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Tiny homes and floating apartments: California mayors' reply to the growing homeless problem
Ideas are plentiful; execution is another story.
- As the homeless population soars in California, city mayors are contemplating a variety of initiatives to combat the problem.
- San Francisco mayor London Breed has published the most extensive list of solutions, including supportive housing, eviction prevention, and rental subsidies.
- Other mayors are creating tiny home villages and even considering a floating apartment complex in the San Francisco Bay.
In November 2018, mayors from Los Angeles, Oakland, Sacramento, and San Diego gathered in downtown Sacramento to discuss California's growing homeless problem. In an event sponsored by CALmatters and local public radio stations, the four mayors pleaded to then-governor-elect Gavin Newsom to provide more resources to combat the surge of California residents living on city streets.
Since then it's only gotten worse. Last month it was announced that the state's homeless population had grown 16 percent from 2018. This has been met by public outcries for officials to do more, yet what that more is remains ambiguous. In Los Angeles, where I live, it often amounts to residents crying out for the removal of the numerous tent cities under highways and in public parks. "Get them out" does not result in effective legislation.
In response, California mayors are proposing a variety of solutions. What actually gets initiated remains to be seen — in recent years, Angelenos have approved two tax hikes to combat homeless while last year the city spent over $600 million on the issue. Still, the numbers of homeless people rise.
Below are what some mayors are aiming to do. Residents need to remain vigilant in holding their leaders accountable on this issue.
Mayor Don Sedgwick Discusses California's Homeless Crisis On Fox Business
Laguna Hills mayor Don Sedgwick points to a growing consensus when contemplating the homeless problem: the rent is too damn high (along with the cost of buying homes, property taxes, and general cost of living). Homeless numbers in Orange County do not match Los Angeles County, but there's an even bigger increase in his city: it's bumped up 43 percent in 2019.
In a strange encounter on FOX Business, Sedgwick's answer to the homeless issue is to better train high school students for higher degrees and vocational fields. When pushed specifically about the problem, the "proven conservative" blamed liberal policies before offering to help the homeless "with a hand up and not just a handout."
While that reply amounts to not much at all, Sedgwick is accurate when claiming that the legalization of recreational marijuana shifted the illegal drug business to methamphetamines — an issue plaguing Skid Row as well. An observation without a solution is impotent; we'll have to see what policies Sedgwick actually enacts. At the moment, he seems more concerned with his 2020 congressional run against Katie Porter than addressing homelessness.
Mayor Garcetti Asks Sacramento and D.C. for Help With LA's Homeless Crisis | NBCLA
The fact that Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti had to take time out to reply to the notion that the homeless problem began "two years ago" is ridiculous, but instead of punching back, Garcetti invited the president to walk Skid Row to discuss real solutions. One of them, recently re-offered by California Representative Maxine Waters, — the Ending Homelessness Act of 2017 — focuses on affordable housing through rental assistance, increasing homeless services, and the construction of low-rent housing throughout the country.
Though Garcetti didn't create the problem, his administration has not performed well. That said, he did take full responsibility for this fact, adding that he plans on adding services throughout the city, including bathrooms, showers, storage units, sanitation teams, even tiny homes. While a promise to build more facilities is also on the table, some are skeptical — not to mention critical — of more construction in a city that already boasts 50,000 vacant homes.
In a bit of good news, more than 20,000 homeless individuals were helped into residences in 2018. However, this silver lining also makes the citywide increase in overall numbers even more startling. If any city is proof of income disparity — craft cocktail bars and boutique hotels are slowly creeping into Skid Row, making a mass cleaning out inevitable — look no further than Los Angeles.
London Breed, mayor of San Francisco, speaks during a San Francisco Pride event attended by Senator Kamala Harris, a Democrat from California and 2020 presidential candidate, not pictured, in San Francisco, California, U.S., on Sunday, June 30, 2019.
Photo by David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images
San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer approved an $11 million plan to erect tents and trailers, as well as other facilities, throughout his city. He's using the 2017 construction of a homeless shelter following a Hepatitis A outbreak as proof. While most of California experienced a massive rise since 2018, San Diego saw its homeless population drop by 6 percent, a statistic Faulconer credits to the shelter program.
In March, San Francisco Mayor London Breed published a longform article about her city's "bold approach" to homelessness. After listing facts about the overall problem, she notes that San Francisco spends roughly $250 million every year to supportive housing, eviction prevention, and rental subsidies. Like Los Angeles, the tech boom has made her city practical impossible to afford.
Breed's plan focuses on keeping people housed, in part by building 5,000 more units per year, as well as through a proposed commercial tent tax (it was defeated in June). Breed's extensive plan also includes investments in affordable housing stock, the expansion of the city's Good Samaritan rent law, the improvement of mental health and addiction treatment centers, and the creation of more stable housing opportunities.
Her plan, by far the most thorough of any California mayor, has not been met with open arms by all residents, some of whom want to see quicker action — preferably, not in their backyard. The continual problem of homelessness in the public square: build it, just not here. Considering Breed grew up in San Francisco's public housing projects, hopefully her will proves stronger than that.
Michael Tubbs, Mayor of Stockton, California, visits the SiriusXM Studios on July 26, 2018 in New York City.
Photo credit: Matthew Eisman / Getty Images
Silicon Valley's largest city has seen its homeless population rise by 42 percent over the last two years. Mayor Sam Liccardo has been proactive, knowing that his district houses some of the most profitable companies on the planet — a place where no one should be in need. Starcity plans on becoming the largest co-living apartment complex in the world, featuring (relatively) affordable rents; Liccardo's administration has also secured permits for two tiny home villages.
Continuing to dream up inventive solutions, Liccardo is now promoting a floating apartment complex. Not only would this push back sea level rise, which could flood the entire San Francisco Bay region, but it could make for a unique solution for some of San Jose's 4,300 homeless residents.
Garcetti and Liccardo might fancy small homes, but Stockton mayor Michael Tubbs prefers tiny trailers. The 28-year-old has already launched a pilot universal basic income program in his city. While his city's homeless only numbers 900, his goal is to build 300 tiny trailer units in order to house them. Of all the mayors listed, Tubbs seems most inclined to avoid platitudes and put plans into action, which is exactly the attitude needed to combat this growing problem.
Innovation in manufacturing has crawled since the 1950s. That's about to speed up.
Health officials in China reported that a man was infected with bubonic plague, the infectious disease that caused the Black Death.
- The case was reported in the city of Bayannur, which has issued a level-three plague prevention warning.
- Modern antibiotics can effectively treat bubonic plague, which spreads mainly by fleas.
- Chinese health officials are also monitoring a newly discovered type of swine flu that has the potential to develop into a pandemic virus.
Bacteria under microscope
needpix.com<p>Today, bubonic plague can be treated effectively with antibiotics.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Unlike in the 14th century, we now have an understanding of how this disease is transmitted," Dr. Shanthi Kappagoda, an infectious disease physician at Stanford Health Care, told <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health-news/seriously-dont-worry-about-the-plague#Heres-how-the-plague-spreads" target="_blank">Healthline</a>. "We know how to prevent it — avoid handling sick or dead animals in areas where there is transmission. We are also able to treat patients who are infected with effective antibiotics, and can give antibiotics to people who may have been exposed to the bacteria [and] prevent them [from] getting sick."</p>
This plague patient is displaying a swollen, ruptured inguinal lymph node, or buboe.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention<p>Still, hundreds of people develop bubonic plague every year. In the U.S., a handful of cases occur annually, particularly in New Mexico, Arizona and Colorado, <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/plague/faq/index.html" target="_blank">where habitats allow the bacteria to spread more easily among wild rodent populations</a>. But these cases are very rare, mainly because you need to be in close contact with rodents in order to get infected. And though plague can spread from human to human, this <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health-news/seriously-dont-worry-about-the-plague#Heres-how-the-plague-spreads" target="_blank">only occurs with pneumonic plague</a>, and transmission is also rare.</p>
A new swine flu in China<p>Last week, researchers in China also reported another public health concern: a new virus that has "all the essential hallmarks" of a pandemic virus.<br></p><p>In a paper published in the <a href="https://www.pnas.org/content/early/2020/06/23/1921186117" target="_blank">Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences</a>, researchers say the virus was discovered in pigs in China, and it descended from the H1N1 virus, commonly called "swine flu." That virus was able to transmit from human to human, and it killed an estimated 151,700 to 575,400 people worldwide from 2009 to 2010, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.</p>There's no evidence showing that the new virus can spread from person to person. But the researchers did find that 10 percent of swine workers had been infected by the virus, called G4 reassortant EA H1N1. This level of infectivity raises concerns, because it "greatly enhances the opportunity for virus adaptation in humans and raises concerns for the possible generation of pandemic viruses," the researchers wrote.
So far, 30 student teams have entered the Indy Autonomous Challenge, scheduled for October 2021.
- The Indy Autonomous Challenge will task student teams with developing self-driving software for race cars.
- The competition requires cars to complete 20 laps within 25 minutes, meaning cars would need to average about 110 mph.
- The organizers say they hope to advance the field of driverless cars and "inspire the next generation of STEM talent."
Indy Autonomous Challenge<p>Completing the race in 25 minutes means the cars will need to average about 110 miles per hour. So, while the race may end up being a bit slower than a typical Indy 500 competition, in which winners average speeds of over 160 mph, it's still set to be the fastest autonomous race featuring full-size cars.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"There is no human redundancy there," Matt Peak, managing director for Energy Systems Network, a nonprofit that develops technology for the automation and energy sectors, told the <a href="https://www.post-gazette.com/business/tech-news/2020/06/01/Indy-Autonomous-Challenge-Indy-500-Indianapolis-Motor-Speedway-Ansys-Aptiv-self-driving-cars/stories/202005280137" target="_blank">Pittsburgh Post-Gazette</a>. "Either your car makes this happen or smash into the wall you go."</p>
Illustration of the Indy Autonomous Challenge
Indy Autonomous Challenge<p>The Indy Autonomous Challenge <a href="https://www.indyautonomouschallenge.com/rules" target="_blank">describes</a> itself as a "past-the-post" competition, which "refers to a binary, objective, measurable performance rather than a subjective evaluation, judgement, or recognition."</p><p>This competition design was inspired by the 2004 DARPA Grand Challenge, which tasked teams with developing driverless cars and sending them along a 150-mile route in Southern California for a chance to win $1 million. But that prize went unclaimed, because within a few hours after starting, all the vehicles had suffered some kind of critical failure.</p>
Indianapolis Motor Speedway
Indy Autonomous Challenge<p>One factor that could prevent a similar outcome in the upcoming race is the ability to test-run cars on a virtual racetrack. The simulation software company Ansys Inc. has already developed a model of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on which teams will test their algorithms as part of a series of qualifying rounds.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"We can create, with physics, multiple real-life scenarios that are reflective of the real world," Ansys President Ajei Gopal told <a href="https://www.wsj.com/articles/autonomous-vehicles-to-race-at-indianapolis-motor-speedway-11595237401?mod=e2tw" target="_blank">The Wall Street Journal</a>. "We can use that to train the AI, so it starts to come up to speed."</p><p>Still, the race could reveal that self-driving cars aren't quite ready to race at speeds of over 110 mph. After all, regular self-driving cars already face enough logistical and technical roadblocks, including <a href="https://www.bbc.com/news/technology-53349313#:~:text=Tesla%20will%20be%20able%20to,no%20driver%20input%2C%20he%20said." target="_blank">crumbling infrastructure, communication issues</a> and the <a href="https://bigthink.com/paul-ratner/would-you-ride-in-a-car-thats-programmed-to-kill-you" target="_self">fateful moral decisions driverless cars will have to make in split seconds</a>.</p>But the Indy Autonomous Challenge <a href="https://static1.squarespace.com/static/5da73021d0636f4ec706fa0a/t/5dc0680c41954d4ef41ec2b2/1572890638793/Indy+Autonomous+Challenge+Ruleset+-+v5NOV2019+%282%29.pdf" target="_blank">says</a> its main goal is to advance the industry, by challenging "students around the world to imagine, invent, and prove a new generation of automated vehicle (AV) software and inspire the next generation of STEM talent."
A new Harvard study finds that the language you use affects patient outcome.
- A study at Harvard's McLean Hospital claims that using the language of chemical imbalances worsens patient outcomes.
- Though psychiatry has largely abandoned DSM categories, professor Joseph E Davis writes that the field continues to strive for a "brain-based diagnostic system."
- Chemical explanations of mental health appear to benefit pharmaceutical companies far more than patients.
Challenging the Chemical Imbalance Theory of Mental Disorders: Robert Whitaker, Journalist<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="41699c8c2cb2aee9271a36646e0bee7d"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/-8BDC7i8Yyw?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>This is a far cry from Howard Rusk's 1947 NY Times editorial calling for mental healt</p><p>h disorders to be treated similarly to physical disease (such as diabetes and cancer). This mindset—not attributable to Rusk alone; he was merely relaying the psychiatric currency of the time—has dominated the field for decades: mental anguish is a genetic and/or chemical-deficiency disorder that must be treated pharmacologically.</p><p>Even as psychiatry untethered from DSM categories, the field still used chemistry to validate its existence. Psychotherapy, arguably the most efficient means for managing much of our anxiety and depression, is time- and labor-intensive. Counseling requires an empathetic and wizened ear to guide the patient to do the work. Ingesting a pill to do that work for you is more seductive, and easier. As Davis writes, even though the industry abandoned the DSM, it continues to strive for a "brain-based diagnostic system." </p><p>That language has infiltrated public consciousness. The team at McLean surveyed 279 patients seeking acute treatment for depression. As they note, the causes of psychological distress have constantly shifted over the millennia: humoral imbalance in the ancient world; spiritual possession in medieval times; early childhood experiences around the time of Freud; maladaptive thought patterns dominant in the latter half of last century. While the team found that psychosocial explanations remain popular, biogenetic explanations (such as the chemical imbalance theory) are becoming more prominent. </p><p>Interestingly, the 80 people Davis interviewed for his book predominantly relied on biogenetic explanations. Instead of doctors diagnosing patients, as you might expect, they increasingly serve to confirm what patients come in suspecting. Patients arrive at medical offices confident in their self-diagnoses. They believe a pill is the best course of treatment, largely because they saw an advertisement or listened to a friend. Doctors too often oblige without further curiosity as to the reasons for their distress. </p>
Image: Illustration Forest / Shutterstock<p>While medicalizing mental health softens the stigma of depression—if a disorder is inheritable, it was never really your fault—it also disempowers the patient. The team at McLean writes,</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"More recent studies indicate that participants who are told that their depression is caused by a chemical imbalance or genetic abnormality expect to have depression for a longer period, report more depressive symptoms, and feel they have less control over their negative emotions."</p><p>Davis points out the language used by direct-to-consumer advertising prevalent in America. Doctors, media, and advertising agencies converge around common messages, such as everyday blues is a "real medical condition," everyone is susceptible to clinical depression, and drugs correct underlying somatic conditions that you never consciously control. He continues,</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Your inner life and evaluative stance are of marginal, if any, relevance; counseling or psychotherapy aimed at self-insight would serve little purpose." </p><p>The McLean team discovered a similar phenomenon: patients expect little from psychotherapy and a lot from pills. When depression is treated as the result of an internal and immutable essence instead of environmental conditions, behavioral changes are not expected to make much difference. Chemistry rules the popular imagination.</p>