How did homelessness suddenly become such a hot issue across California? There are many reasons, few of which have anything to do with people who are homeless.
Those reasons—economic anxiety, budget surpluses, tax schemes, housing prices, prison reform, health care expansion, urban wealth and political opportunism—have combined to create today’s “homeless moment” in California.
For decades, combating homelessness has been a civic obsession in the San Francisco Bay Area, with its long tradition of progressive politics and generous homeless services. Now, that homeless hubbub has spread statewide. To the surprise of many at the state Capitol, a $2 billion bond to pay for housing for the mentally ill homeless—previously a backburner issue in tax-and-education-obsessed Sacramento—became a central focus of this month’s budget negotiations. And around the state, local law enforcement officials have stirred the pot by claiming that recent measures to reduce the California prison population have exacerbated the homeless problem.