Tech Billionaires Help Bankroll Anti-Homeless Camp Ballot Measure in San Francisco

A homeless man begs along a sidewalk in downtown San Francisco on June, 28, 2016. 

Billionaire tech investors are throwing their weight behind a controversial ballot measure in San Francisco that, according to critics, addresses the city's homelessness problem in a half-baked way. Proposition Q, one of two dozen measures on the November ballot, seeks to reduce the amount of sidewalk tent camps around town by giving residents 24 hours to leave and move to a shelter -- or out of town.

The pro-Q camp has $270,000 in the bank, and TechCrunch reports that more than half of that came from Silicon Valley angel investor Ron Conway, Sequoia Capital partner Michael Moritz and hedge fund manager William Oberndorf, each of whom contributed $50,000 to the measure. According to The Guardian, Zachary Bogue, husband of Yahoo's Marissa Mayer, chipped in an additional $2,500 to the cause.

[Keep in mind, $50,000 is couch-cushion change for VCs like Moritz and Conway -- the latter personally invested $50 million into Reddit in 2014.]

Prop Q's author, city supervisor Mark Farrell, said the measure is meant to "get the homeless into housing, not tents." The law would ban sidewalk tent camps and require the city to either provide a shelter bed or a bus ticket out of town before getting the go-ahead to confiscate a person's belongings.

But opponents point out that the measure does not include the funding needed to expand already overcrowded shelters, where there are currently 800 people on waiting lists. Jennifer Friedenbach of the Coalition on Homelessness wrote in the San Francisco Chronicle that, if passed, Prop Q will "continue the status quo of moving homeless people from block to block because it is unlikely that these individuals will have the required biometric imaging, registration and [tuberculosis] clearance within 24 hours to qualify for emergency shelter."

Stuart Schuffman writes in the San Francisco Examiner, "The absurd idea behind this ridiculous measure is that if you take people's tents away and give them a bed in a shelter for a night, things will be all gravy after that. The problem that it doesn't seem to take into account is that there are already more than 700 people on the list each day to get into shelters — there are no lonely beds thinking, "Oh, why won't somebody just sleep in me tonight?"

Reached by Techcrunch, a Prop Q spokesman defended Moritz and Conway’s donations, saying they’ve joined "all walks of life who support Prop Q because they urgently want to see an end to the human suffering on our streets."


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