By Ethan L. ’25
I live in Silicon Valley, one of the world’s preeminent hubs for technology. Today, it is home to the headquarters of many of the world’s largest high-tech corporations, including more than thirty businesses in the Fortune 1000, including Apple, Google, and Meta (Facebook), as well as thousands of promising startups. Growing up, I always thought of my hometown in the Bay Area as privileged. Little did I know, however, that economic inequality spreading throughout the United States was surfacing right in my neighborhood. Every day on my way to school, I would pass dozens of trailers parked along the side of the road. I didn’t think much of it at first until I recently discovered that people inhabited them without homes. I had seen homelessness before; whenever my family and I visited San Francisco, New York, and other bigger US cities, I would see many unhoused people living along the streets. But I never thought the issue could be so close to home.
I discovered that about 500,000 people do not have a roof to live under in the United States, around one-third of which live in California, at a rate of 4.4 people experiencing homelessness for every 1,000 residents. So, what causes this problem, and why isn’t it improving? The primary cause behind the dramatic rise is the high cost of housing. The median home price in the county has surpassed $500,000, and the median monthly rent is now $2,774, up more than 5% from last year.
However, housing isn’t the only issue. People with mental health problems and disorders are more susceptible to three key factors that can lead to homelessness: poverty, disaffiliation, and personal vulnerability. Certain disorders limit individuals’ ability to sustain employment, and as a result, they have very little income. Substance abuse and the Opioid Crisis are also huge factors in the spreading disease of homelessness. In a recent interview, San Francisco Mayor London Breed addressed the mental illness and substance abuse issues in the city, mentioning how unhoused people need all the support they can get because it doesn’t matter how much money is put into the issue; if unhoused people are not in the condition to cooperate or need medical attention, they need aid first. If I had the honor of someday being a member of Congress, I would make it my priority and duty to help the unhoused. The solution to this complex problem involves solving the housing, mental health, and substance abuse crises in California. Ultimately, its success would require participation from both sides of the political aisle and compassion from those of us who have a place to call home.
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