Column: Could extreme heat be just what California needs to finally solve homelessness?
Californians in cities across the state have endured days of punishing heat, and many residents feel powerless to change the situation. Some say they’re looking for a radical solution that can help solve the crisis.
“It’d be a great thing if we actually had housing,” said resident Kelli E. Brown, 26, of Berkeley, who lives near an empty lot that serves as the city’s park. “There’s no question that we’re getting some of the right things, we just have to take better care of them.”
The state’s homelessness crisis is a complex one, involving many different causes, and has received much more attention from the news media than it deserves, experts say. While the number of homeless Californians is generally low, the problem is severe wherever they are — and it is getting worse.
The state’s long-term homelessness problem is a consequence of the housing crisis that has plagued the state for decades, said Stephen Brown, a senior research fellow at UC Berkeley’s Institute for Social Research. And the state’s cities are suffering too.
“The state has been grappling with this long-term homelessness issue for decades,” he said. “But the biggest impacts have been in the cities.”
In this way, California has become a testing ground for solutions to the homeless problem.
“You find yourself in a place like Berkeley, that is very similar to San Francisco or Los Angeles in the Bay Area,” said Dan Siegel, a professor of social work at UC Riverside. “There’s already some very aggressive policies around housing, but because there’s nothing like this, it’s hard to measure the impact of what we’re doing.”