It takes one walk through the Civic Center BART station to realize that homelessness is one of the most visible problems in our city. But this crisis can be solved, and there is a way to help. If you want to be a force of change in fighting this epidemic, vote “yes” on Proposition C, a local ballot measure that will be up for vote this November.
The full text of Proposition C establishes a 0.5 percent gross receipts tax on SF businesses earning more than $50 million annually. This revenue is predicted to increase the budget for homelessness services from $382 million to $682 million annually. This money would be put towards building affordable housing, rental assistance programs and other services like food, clothing, medical services and outreach.
Despite the potential benefits, there are concerns regarding Prop C. One is that an increase in business taxes would drive jobs out of the city. Another is that our city already spends way too much on homelessness, and Prop C would make the homelessness budget disproportionately high compared to the SFMTA and SFPD budgets. One post from the official “No on C” Twitter claimed that, “Prop C will increase spending on homeless services from $383 million every year to $683 million every year — forever. That’s more than we spend on Muni, all parks and all libraries combined.”
This claim is false. The SFMTA, the agency that runs Muni buses and all other city-owned public transportation, alone has a budget of $1.1 billion. The $383 million currently spent on homelessness is only 3 percent of the $11 billion San Francisco city budget. Furthermore, a report published by the San Francisco Offices of the Controller and Economic Analysis concluded that the negative impact on GDP and job growth in the city would be minimal if Prop C passed — roughly a 1 percent GDP and job growth decrease over a period of 10 years.
As an intern with the Coalition on Homelessness, a Tenderloin-based advocacy group, I have heard the stories of many people who are, or have been, homeless. This population can’t be reduced to what one sees on the streets.
Many have families and jobs and are busy trying to find housing, according to the 2017 San Francisco Homeless Count Survey. The homeless don’t deserve the stigma of being helpless and crazy, or the assumption that many of them are outsiders. According to the 2017 survey, 69 percent of San Francisco’s homeless are former residents. This crisis is the result of factors within our city, not homeless people flocking to San Francisco.
While it is great that businesses are helping improve San Francisco’s economy, they have contributed to the homelessness crisis, and they have a responsibility to help ameliorate it. Vote “yes” on C and help combat homelessness in San Francisco.