San Francisco is home to the infamous Silicon Valley and the highest population of billionaires per capita in an American city. In a place with so much wealth, why does homelessness continue to be an issue? Large tech companies like Uber, Facebook, Apple, Google, Twitter, and LinkedIn dominate the local economy. As a repercussion, housing costs have continued to skyrocket, and the resultant income inequality displaces individuals from their homes and creates extreme poverty levels that often lead to homelessness.
Proposition C was passed in 2018 by San Franciscan voters. The Proposition taxes any San Francisco business that earns $50 million and upwards in gross receipts and then allocates these funds for housing, mental health services, and emergency shelters for people who are homeless. However, during the legal battle to pass Prop-C, some of the largest tech companies in the Bay Area stayed silent on the issue of homelessness. These companies failed to acknowledge their part in creating such a substantial level of income inequality.
Though some tech companies in the city have expressed their willingness to support local homeless nonprofits, their support comes in employee volunteer hours rather than the supplemental funding they could offer alongside taxed revenue through Proposition C.
In an interview with The Atlantic, Jennifer Freidenbach, executive director of the Coalition on Homelessness, argues that tech companies “have a responsibility as corporate citizens to pay.”
Although volunteers are helpful to nonprofits in certain circumstances, a large influx of volunteers and volunteer projects requires large-scale planning by a nonprofit, which can draw efforts away from areas that need more attention, like fundraising or advocacy.
Freidenbach also stated, “Charity is one time. Systemic change is forever.”
The systemic change needed to address the rapid increase of homelessness in San Francisco can and is starting to take place in taxing tech companies and applying it to aiding individuals who are homeless. But, directly financially supporting nonprofits is an area in which tech companies need to improve significantly.