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COVID-19 Expands Homelessness Beyond the Bay Area’s Major Municipalities

4 mins read
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The COVID-19 pandemic pushed more people into homelessness and poverty as it progressed from the beginning of this year up to the present. The rise in these cases resulted in a recession affecting economic status, severely affecting people by losing jobs and closing small businesses. The homelessness extends past the Bay Area’s major cities, with affected people unable to pay bills due to job loss and less affordable housing across the state.

According to official statistics, there were two homeless people in Pacifica ten years ago. About 116 people live in abandoned buildings, campers, tents, vehicles, or on the streets as of last year’s counts. Allegedly, there are more uncounted homeless scattered across the city.

In the past several years, homelessness has hit Bay Area cities such as Pacifica. The once pressing issue existing only in urban areas of Oakland and San Francisco has reached every country across the land. Between 2017 and 2019, several suburbs reported an alarming rise in every county’s homeless population.

San Mateo County native Jeffrey Russell shared his experiences of living a homeless life in Pacifica. According to Russell, he would spend his nights in the back of a broken truck’s shabby camper illegally parked between the West Coast sunset and expensive residences. Like all those living in dozens of dilapidated vehicles and run-down tents, Russell is part of the coastal city’s soaring homeless community.

Based on officials’ records, many like Russell sleep in vehicles and take baths in gyms before working their minimum-wage jobs. Additionally, they pointed out that these individuals consist of expelled, underemployed, and working poor. Contra Costa County’s Health, Housing, and Homelessness Services director Lavonna Martin affirmed that they see the housing crisis’s severe effects. According to Martin, getting to afford a house requires at least three minimum-wage jobs to meet the price.

The construction of affordable housing is almost uncommon in many suburban areas. Additionally, those living in poverty up to the middle class’s low end forces them to live in the streets due to lack of housing. Now that the pandemic has struck the entire region, the problem is spreading more into the sidewalks.

In February of this year, Cupertino residents living in $2 million houses gazed at a homeless encampment set up on Wolfe Road. As the COVID0-19 crisis starts to spike, city administrators plan to take down multiple tents for safety concerns. According to local media, the homeless living in the tents revealed they went destitute in the expensive Silicon Valley for a while now, but they are currently hiding.

To 62-year-old Russell, he doesn’t acknowledge his camper home as his abode. According to him, he fell into homelessness as his body collapsed on construction sites. Russell works as a carpenter as of the present time.

Russell also added that paying rent seems impossible for him, and jobs are rare to come by. According to Rent Jungle, Pacifica’s average apartment price since April is worth nearly $3,000. He stated that it’s hard and depressing to live as a homeless person in a place that feels like home. Russell revealed that he helped build a lot of the town’s infrastructures as a carpenter.

In a one-day count conducted at San Mateo County in 2019, the city discovered at least 1,512 homeless people, including 901 who lack any housing. The statistics also include 2017’s overall count of 1,253 people, including 637 unsheltered individuals.

The previously mentioned numbers point out that over 900 homeless sleep in cars, vacant buildings, or RV’s all over the state last January, hinting at a two-year 41% increase.

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