus satisfying the Washington Insiders of both parties.

Since neither side has an interest in “Maximizing Revenue” [Which is the practical side effect of applying “Hausers Law”
then I have to take George Will at his word, the insiders do NOT have any interest in making government smaller faster cheaper in contrast with what they say.

NYC had the squeegee men until Giuliani came along. I doubt San Francisco will ever be so lucky.

I heard that some of the “homeless” in S.F. weren’t poor though. Some are just eccentric.

That city is an outdoor asylum.

In “the City” being “homeless” is a career move, not a status change. Besides, one visitor’s “homeless” is another politician’s “voter”. You obviously don’t place very much stock in “democracy” by being so critical of a couple of dozen unwashed and unsociable panhandlers on each block.

Please allow me to slightly revise the question. Why are there homeless people in all large American Cities?

1. Homeless people can’t make it in the rural areas because the population densities are not high enough to provide a number of people willing to aid them in their dysfunction.
2. Since the vast majority of the “homeless” are really strung out on drugs, they are mentally ill or addicted people who need help, but we can’t give them the help they clearly need (institutionalization) because that would be both insensitive and it would violate their civil rights.

I know there has been an ongoing debate as to whether it was Carter or Reagan that emptied out the mental institutions of America in the name of civil rights. Can anyone provide some clarity on this issue? Heather MacDonald of the Manhattan Institute has written extensively on this subject –

The above noted, it’s interesting with all the libs in SF that they still have homeless people there. Why don’t they just take them all in? Answer – because libs are hypocritical and they never connect their rhetoric to effective actions.

The cynic in me >wants to say, “yeah, and they’re about to be augmented by a coiterie of court personnel as well.

Consider this disturbing heart of the story:

The San Francisco Superior Court is laying off more than 40 percent of its staff and shuttering 25 courtrooms because of budget cuts.

Presiding Judge Katherine Feinstein said Monday that the cuts mean it will take many more hours to pay a traffic ticket in person, up to 18 months to finalize a divorce and five years for a lawsuit to go to trial. The cuts go into effect on Sept. 30 and are needed to close a $13.75 million deficit.

Some 200 of the court’s 480 workers will be let go, including 11 of 12 commissioners who preside over a variety of cases.
. . . .

That sounds a little like we’re about to witness evidence of a more generalized breakdown in civil order in San Francisco. They are blaming it, of course, on the State for cuts in the court system.

But the truth is that so many cities in out nation do not want to be self-sustaining entities in any respect whatsoever, except as to political affiliation.

They want to increasingly play Santa Claus to people to attract votes, but they do not want to adhere to any form of basic management principles.

And the worst cases are even willing to attract huge numbers of dispossessed and homeless people.

@ Trochilus: And don’t forget the toilets. They will padlock 90% of the public toilets in the Court building and make sure the few remaining available will be located where the lines of folks waiting to use them will cause the most disruptions. It’s all part of the playbook.

Taxpayer1234 | July 18, 2011 at 7:34 pm


Professor, I love your stealth humor.

Why? I have the impression the citizens still don’t care! As a visitor I’ve seen downtown slide into the toilet and can only assume the folks doing the voting neither work nor live downtown or in the vicinity of Market Street.

People who support/condone a government that tolerates homelessness, in fact makes it a fair lifestyle choice get the city they deserve. I don’t have to go back and I won’t.

David R. Graham | July 18, 2011 at 8:43 pm

“Homeless” is a misnomer.

And Viator: ultimately, China is the danger to the USA, not Europe, not markets, unless they involve China. The USA faces west, across the Pacific. It’s vector of interest and development points in that direction from inception. USA Northeasterners probably never will grasp that fact. They are Euro-centric and blind to USA national character and interest.

USA can absorb with little hurt whatever happens in Europe, it doesn’t matter systemically to the USA. It cannot absorb what happens, and is sure to happen, in China without very much hurt. Unless, that is, China is treated as the international terrorist/war-making state she is.

Most countries count GDP when a product is sold. China counts GDP when a product is made. Thus the huge, ubiquitous, complete (except for residents), brand-new, high-tech Chinese ghost cities, built not to give people jobs (make-work) but to jack GDP (make-stats). China is a hollow egg with immense military capability and enormous economic destructive power. More such power than have all the idiots in Europe and the US Northeast combined.

USA leader cadre of all kinds should look west, to Asia, not east to Europe and Middle East. We are a westering nation. Our entire history, starting with landing from the east on our eastern seaboard and rising from Mexico to west and east, after landing from the east on Mexico’s east and driving west, points westward.

The only eastward vectors in our nation’s history, landing on our western seaboard and driving east, are Russian and Chinese. Our Northeastern intellectual class runs in foreign, un-American retrograde motion when they obsess with Europe and her infirmities.

Europe is an errant child. Turn the back on her and she will come running, sense partially restored. Look west, across the Pacific. The game is there.

Jeez, what a dweeb! Cannot believe this guy has a law degree.

Why are there homeless in SF? Temperate weather, my friend. Temperate weather.

    Viator in reply to LynnDee. | July 19, 2011 at 3:10 am

    There are numerous homeless visible in some cites less or none in others. Temperature has something to do with it but it is only one factor and probably not the most important factor. Otherwise all the homeless would be in the American south which they are not.

      LynnDee in reply to Viator. | July 19, 2011 at 10:16 am

      Yes, I agree that temperate weather is but one of several factors. But the implication that there are homeless in SF because the residents there are particularly heartless is ridiculous on its face. Now, maybe Prof. Jacobson intends this bit to be solely humorous without even the nugget of truth that typically forms the basis of humor — or at least political humor.

      If so, holy cow! Guess we can put that pamphlet “The Best of Conservative Humor” right next to that slim volume “2,000 Years of German Humor.”

        That pamphlet “The Best of Conservative Humor” is actually a companion to the equally slim volume “The Efficacy of Liberal Economic Policies”

          LynnDee in reply to Aucturian. | July 19, 2011 at 3:20 pm

          Riiiiiggghhht. That must be why Republican administrations keep putting us in the toilet, and Democratic administrations keep pulling our ass out again.

        Rorschach in reply to LynnDee. | July 19, 2011 at 1:36 pm

        Lyndee, you sir, are the dweeb here. Prof. Jacobsen’s point was that SF is EXTREMELY liberal and of course that liberalism teaches that you should take care of the less fortunate. But these two situations are in opposition to each other, SF is overflowing with bums. (I refuse to use the word homeless) If SF were truly living up to it’s stated (but rarely actually acted upon)liberal ideals it would be supplying hot meals and warm comfy beds to all of them, but they do not. they do as liberals all over the world do, they say one thing and do something quite the opposite.

          LynnDee in reply to Rorschach. | July 19, 2011 at 3:31 pm

          You think it wasn’t obvious as hell — even to us poor libs — what Prof. Jacobson was driving at??!! Only a brass band could’ve drawn more attention to his so-called point.

          No, my point is this: Only a superstitious or faith-based (as opposed to rational) individual could look at homeless people on the street and assume the residents of that town were doing nothing to help them or that the state of the homeless presented at that moment might not be a vast improvement over what it might otherwise be, without the help provided. In fact, it may well be that one of the reasons for the number of homeless in SF is that the homeless are drawn to SF for the very help that’s provided.

          Now, point this out to a conservative, and you get: “Aww, shucks, we wuz only funnin’. Humorless libs.”

          So, assuming arguendo that Prof. Jacobson is smart enough to be aware of everything pointed out in my first paragraph, I can only conclude that the sole reason for his post is an attempt. Thus: the pamphlet “The Best of Conservative Humor.”

          Swibbie in reply to Rorschach. | July 19, 2011 at 5:47 pm

          @LynnDee: Awww, aren’t you cute. You manage to defy rational logic and show your bigotry by making a dig at people of faith all in one post. To suggest that there are so many homeless people in SF because their lives are better there takes ridiculous into a whole new universe.

          Perhaps you may not have noticed, but the homeless in SF are NOT being helped. Sure, part of it is the weather, but once they get there, they still roam the streets and they are still homeless. Did you really not notice that? Sheesh.

          I’ve spent time in SF, and the people there are the most selfish and self-absorbed zombies I have ever seen. Even the people in NYC, another liberal mecca, have more humanity than the people in SF.

          And no, I am not kidding.

Ex-Cons in San Francisco May Soon Enjoy ‘Protected Class’ Status

“A proposed law would bar landlords and business owners from inquiring about the criminal past of any prospective tenant or employee.”

PJ Media

[…] San Francisco is a beautiful city, but I don’t know if I could live in such a heartless, Republican, capitalistic place. […]

[…] Over at Legal Insurrection, Professor Jacobson asks: Why are there homeless people in San Francisco? […]

Because shooting them (or rather threatening to, or even owning the gun) would be illegal there?

Yep, if the citizens of San Fran were really caring Democratic liberals, who think that feelings are the most important thing in life, they would throw open their homes to all street people. And, of course, support them with whatever fills their needs.

Joan Of Argghh | July 19, 2011 at 6:02 pm

@LynnDee who states “it may well be that one of the reasons for the number of homeless in SF is that the homeless are drawn to SF for the very help that’s provided.”

Well, yes. And light attracts bugs. The problem is, apparently, the panhandlers and large numbers of “homeless” are blocking the light for the very folks providing it. The very liberals whose compassion provides so richly for them are all of a sudden finding that some accountability would be “nice” as well. Heartless Liberal bastiges! Won’t let a homeless man eat his waffle in peace without preachin’ some sort of burgeois idea of responsibility and purpose. How can they presume to preach to a man whose stomach is empty?

@swibbie: I said nothing about religious faith. I said “faith-based,” meaning simply that the author of the post, without knowing anything about the sort of help that SF might or might not provide the homeless, simply went with what he “believed” — i.e., that SF is indifferent to its homeless, because if it really cared, there’d be no homeless. The whole premise of the post is completely irrational, designed only to amuse and regale his fellow conservatives.

As for what you “know” about the homeless in SF, I sincerely doubt you know anything either. Your idea of evidence is apparently the same as Prof. Jacobson’s — i.e., no need to look into what programs are available and what good they might be doing; simply assume from the fact there are homeless that there are no programs, or only ineffective programs, and that the residents of SF don’t care.

In fact, if there’s one thing this comment thread demonstrates, it’s that conservatives do not care about facts. They care only about their beliefs and their feelings. You’re utterly superstitious in that regard — just sitting around the fire rattling chicken bones to ward off the next eclipse of the sun.

And THAT is what I meant by “faith-based.” No dig at organized religion at all.

The San Francisco Chronicle reported that the annual sum spent on the homeless was in the vicinity of $250 million per annum and rising. Since the monies support a large number of social service groups and their many employees, what city is going to curtail a business as large as that in these times? Homelessness in San Francisco is an industry.

Joan Of Argghh | July 20, 2011 at 2:44 pm

Absolutely right. Even the “faith-based” shelters that receive United Way and public funds are in on the gig. And they build their organizations in the same way the gov’t grows: by creating needs, creating new positions to fill them, and thus they pad their importance by the number of people they employ, and the number of people they “help.”

I’ve seen this first-hand. They are in symbiosis with the government. It’s sickening.