Apple spent million to help a tiny handful of homelessness people who’d set up a camp on their property. In the end, despite all of the effort, most of those people have nowhere to go. The story started last September with a lot of praise for the way Apple chose to handle the situation.
Taking an unusual hands-on approach to the homelessness crisis in its backyard, Apple removed dozens of people from a homeless camp on its property this week — putting many of them up in motels and providing counseling and other services on its own dime.
At the tech giant’s behest, outreach workers were relocating the few remaining residents Friday, closing a camp that has grown over the past year into a sprawling maze of RVs, cars, tents and an estimated 200 tons of trash. Each resident was offered a nine-month stay in a motel, plus 12 months of case-management services to help with addiction, mental health, long-term housing plans and more — costing Apple millions of dollars, said Andrea Urton, CEO of nonprofit HomeFirst, which is working with Apple at the site.
While some residents of the camp have been hesitant to trust the company’s overtures, Urton said Apple’s actions are a shining example of what more private companies should do to address the suffering of the estimated 30,000 people living without housing in the five-county Bay Area.
“I think the level of Apple’s involvement is amazing, to be quite frank,” Urton said. “They could just kick these people off, throw away their belongings and displace them. That’s not what they chose to do.”
I don’t think individual companies are responsible for the homeless people who decide to camp on their property without permission any more than I think they are responsible for dealing with people who break into their offices or factories. But in this case, Apple obviously isn’t a mom and pop outfit struggling to keep tents off the sidewalk. As one of the most successful tech companies in the world, they have the resources to do more than the bare minimum. Through some combination of empathy, naiveté and highly-paid PR folks who warned them that sweeping the camps of the homeless could create a backlash, Apple decide to do it right.
As the encampment received more attention, though, Apple announced it would be contracting with HomeFirst, a local nonprofit working with Santa Clara County’s homeless community, to ensure people on the property would have access to housing options and casework resources, essentially clearing out the camp.
Apple is spending millions on the endeavor, though the company hasn’t publicly said just how much the deal is worth. In a statement last month, Apple said it’d “been closely coordinating with local partners for several months to identify housing alternatives and support for families who will be transitioning away” from the encampment, located on Component Drive.
Nine months later, the deadline for the transitional hotel rooms is running out and the majority of the people who were moved out of the camp last year still have no place to go.
Now, that nine-month motel reprieve is set to expire Monday, and while the wealthy tech company’s efforts have helped permanently house eight people, more than three times that many were still awaiting placements days before the deadline…
Last week, as the Monday deadline approached, 25 people still were living in the Casa Linda motel on Monterey Road and awaiting housing. HomeFirst hoped to have everyone placed by the time the motel program ended, Smith said. If that didn’t happen, she said, residents would be offered emergency shelter beds…
Ten people were forced to leave the program early after getting arrested or otherwise breaking the rules.
So if you’re trying to follow the numbers they started with something like 43 people. Over nine months, eight people got some kind of permanent housing, ten people got kicked out for breaking the rules and 25 people stayed in the free motel until the money ran out. Those people will now face an uncertain future. At least one local activist is calling this “Apple’s shame.”
Andrea Urton, CEO of HomeFirst, said Apple played a critical role in getting the motel residents housed or on a path to housing. But activist Shaunn Cartwright slammed the tech company for offering people the stability of a motel room and then taking it away. The motel stay has done wonders for residents’ physical and mental health, she said, and the program should be extended.
“If they end up on the streets, that is entirely Apple’s fault,” she said. “That is Apple’s shame.”
Apple did a lot more than it had to do. It gave these people a free ride and a chance for something else for 9 months. Instead of a thank you, this activist is saying Apple is at fault for not continuing the free ride for these people forever.
The camp that Apple cleared last year was only a few dozen people and they spent millions trying to help them, yet for most of the people involved nothing has really changed. The only option is to keep spending that money (multiplied by thousands to account for the other 28,000 homeless people in the Bay Area) in perpetuity. The need of people who can’t care for themselves because of drugs, alcohol, mental health issues or some combination of all of the above is a bottomless money pit. I’m guessing there are people at Apple who are realizing that now but of course they won’t say anything about it. Doing so would invite the kind of condemnation they were hoping to avoid when they started this effort.