San Francisco is a city of paradoxes. Walking around, you can see evidence of the booming tech scene and expensively-clad citizens, yet it also has a chronic homelessness problem. But the City by the Bay finally thinks it may have a solution by combining the needs of both the homeless and corporations: tax breaks for community projects.
With 6,436 homeless people and 3,401 living on its streets, according to the Human Services Agency, San Francisco has to be inventive. And that’s where this new initiative comes in. As more and more tech companies, (like Twitter) move to the area, San Francisco is hoping that its new “community benefit agreement” will encourage these businesses to stay and improve the city.
Through the initiative, tech companies will receive multi-million dollar tax breaks if they set up residence in a troubled neighborhood and invest a portion of those tax breaks into improving it.
While some remain skeptical about the amount of money that a company will actually put towards a neighborhood, this program offers unique possibilities for great change. For instance, many tech companies will set up micro-apartment communities for their employees; if created for homeless people, there’s the potential to drastically reduce the problem.
Salt Lake City is a model for this type of project. Ten years ago, the Utah city started a program to combat homelessness through these micro-apartments communities. Apartments were set up outside of troubled neighborhoods, and residents were quickly placed into them, removing them from the negative influences.
In each housing complex, on-site counseling was available. These counselors helped residents beat drug addictions, find jobs and diagnose and treat mental diseases. The result? Salt Lake City now only has about 400 homeless persons.
Although there are differences in cost of living and other factors between Salt Lake City and San Francisco, there is possibility for replication and improvement.
For Matt Minkevitch, who runs Road Home, the main nonprofit homeless agency in Utah, these houses serve as a stepping stone.
“The idea is, we don’t want people to just live in this shelter,” Minkevitch tells San Francisco Gate. “We want to make it as comfortable as possible, but we want them to move on to housing — on to better lives.”