Key Economic Indicator: Homeless in San Francisco Feeling the Strain This Holiday Season

The economic displacement from the current downturn has been severe on the professional classes of Silicon Valley. Many of the majors are ramping up redundancy programmes and trimming pay and benefits.

The economic displacement from the current downturn has been severe on the professional classes of Silicon Valley. Many of the majors are ramping up redundancy programmes and trimming pay and benefits. This can come at a heavy toll on the financial & emotional well being of real people and their families. Sometimes the results are even tragic.

But bad news travels fast & like a snowball downhill, its impact can deluge most those at the bottom of the heap. Recently I spoke to the good people at Compass Community Services who provide support for families seeking shelter in the Bay Area. They shared some alarming, albeit alternative, economic indicators for life at the bottom in the Bay Area as we head towards 2009:

  • The wait list for a 90 day shelter stay has grown from an average of 75 families in 2007 to 148 families in 2008.
  • The list of families prioritized for medial or mental health conditions grew from an average of 2 families per week in 2007 to 9 in early 2008.  In September of 2008, the priority list grew to 20 families.
  • In 2007 no families remained on the waiting list for more than five months.  From today's waiting list 7 families have been on the list for over 5 months.
  • In 2008 families are waiting an average of 130 days for a 90 day shelter stay compared to only 80 days in 2007.  The majority of families will now have to wait for shelter longer than they will get to stay.
  • The number of families seeking shelter in 2008 has increased by 97.3% with a 20% reduction in shelter capacity.

As a result, social welfare agencies such as Compass Community Services find themselves with 75% of their annual budget burned before even completing 6 months. of the fiscal year.   

Corporations who pride themselves on their leadership inpositive sustainability impact usually target social investment at around 1% EBIT. Maybe its somewhat easier to be a good corporate citizen in the good times but if trends like this continue, corporations & their employees may just have to think even more creatively about philanthropy and growing local community need.

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