The Homelessness Problem Is Still With Us—and Growing
While the gatekeeping establishment press insists on promoting the alleged wonders of the nation's still-nascent "recovery," two indicators relating to homelessness surfaced this month with relatively little notice. Five and a half years after the official end of the recession and six years into Barack Obama's presidency, these indicators demonstrate that the problem has not only not lessened, it has arguably gotten worse.
The first indicator showed up earlier this month, when San Jose, California's city fathers decided that they'd had enough of "The Jungle," described in the Los Angeles Times as "one of the nation's largest homeless encampments." Note: not "the largest," just "one of the largest."
I'll say it's large — or was. The Times described The Jungle as a "68-acre shantytown," i.e., 3 million square feet. The San Jose Mercury News estimated 75 acres. The Times said it featured "(a) jerry-built treehouse ... constructed underground bunkers and ramshackle lean-tos." The Associated Press reported that The Jungle "at its peak housed as many as 350 people living in squalor just a short drive from tech giants Google, Apple, Yahoo and eBay."
Even though the camp has now been dismantled, one quite inconvenient fact, at least for the left, remains.
"The Jungle" didn't spring up until roughly the beginning of 2013. In other words, the "makeshift community" and its "somewhat unprecedented growth" all occurred while Democrat Chuck Reed was the city's mayor, Democrat Jerry Brown was California's governor, and Democrat Obama was the nation's president. If "the Jungle" had appeared while Republicans were in charge of any of these three governmental bodies, the nation's press would have treated it as a national scandal since at least the middle of last year. Particularly interesting is the Times' claim that under Brown, the state in 2011 "ended special redevelopment assessments, which essentially brought affordable housing construction to a halt" — with little apparent blowback from supposed "progressives" and the state's media watchdogs — er, lapdogs.
"The Jungle" only scratches the surface of the growing homelessness problem in San Jose and Santa Clara County. In February 2013, shortly after it came into being, the Mercury News reported that the city had an "estimated 60 encampments." The December 3 Times story on its dismantling cited the city's homelessness response manager's statement that "the capital of Silicon Valley" is, in the paper's words, "veined by a network of at least 200 other outdoor encampments" — a tripling in less than two years. The latest estimate of the county's homeless population is 7,600, placing it seventh in the nation.
While many commentators have accurately noted that Silicon Valley has unique economic circumstances in its housing market which have contributed mightily to the growth of its homeless population, the second indicator, which appeared on December 11, demonstrates that it is far from the only area facing a growing problem.
That day, the United States Conference of Mayors released its annual Hunger and Homelessness Report, a 25-city survey of conditions. The report's press release cited "increased demand this year for emergency food and housing." Imagine that.
That statement runs counter to the official 2014 Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress. AHAR shows a 9 percent drop in overall homelessness from 2010 to 2013. However, oddly enough — well, not really — the number of sheltered homeless has risen by a bit over 2 percent, while the harder to count population of those without shelter has somehow dropped by 25 percent. It wouldn't be that hard to report a decrease in overall homelessness by becoming less conscientious in finding the unsheltered.