Housing the Homeless in San Francisco Graphic

Housing the Homeless

Tech's Big Four Erase Homelessness // Satire Essay

Jeremy Joven Editor in Chief

by Jeremy Joven
Published March 2014 | The Problematic Issue

Headquartered on the troubled Market Street in San Francisco the recently-made-public Twitter—lured to stay in the city by tax breaks from city government—spearheaded a campaign to erase homelessness in a city with the most visible homeless population in the nation.

“We really took it on as our responsibility to help our community. It’s time for us to pay it forward. We know the powers that be are working hard to help, but surely, as a good neighbor we felt we can show the people of San Francisco that we are invested in our city and we want to do much more than tweet for nonprofits,” said a spokesperson for the tech giant.

Executives from Silicon Valley’s elite, Facebook, Apple, and Google have joined forces with Twitter in this unprecedented philanthropic effort to make a world of difference. “We are now working on plans to build over 6,000 units to house a majority of the city’s homeless with programs attached to help provide them opportunities to become part of society by ways of education, job placement programs, day care, psychiatric care, and rehabilitation. It’s a small step toward a larger goal, and we hope to inspire other startups to join in,” a spokesperson said.

With this generosity, San Francisco is on its way to erase the problem of homelessness, thanks to a valiant effort put forth by the big four tech companies in conjunction with city supervisors’ plans to fund a multi-million-dollar nonprofit project to end homelessness.

The program details are now surfacing, as top tech executives in the Bay Area held a summit this winter to extend their participation in the landscape of San Francisco. Home to many of the big four’s employees, SF and its tech residents have voiced their strong will to help the city and all its inhabitants succeed during the unprecedented economic growth that’s causing displacement across the metropolis. This comes after the announcement that Google plans to pay for low-income youth’s Muni passes, in a cascade of goodwill from the company.

“Very exciting times are ahead. We’ve just finished the architectural plans for the building right here on Market Street, with over 6,000 units to be made available to those who want the help. We will have a number of programs within the community to not only provide housing, but also cultivate a long-term solution to lift the homeless from the hardships they face and provide them all the necessary help they need from food, shelter, jobs and treatment—all made possible by a great number of volunteers from all over the Bay Area. Each and every one of our employees who can extend a helping hand by volunteering or by cash donations made this possible. This April, we are holding a fundraising event with a walkathon, where individuals can help raise much-needed funding to ensure the success of our combined efforts for the future,” a spokesperson from the nonprofit shared. This infusion of tech-funded resources to jump-start the project is a first for the nation, a move hailed by President Obama as a true example of the American spirit.

The nonprofit TechOutreach partnered with a number of San Francisco organizations with experience in homelessness outreach to spearhead this large-scale project with enough funding to complete the project by 2016. “I am really jazzed about the prospect of this community effort led by the tech industry. I know it seems that this sounds like a giant PR stunt, but even if it is … At least it will actually make thousands of lives better, and we will all reap the rewards,” said one Larkin Street Youth Services volunteer. Aside from the housing project in the plans, TechOutreach will also aid a number of organizations like Community Housing Partnership, Abode Services, TL Neighborhood Development Corp., and SHELTER Inc., with additional aid through fund raisers and promotion to make sure no one gets overlooked.

Photo by Roger Elliot of homelessPhoto by Roger Elliot


“I can’t believe I’m going to have a little home of my own soon. I am skeptical about the whole idea, because I’ve never heard of such a thing, but you know what they say: You can’t bite the hand that feeds you. I’ve been waiting for government help, but nothing has been available for three years,” says Bravo, a homeless veteran who lives along Market. The building plans are sure to be approved by the City Planning Department and are set to break ground right in the heart of mid-Market, just blocks away from Twitter HQ. According to preliminary plans, there will be urban farming within the grounds, furnished apartments for those in need, a library, a health center, and more amenities that one would expect from a luxury apartment complex. “I think it’s awesome that they are building it right here on Market. We want to show the world that we as a city are proud of the progress our people can make.”


Though a few organizers worry about the long-term implications of the program and how it may grow the homeless population seeking help in San Francisco, TechOutreach believes that this is just the beginning, and many adjustments will have to be done accordingly. “We hope to learn from this. We know it won’t be perfect, and there will be a lot of hurdles. … But you must remember, this is San Francisco. Everyone has a bright idea, and together we can make anything happen,” said the TechOutreach’s executive director. “Can you imagine a few years from now, a homeless youth can learn to code and get a job as an engineer with one of the tech companies? He moves up, leaves the building for another person to move in, and he continues his service to TechOutreach by paying it forward and so on. It’s a brave new world.”

Photo by Jeremy Joven of Market Street San FranciscoPhoto by Jeremy Joven

The people of San Francisco are excited—and so are the Department of Public Health and City Hall—to see the new efforts. Hand in hand with TechOutreach, local legislators have pledged to continue working hard on their plans for supportive housing. “This is a glorious time for the city of San Francisco. We have initiatives at City Hall currently addressing these issues, and we are thrilled to partner with TechOutreach on the plans. We have a lot of work to do: strengthening our public health system, our schools, and our neighborhoods to ensure that every citizen of SF gets a fair chance to live a fulfilling life here.” The city is due to save thousands of dollars from this bold move, as proven by a similar program in Utah, where housing homeless veterans has dramatically lowered the cost of public health care and emergency allocations to the homeless population.

By this time a couple of years from now, the streets will be a friendlier place, with happy, smiling people everywhere. Less litter, less crime, and a stronger community will have developed in the most troubled parts of the city.

Unfortunately, this is all just a pipe dream written by a columnist with lofty hopes for a better society.

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