Here’s the email I sent. Haven’t gotten a response yet.
Hi, Sabeen, I am a journalist in San Francisco who just launched a new startup online daily newspaper, 48hills.org. I read your comments on Gregory Gopman and your offer to help.
I have lived in San Francisco for more than 30 years. I have been a part of political movements for longer than that. I have studied housing and homeless issues for much of my adult life. And I can tell you:
There is no tech solution.
The homeless problem exists for two reasons:
1. There is no longer any low-cost housing that people on public assistance can afford.
2. The government — that is, us, through collective action — has failed to make it a priority to fund low-cost housing with public money.
In fact, you can trace the rise in homelessness in America to the early 1980s, when Ronald Reagan cut taxes on the wealthy and at the same time effectively ended federal support for urban housing. Let the rich keep their money, instead of spending it on housing for the poor. That’s a gross simplification, but it’s roughly accurate.
Doesn’t help that federal and state support for mental-health treatment has been cut to the bone. Check out the reduction in critical beds in the mental health unit as SF General.
What I think you, as part of the tech community, can really do is work to encourage your peers to accept that some problems can only be solved by collective (that is, public-sector) action, and that the libertarian ideal so popular in the tech world is, in fact, the root cause of a lot of the social problems we now complain about.
The tax breaks Twitter got would fund a tremendous amount of affordable housing for the very people who are out on the streets.
Volunteer work is great. But what the tech community needs to do is stop fighting for tax breaks, accept that these problems require government solutions, and start working with progressives to make sure that the wealthy — yes, that’s you folks who got rich off stock options — contribute your fair share.
Thanks for listening. I look forward to your response.