I lived in San Francisco (the Marina) from 1992 until 2006. Ex girlfriend's mother was one of the homeless. I knew one of the former mayors and was privy to some inside information on why the was such a terrible homeless problem in San Francisco.
One important historical factor is that judges from states in counties far north of San Francisco would frequently hand problem repeat offenders who were habitual drug offenders one way bus tickets to San Francisco because of its tolerant care of the homeless.
Until Gavin Newsom stopped it, bi-weekly support checks would be cut by the city for many of the homeless. As a result of this reliable cash cow, many of these people directly took their checks to check cashing stores on Market St. and the heroin dealers would often stand in line by these stores to handle their customers who were these homeless.
Off of Haight Street is Golden Gate Park. Loads of homeless beg on Haight St. and then camp out in Golden Gate Park at night and shoot up. Under the bushes, you'll be hard pressed to not find years of dirty needles under bushes stinking of urine.
Years of dirty needles.
At the South of Market train station to Silicon Valley, there used to be several unoccupied buildings. These buildings were often occupied by several homeless drug addicts.
Several minutes after the trains would leave, it was common that these drug addicts (heroin/meth) would walk Townsend St. and break into cars to steal stereos that they would then fence to get a quick high.
One habitual drunk in the Mission district would occasionally become sober, but then drink so much that he was 1/2 naked, passed out and covered in his own urine and feces. After the police were regularly called, the fire department would be called to hose him off, then the ambulance would be called and he would be taken to San Francisco General. Of course he paid for none of this.
After he got out, he'd stay sober for a little while and start the process all over again. This one man cost the city of San Francisco $50,000 annually in police, ambulance and hospital fees.
The problem is NOT the homeless.
The problem IS the drug addicted homeless. Heroin addicts, meth addicts and habitual/chronic street drunks. They have stopped being people and have started becoming problems. They have become addicts who have really lost all parts of their minds that do not pertain to getting the next score. Their high is so good, their habits so strong that they can't live life without being high or drunk and do anything they can for that next sweet score.
The problem is the tolerance of the dealers of heavily addicting drugs.
The problem is the counties who provide one way bus tickets to failure for their society's rejects.
After you see so many people on Van Ness St. who inject so much that their veins collapse and legs rot off, then wheel themselves out to beg another day, you see that these people will do nothing, can do nothing, to change their situation. They still will break into your car and cost you 2,500 dollars in damage. If you live on Haight St, they will still shit in your doorway every morning. They will still sit in a pool of their own urine to beg for enough money for their next score. They will not even recognize the face of their own daughter trying to give them food.
Empathy is the last thing you have for these people and for the reasons they have ended up in it.
Watching this for 14 years as you drive through the middle of it to battle the 101, 280, or East Bay traffic on your 1.5 hour commute you lose much more than all respect for them.
Empathy is the last thing you have for them.
It is a terrible situation they are in, but empathy is the last thing you have for them.
So, how do you fix this?