GREAT DIE-OFF: Becky Incel, San Francisco Resident & Former Community Activist for the Homeless
Excerpt from "COVIDsteria: An Oral History of America's Great Reset" - see https://covidsteria.substack.com/p/covidsteria-table-of-contents
Much of San Francisco got depopulated during the Great Die-Off that hit the local tech community hard and led to the extinction of the homeless population. However, and as with New York City, the Great Die-Off has proven to be a blessing in disguise. Asians and Latinos now make up nearly the entire population of the city - now one of the cleanest and most affordable cities in America.
I caught up with Becky Incel, a San Francisco native and former community activist for the homeless, over fish and chips at Fisherman's Wharf where parking and food are now affordable for the average person. I wanted to talk with her about how the campaign to vaccinate the city's homeless led to their extinction...
I am a sixth-generation proud Californian whose ancestors came to the state during the Gold Rush and settled in San Francisco. That was where I was born, and I spent decades working as a neighborhood community activist who advocated for our iconic homeless population. My homeless advocacy through the years included managing, working for, or sitting on the boards of numerous city homeless advocacy groups or homeless programs.
So when the COVIDsteria pandemic started, I did not want members of my extended homeless family to get forgotten about amid all the lockdowns and pandemic deaths. After all, the media told us 24/7 how COVIDsteria was an airborne Ebola and a Black Death with some Spanish flu mixed in that required a great reset to contain. The media also said there were no treatments for COVIDsteria until you needed a hospital ventilator.
My community activist instincts kicked in immediately. I lobbied tooth and nail to get the city supervisors to vote for and approve my homeless community activist organization’s pilot “Safe Slumbering Spaces” program to protect members of my extended homeless family living in my neighborhood.
The city also awarded my organization a contract to manage this pilot program. They also guaranteed us the right to run the program citywide should it be expanded beyond the pilot stage. Not that any other organization would be able to muscle us out of managing our program. My lawyer had written all the administrative rules to make sure that no other organization would be able to follow them correctly! [She smiles.]
Under our pilot “Safe Slumbering Spaces” program, my homeless community advocacy organization set up 250 tents in safe village-like spaces. We offered members of my extended homeless family living on the streets of my neighborhood access to bathrooms, round-the-clock security, and three meals a day. They also had access to all the alcohol, needles, syringes, methadone, and medical cannabis they were medically entitled to receive. My organization managed to do all of this for a mere $5,000 a month or $100,000 a year per tent. [She smiles again.]
Hmmm... How much did you say per month and year?
Just $5,000 a month or $100,000 a year per tent! [She smiles again.]
That sounds like a large amount of money for just one tent per month and the entire year!
Maybe it sounds like a large amount of money if you are from some cheap flyover country city! 1 2 3 In San Francisco, where garbage city cans were $20,000 each, our program was one of the more cost-effective homeless programs as we were a community activist-type organization! 4 5 [She laughs.]
In pre-Great Die-Off days before most of our overpaid tech workers died with the rest moving away, a starter house that was a fixer-upper in a high-crime neighborhood would sell for a minimum of seven figures. Heck, renters would be lucky to find a small room or space in a garage in such a neighborhood for $5,000 a month.
Then there were all the other expenses of living in San Francisco, like hourly parking costs higher than the minimum wage in every other part of the country. Even a simple grilled cheese sandwich at my neighborhood deli would cost $25 before counting sales taxes and any tip! And do not even ask how much a simple cup of coffee would cost! 6 7
But you said $5,000 per month. At 12 months, that adds up to $60,000 a year - not $100,000 a year.
The extra $40,000 per tent went towards administrative expenses! [She smiles.]
What sort of administrative expenses could cost $40,000 a year per tent?
Again, it was pre-Great Die-Off days in San Francisco – not some cheap flyover city that no one wants to live in! [She sighs and rolls her eyes.]
The administrative expenses included salaries, retirement benefits, and consulting fees for me and about two dozen program administrators and staff. Then we had all the other office and administrative overhead. Finally, we had to make some political campaign contributions to some city supervisors and other politicians.
Given that San Francisco was one of the most expensive cities in the world to live and advocate for the homeless in, all of these costs would quickly add up. We had to operate on a shoestring!
Nonetheless, $5,000 a month or $100,000 a year per tent was a bargain compared to what it was cost the city to house our iconic homeless in hotels or apartments or the amount spent by federally funded homeless programs.
The problem my organization soon encountered was when Congress started passing COVIDsteria relief bills. That was when the Federal government began picking up most of the tab for rival federally approved and funded COVIDsteria homeless programs managed by organizations with close and personal political connections to politicians in Sacramento or Washington DC. It triggered a new Gold Rush for homeless advocacy in all West Coast cities and especially in California. [She shakes her head and frowns.]