In 2015, I took a crack at Solving Homelessness. Really! I was so fed up with the poor job San Francisco does that I thought the only way it would ever get better is if a smart outsider stepped in and fixed things. And of course, I always love a good challenge. So why not 🙂
What followed was a whirlwind into solving one of the most esoteric topics in the world today. And I’m pretty sure my team did an excellent job of finding the right answers. To this day, I believe there is a solution to homelessness and that solution is clearly outlined on A Better San Francisco’s blog for all to see. It’s actually not that complicated, the only thing holding us back from progress is the people currently in power who are scared of changing the current system for fear that things may get worse (or get better, since this would mean no more funding for homeless non-profits). You can read up on various solutions from
- Transition Centers — free housing, job training and community facilities based in the center of the city, which actually allow the city to profit off of helping the homeless
- The Regional Housing Solution — A regional take on homeless housing, which focuses on building life-long care center facilities in rural parts of the region where land is cheap and impoverished communities can receive economic stimulation by becoming care takers for those unable to care for themselves (the homeless).
- Shelter Tech — Installing WiFi into homeless shelters and giving out smartphones to impoverished members of the community. Currently we stick the homeless in shelters, which are more or less jails that they aren’t allowed to leave for 12 hours a day and provide no connection to the outside world or ability to make progress with ones lives.
- Homeless Town Hall events — Yearly town hall meetings with the community to discuss radical new solutions to homelessness which the city can try out.
My six month stint running A Better San Francisco taught me about PR, politics, homelessness, and community organizing. I wish I could say it was a fun ride, but there was nothing exciting about trying to change a city that doesn’t want to admit it has no clue what it’s doing. Even though you can read 100’s of news articles over the past 10 years about San Francisco having one of the worst homeless problems in the world, about the continuous failures of San Francisco politicians at finding any working solution and about rising crime and costs throughout the city in direct correlation with the homeless community. It’s sad. And worse, the lack of appreciate of the city and San Francisco media towards new ideas is sad. In the minds of those in power, we know what’s best and we’ll be damned if someone else is going to tell us how to do our job.
In the end, I felt we took A Better San Francisco as far as it can go until the city is ready to change. I don’t want to waste years of my life fighting a venemous battle with people who aren’t honest and are unable to see the reality of things in front of them. Many of the solutions ABSF put forward are still in motion and can very well become the backbone of homeless solutions used around the world. I’m proud of that. To this day I get emails from people around the world for advice on things like using Transition Centers to combat the growing refugee problem in Europe. I would not be surprised to see the solutions my team and I created be something the world uses for decades to come, similar to great ideas of people in the past who were before their time.
Maybe one day I’ll go back to the non-profit world. First though I’ve decided to do another startup and do something that makes me happy. Building non-profit solutions for a city that isn’t ready to try new things was not doing it for me.