The West Coast

Silicon Valley - the southern portion of the San Francisco Bay Area - is justifiably celebrated as the heart Of America’s innovation, with leading multinational firms such as Apple, Google and Facebook headquartered at its centre. Ranking in the top five most expensive areas to purchase a home in the United States of Americaxcvii, uniquely, this is a city where the most abundant wealth lives comfortably alongside disease, neglect and squalor. Whilst researching here, I routinely encountered dishevelled, spirit-broken people wheeling trolley-loads of possessions – all their worldly goods - down the sidewalk each day.

Sleeping outdoors in San Francisco

With one of the country’s highest rates of homelessness - the biennial ‘Point-in-Time’ count identified there were 4,063 homeless individuals in San Jose in January 2015xcviii. Santa Clara County commissioned an unprecedented breakdown of its public expenditures on the 104,000 people who had been homeless in the county over a sixyear period. This revealed that the region’s 2,800 most persistently homeless people used an average of $83,000 in public services a year, far exceeding the cost of simply providing them with a permanent, supportive homexcix.

During my first day in San Jose, I attended an interactive governmental-hosted housing conference entitled ‘Housing 2.0: Re-Imagining the Housing System in Silicon Valley’c. This platform brought a network of professionals, academics, volunteers, founders, religious leaders and governmental figures, to showcase and debate topics such as the ‘tiny home’ movement, land ownership inequality, gentrification and the incredible number of street homeless residing in Silicon Valley.

Encouraging free-dialogue, ‘Housing 2.0’ asked the question ‘How can we leverage such an incredible culture of enterprise and apply it to solving the housing crisis?’. Mr Lee Ricardo, Mayor of San Jose, made his intentions for response to the increasingly critical situation clear:

We need innovation and collaboration to address homelessness and affordable housing issues’.

In promoting a culture of change, the significance of ‘Housing 2.0’ wasn’t that it asked how to disrupt the current housing and homelessness system. Most importantly, it acknowledged that traditional approaches are no longer effective in the current climate and total radicalisation – with the effort and commitment of an entire community - is required.

Housing 2.0: uniting all with the power to serve - (L) Pastor Scott Wagers and (R) Mayor Sam Liccardo

Citations

xcvii. https://www.zerohedge.com/news/2016-03-12/north-americas-most-expensive-housing-markets (Web version unavailable)
xcviii. https://www.sanjoseca.gov/DocumentCenter/View/44727 (Web version unavailable)
xcix. https://www.motherjones.com/politics/2015/05/santa-clara-silicon-valley-homelessness
c. https://challengeinequality.luskin.ucla.edu/event/housing-2-0-reimagining-housing-system-silicon-valley/

Copyright © by Amy.F.Varle, January 2018.
The moral right of the author has been asserted.

The views and opinions expressed in this report and its content are those of the author and not of the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust, which has no responsibility or liability for any part of the report.

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When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
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