In Not-So-Brilliant Move, San Francisco Spends Over $60,000 Per Homeless Tent

An aerial view of San Francisco’s first temporary sanctioned tent encampment for the homeless in San Francisco, Calif., on May 18, 2020. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

July 2, 2021 via The Epoch Times

San Francisco supervisors are all shook up! They just learned that they are spending about $61,000 per year to put a tent over a homeless person’s head, and they are not going to be reimbursed by the federal government (FEMA) for their foolish experiment because the tent encampments are considered group shelters.

The minds that came up with the idea of these tent villages, also called “Safe Sleeping Villages,” are now in a quandary, because even the dimmest of their supporters are now beginning to realize that this is just another “San Francisco First” experiment with other people’s lives that isn’t quite working out the way the “I know what is best for you” elites have planned.

San Francisco has been operating selected tent encampments at six different locations in the city. At present, the camps, or so-called Safe Sleeping Villages, are accommodating about 300 homeless individuals in some 260 tents, complete with electricity, showers, toilets, three meals a day, and 24-hour security. In some locations, the land they sit on is no longer on the public tax rolls.

Like most people, I do appreciate our electeds’ intent, however misguided, to do something for the less fortunate among us. There is no question that we must as a society look out for those who have fallen on bad times and try to help out in a way that truly does produce results in alleviating the plight of the homeless.

What is bothersome about the “sleeping villages” approach is the fact that it does very little to address the root causes of homelessness, and it is being utilized as an alternative for those who neither want nor value a permanent roof over their heads.

Bear in mind that the purpose of providing these safe sleeping villages was sold to the taxpaying public as a short-term temporary solution to get the homeless off the streets during the pandemic.

Also, it must be remembered that in addition to this tent program, the city is conducting its homeless hotel program, which is currently sheltering over 2,000 more homeless people in hotels and motels throughout the city. That program is costing about $21 million a month and is eligible for federal funding from FEMA.

Apparently that program is viewed as successful by its originators, as they don’t mind spending other people’s money (FEMA’s) as much as they do local resources.

I have made an effort to listen to many of the residents of these encampments, and their opinions are indeed varied. Many view them as a home away from home, a place to hang out without any responsibilities or personal investment, and thus with little or no incentive to better their lot.

I do not think the concept of these villages being temporary in nature has been made clear to some of the inhabitants I have talked with.

While some appreciate what the public is providing for them, many have expressed the sentiment that these facilities should be expanded and made permanent and on an as-needed basis when the weather is bad. Some preferred to be camping out in the street on their own, free of any restrictions or supervision.

The program is currently funded by city money, a 2018 business tax, and some state monies, and it is currently costing the city about $18.2 million to fund for this fiscal year. This works out to over $60,000 per tent per year.

The Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing is now seeking another $20 million to fund the program for the next fiscal year and into 2023. If this is approved, the city will be paying about two times the median cost of a one-bedroom apartment in San Francisco for people to sleep in a tent!

This tent program really only affects a very small fraction of the total homeless population in the city, as estimates of the number of homeless people in San Francisco range from 8,000 to 20,000, depending upon who is doing the counting and for what purpose.

Now here is where common sense, logic, and the old-fashioned desire to get your dollar’s worth, especially when trying to help other people, upsets the gravy train (at least for the nonprofits servicing the program). At the current rate of spending for these tent encampments, the program is not sustainable and will fold, and then no one will be helped.

If there are 8,000 homeless people on the streets as we are told, the cost to provide all of them with tents would be over $480 million per year. If there are 20,000 homeless people on the streets as some would tell us, then our cost to house all of them in Safe Sleeping Villages would exceed $1.2 billion per year!

I think most Americans have proven time and again that they don’t mind spending money to help those in need. They have demonstrated this over and over by their very generous past allotments for almost any program that would help alleviate the need and suffering of others.

What Americans really don’t like is being taken for granted, or worse yet, a fool. Programs like the above-described Safe Sleeping Villages that our current batch of elected leaders has approved are in reality simply foolish.

While providing a temporary emergency shelter during the COVID pandemic is understandable, to support the existence of these encampments on a prolonged or permanent basis only serves to encourage a lifestyle that is not sustainable, healthy, or preferable by either the users of the villages or the taxpayers in a modern civilized society. In the long run, programs like the aforementioned only serve to squander precious resources that could be used in a more productive and efficient manner.

It appears that the majority of our elected leaders are not good stewards of the public trust. We can and must do better if we wish to live in a society with acceptable standards for all. In our desire to help the homeless, we certainly can come up with programs that are more cost effective, constructive, and intelligent.

We must reevaluate whom we are choosing to elect to public office and more closely examine their credentials and their competence before entrusting them with positions of decision making.

Tony Hall is a former supervisor in the city and county of San Francisco.

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