How Homelessness Looks in the Tech Boom

It’s a familiar American tale: people living in poverty amid great wealth. In Palo Alto, California, where the per capita income is over twice the state average, the tech boom has driven real estate values up, and evictions have left many renters homeless. In the New Republic, Monica Potts profiles an elderly couple who lived in their van while searching for affordable housing, and portrays the hostilities and NIMBYism that Silicon Valley’s homeless face, as well as the social services available to them.

One night, about a month after leaving Cubberley, the police pulled Suzan and James over. Their registration was expired. “This officer, he got a wild hair, and he said, ‘I’m going to impound your car,’ and called the tow truck.” Suzan told me. They got out of the car. Without pushing and demanding, she realized, she was never going to get out of the situation. She told me she said to the officer, “This is our home, and if you impound it we will not have a home.” He insisted. “I said ‘That’s fine. You do that. We will stay right here. I will put the beds out, I will put what we need here, right here on the sidewalk.” Other officers arrived and talked to them. They asked Suzan whether, surely, there was some other place they could go. “I said, ‘We have no place to go, and we’re staying right here.’ I was going to make a stink. They were going to know about it.” Suzan told me people were poking their heads out of their homes, and she realized the bigger fuss she made, the more likely officers might decide just to leave them alone.

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