I have lived in the Bay Area since I was born; living in both San Francisco and Menlo Park. Menlo Park is an amazing place to grow up, great schools and an even better education. I love my hometown, but I think that there is one huge problem staring us right in the eye: the gaping wealth gap in Silicon Valley has led to a huge homelessness problem. For my project, I decided to focus on the individual people themselves, and what their stories are. I also wanted to learn what the root of this problem is, and how I can best help.
These pie graphs break up homelessness in the Bay Area, and how most people end up on the streets. According to the figures, the number one cause of homelessness is either money issues or a lost job. This is because in the Bay Area especially, it is hard to get back on your feet after losing your job. The housing market issue steep, that without a steady income, you can fall into homelessness very quickly.
This figure breaks down homelessness even more, with more detailed statistics. 40% of homeless are between the ages of 41 and 60. This is because in the last few years, the housing market has continued to climb, with prices getting higher and higher. Middle-aged and older people who have been living here for a while find themselves getting kicked out of their houses and apartments to make room for young millennial who work for up-and-coming tech startups.
After seeing these statistics, I decided that I wanted to talk to some of the people currently living on the streets, so that I could better understand what they’re going through. I decided to go to University Ave in Palo Alto, a street lined with high end shops and homeless people. I approached more that 10 people, and of those people, 3 agreed to talk to me. Here are their stories.
How did you end up on the streets?
“I was making $10.50 an hour as a barista in New York City, and I was barely getting by, so I decided to move to DC. From DC I moved to Utah where I converted to Islam. From Utah I can here to the Bay Area, and I’ve been here since then. I’ve been here 34 weeks trying to make a hundred dollars, and I still haven’t met my goal.”
Whats it like living on the streets?
“On the streets, you have to make sacrifices. Either you eat, or you get a new pair of pants. Back in New York, I could buy a new wig and get my nails done every couple of weeks. But I’ve had this same wig for several months now. Everything is so expensive here.”
Why did you decide to move to the Bay Area?
“As terrible as it sounds, if people won’t be generous in rich neighborhood like Palo Alto, then they won’t anywhere. I honestly just need money.”
How did you end up on the streets?
“Now this is good, this is a lesson for you about addiction. Once you get an addiction people begin to think you’re crazy, and people that you were close with begin to push you aside.
What’s it like living on the streets?
“It’s better than living in jail.”
So what needs to be done? Well first off there needs to be more affordable housing. Second off, there need to be more programs that help to rehabilitate people after they lose their job or house. By doing this, we can help to stop the homelessness cycle.
So by now I bet you are wondering how you can help. Well there are a couple of ways.
- Donate money, clothes, furniture, or other needed items to a reputable organization such as LifeMoves
- Host a donation drive at your school or work, to collect clothes, money, or other needed items
I’ll leave you now with a great resource. The San Francisco Chronicle created this (https://projects.sfchronicle.com/sf-homeless/how-to-help/) great website with more resources on how you can help.