Thursday, May 08, 2003
Some "Care Not Cash" background

In case you think the homeless problem in SF is exaggerated:

Can 'Care Not Cash' Help SF Homeless?

The word is out, nationwide -- if you're homeless, San Francisco is the place to come.

"I was in Nebraska, and I met some guys on freight trains," one man said. "They said, 'Hey, let's go to San Francisco. They give you a check.' I said, 'Why do they give you a check?' They said, 'Because you're homeless.' I said, 'I don't believe this.'"

An estimated 6000 homeless people in San Francisco have become the number one issue for many San Franciscans. Some people are so caught up in drugs or alcohol that even being sick on the street doesn't stop them from using. And it's fueled by your tax dollars.

Our hidden cameras captured numerous people using their monthly general assistance money, or GA, to buy drugs and alcohol. In San Francisco, the GA checks are over $300 in cash.

Dr. Pablo Stewart, head of psychiatry at the Haight Ashbury Free Clinic, has been treating homeless for years.

"Upward of 70% of the people are currently suffering from drug and alcohol abuse," Stewart said. "The government is acting as a co-dependant in the relationship, in that we're providing people the means to continue their use of drugs and alcohol."

So to end that co-dependant relationship, San Francisco Supervisor Gavin Newsom has put Proposition N on the ballot, called "Care Not Cash." It would cut welfare checks to $59 a month, but provide housing and services like drug treatment.

"I would argue, 'Continue to do what you've done to get what you've got,'" Newsom said. "I just hope that when people are at the ballot, they think about that. Do they want people to do something differently that's worked in every major city in the country?"

In fact, most Bay Area counties now pay for shelter instead of handing out large cash payments. Besides San Francisco, only Marin and Solano counties still give out money. When Alameda County switched from cash to vouchers, the number of homeless on GA dropped from 33% to 5% in just three years. [Ed. note: they probably crossed the bridge to SF]

But opponents like Supervisor Chris Daly say cutting back on welfare money will increase crime.

"I don't want to scare anybody, but if you're a heroin addict and you need a fix, and you don't have the money on you ... you're going to figure out some way of doing it," Daly said. [Ed. note: so let's use taxpayer dollars to fund their addiction, so that they don't attack said taxpayer for their fix. Ah, the liberal mindset!]

But Stewart disagrees.

"Drugs and alcohol cause the crime ... so I don't know [why] they say more crime will occur," he said. "I don't think that's going to happen."

It's a difficult problem for a tolerant city like San Francisco. Yet most would admit that 15 years of tolerance has done little but produce homeless encampments. So Proposition N is the next attempt at a fix.

"This is an absolute measure that will help the homeless," said Stewart. "I can guarantee that. To say that it's not, and for people to be against this, I really don't understand where they're coming from."

So after years of failed programs, it's now up to the city's voters to decide if the tough-love approach of Proposition N should be the next step.
[emphasis added]

And decide they did, by overwhelmingly approving of the measure. The voters have spoken, now it's time for the Board of Supervisors to carry out the will of the people.

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