Advocates say Phoenix’s streets are increasingly filled with people who simply could not afford an increasingly pricey Arizona: Average rent in the Phoenix area has risen by about 70 percent over the past five years, and the number of people in shelters or living on the street has gone up by 60 percent.
“The cost of housing is the biggest thing we see,” said Kenn Weise, the mayor of the suburban city Avondale, Ariz., and chairman of the Maricopa Association of Governments, which runs the Point-in-Time Count.
The path that brought Mr. Greene to a park in downtown Phoenix, repairing a beater bicycle, began, he said, when he fell from a scaffold at his carpentry job a few years ago. Work was impossible after he crushed his leg, but he said he survived on monthly disability checks.
The rent on his apartment near the palms of Encanto Park crept up from $525 to $700 before doubling in December, part of the disappearance of modestly priced rentals around Phoenix. A decade ago, almost 90 percent of apartments around Phoenix rented for $1,000 or less. Now, just 10 percent do.
582,462 and Counting To fix a problem like homelessness in America, you need to know its scope. To do that, you need sheriffs, social workers, volunteers, flashlights and 10 days in January.
The project in question is for the Noe Valley neighborhood, which wants a public toilet for its Town Square. The problem is the price tag: $1.7 million.
State funds will not be forthcoming for the project, Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office told the San Francisco Chronicle this week amid mounting controversy. Republicans have hammered Newsom, a Democrat, over the state’s homelessness problem, with San Francisco a prime example.
“A single, small bathroom should not cost $1.7 million,” Erin Mellon, the governor’s communications director, wrote in a statement. “The state will hold funding until San Francisco delivers a plan to use this public money more efficiently. If they cannot, we will go back to the legislature to revoke this appropriation.”
Six years later, neither the mandate nor the money has proved to be nearly enough. In 2016, Los Angeles had about 28,000 homeless residents, of whom around 21,000 were unsheltered (that is, living on the street). The current count is closer to 42,000 homeless residents, with 28,000 unsheltered. Prop HHH has built units, but slowly, and at eye-popping cost. The city says that 3,357 units have been built, and the most recent audit found the average cost was $596,846 for units under construction — more than the median sale price for a home in Denver. Some units under construction have cost more than $700,000 to build.
I hope this reminds all of you that each of us has the power to make somebody else’s day a little better. I’m going to issue all of you the challenge I gave in my newsletter this month because I hope each of you spread some positivity before the end of the year:
I see so many people post on social media, “I wish I could help,” or, “It’s too bad I’m just an average person.” Let’s analyze that. Do you really wish? Because you can make that wish come true today. And don’t beat yourself up for being ”average”, or “normal” or a “nobody.” We all have something to offer. You might just be “average” but let me tell you something, a marathon isn’t run in one shot. You take the first step, then the second step, and then about 55,000 more steps. You can take the first step to help someone else today.
Do you have an extra blanket at home you can give someone today? An old jacket you aren’t using? A few dollars for a meal? 15 minutes for a human conversation? We all have something to offer. You don’t have to count on city officials. You can stop wishing you can help and start helping right now. You have power. You can be useful in some way, no matter what it is.
Merry Christmas, everybody. Go make someone smile today, don’t wait!
It should never have gotten this bad. Homelessness is solvable. Its primary driver is housing unaffordability (not a sudden recent increase in mental illness or substance use disorder, despite claims to the contrary), and so the solution has always been more housing, particularly for those who don’t currently have it. But California has allowed homelessness to metastasize over the past few decades. As the humanitarian crisis has gotten worse, it has become a political crisis. Homelessness is one of the major themes in this year’s campaign to recall Gov. Gavin Newsom, and a growing number of commentators have cited it as evidence that the “California dream” is dying.
Because Bay Area cities have failed to produce enough supply to keep up with population increases, lower and middle-income residents now have to compete for housing with the super-wealthy, whose ability to outbid everyone else continually forces prices up. As a result, homes in Berkeley sold for about 19 percent above asking price on average in the first three months of this year, the highest citywide average in the nation.
From the comments: Nate
@Talbot The entire country’s population has boomed from 1970–up from 200MM to 330MM. Somehow other parts of the country have been able to keep up with the growth while California, one of the richest states in the courtly, can’t manage to build new housing. I’m an attorney who makes $350K a year, and I left the Bay Ara because felt like I couldn’t afford to live there anymore. It’s that bad. I would have gladly lived in a high rise condo if an affordable one were available, but local zoning laws didn’t allow them to be built. People in CA are stuck in the 1950’s mentality that density equals poverty. It’s as though they have never seen Europe or Manhattan.
I was visiting my son in LA about 3 weeks ago. The numbers of homeless people is my greatest takeaway from that trip. I’ve been to LA many times, but this was almost dystopian in breadth and scope. Whether it has anything to do with capitalism I’ll leave to other thinkers, but eyes don’t lie, and there is something radically wrong with a place where million dollar homes are 100 yards from homeless camps under almost every highway overpass.
Andy Bales, the CEO of the Union Rescue Mission, requested a security guard accompany himself and host Tonya Mosley during their interview. And as the interview started, they came across a person agitated by their presence.
Bales says this happens just about every day, especially during the pandemic. The lack of sidewalk space in front of the Union Rescue Mission demonstrates that Skid Row is “the worst it’s ever been,” he says.
“This whole street was completely clear. But now it’s rare that you can find a sidewalk that you can pass,” he says. “It’s packed with people devastated by homelessness.”
There are many contributors to the problem. The horrors of childhood trauma and poverty, mental illness and chronic drug abuse surely add to the likelihood that someone lives on the streets. But Nan Roman, president of the National Alliance to End Homelessness, says the primary cause of the crisis is simple: Housing has gotten way too scarce and expensive.
A few years ago, a team of economists at Zillow found that once cities cross a threshold where the typical resident must spend more than a third of their income on housing, homelessness begins to spike rapidly. When incomes don’t keep pace with the cost of rent, a cascade effect ripples through the housing market: High-income folks start renting places that middle-income folks used to rent, middle-income people start renting places that low-income folks used to rent, and low-income folks are left scrambling.
“It’s sort of a game of musical chairs,” Roman says. “And people who have a strike against them — because they have mental illness or a substance abuse disorder or a disability — are the least likely to get the chair.”
Homelessness wasn’t always this bad. “In the 1970s, there was an adequate supply of affordable units for every low-income household that needed one — and we really didn’t have homelessness,” Roman says.
Homeless service providers and advocates have mixed feelings about a new order from a federal judge that Los Angeles must provide shelter to all unhoused people living on Skid Row by the fall.
In a rare move, Judge David Carter said LA’s decades of bad policy decisions have contributed to a disaster that can only be solved by forcing the city’s hand. But other legal experts see the order as getting the diagnosis right, but the remedy wrong.
Here & Now‘s Tonya Mosley talks about the nuances with Andy Bales, CEO of Union Rescue Mission, and Eric Tars, legal director for the National Homelessness Law Center.
Homeless advocates, including the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless and Denver Homeless Out Loud, who are bringing water and coronavirus tests to the camps, say it’s never been more obvious that Colorado needs better long-term solutions, mainly affordable housing. Sweeping the camps and booting people without homes out of downtown, advocates say, only pushes them to the underpasses, along the river paths and out to the suburbs.
People have always camped outside at night in Denver, but many of them spent their days at the public library or recreation centers or day shelters — places that have closed during the pandemic. Now, more people who are homeless set up camp and stay put all day.
DENVER — Anyone who drives by the Capitol can see a community in crisis.
For months, tents have filled the grounds of Lincoln Park just east of the building.
“The fact that we have a moment now where our mass homelessness is visible means that we have a moment to face reality and start working on real solutions which means housing,” said Terese Howard, an activist with Denver Homeless Out Loud.
“Corona Virus (COVID-19) puts people experiencing homelessness especially at-risk. At Colorado Coalition for the Homeless, our Stout Street Health Center staff are working diligently to provide services to our most vulnerable population during this crisis. We are in need of supplies for our staff and patients. Thank you for being a part of this effort! Shipping address: 2130 Stout St Denver, CO 80205 (Stout Street Health Center)”
Here’s their Amazon wishlist if you want to help out: Amazon