PJ Media

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.

Six out of the nation’s ten most populous cities participated in the mayors’ survey; New York, Houston, San Diego and San Jose were not among them. We already know San Jose’s problem has gone through the roof. New York City reported over 53,615 sheltered homeless in the most recent year, an increase of 7 percent. A report out of Houston claims that the city has 6,000 “point in time” homeless. San Diego’s 2013 homeless population was still 4.5 percent higher than it was in 2010.

Of the 24 reporting cities in the survey (Memphis strangely abstained), 14 reported increases in their homeless population during the past year, including four of the six most populous. Twelve expect increases next year, again including those same four. Several of the cities not experiencing increases last year or expecting increases during the coming year reported and anticipated no change. Thus, consistent with the mayors’ summary, the overall result clearly weighs in favor of concluding that there was an overall increase in homelessness during the past year, and that there will be another increase in the coming year.

Perhaps the best clue that the blue-dominated mayors, collaborating with our blue-dominated federal government, are downplaying the true extent of the problem can be found in the following language in the mayors’ predictably partisan press release (bolded text by me):

(Per Conference Executive Director Tom Cochran) “There’s no question that the nation’s economy is on the mend. But there’s also no question that the slow pace of the recovery in past years has made it difficult – and, for many of our cities, impossible – to respond to the growing needs of hungry and homeless Americans.”

“Again this year, despite the economic progress the nation as a whole is making, we anticipated that problems related to joblessness and other lingering effects of the recession would be reflected in the reports coming in from the survey cities – and they were,” said (Santa Barbara, California) Mayor (Helene) Schneider.

… “We are very concerned about what could happen to our emergency food and shelter programs next year, and in the years beyond, if federal budgeting makes it harder, not easier, to meet our responsibilities to all of our people. But until our economy improves for all Americans, programs to combat poverty, hunger, and homelessness need to be protected – not compromised, not sacrificed – by our Congress.”

In the bolded statements, we see three admissions, six years into the left’s de facto control of the federal government and its nearly complete control of our nation’s largest cities:

  • First, the problems of hunger and homelessness have worsened.
  • Second, the nation really hasn’t recovered from a recession which officially ended in mid-2009.
  • Finally, six years of left-driven economic policies, contrary to at least their stated intentions, have created a prosperous economy for the few, but not for the many.

Unless the nation’s course is changed, the next two years will see more of the same.