Despite the recession, San Francisco successfully combats homeless problem

The city of San Francisco is notching a miraculous win. Despite the recession, it's managed to shrink its homeless population for the first time in 30 years.

In 2004, San Francisco launched an ambitious ten-year plan aimed at ending homelessness in the city by greatly expanding its social services and creating 3,000 permanent housing units as substitutes for shelters.

Now at the six-year mark, San Francisco's mayor, Gavin Newsom, is claiming the city is more than halfway toward its goal, having thus far created almost 1,700 housing units. He also noted that, since 2004, more than 19,400 volunteers have participated in "Project Homeless Connect," which offers legal, health and other services to the city's poor.

As a result, the homeless population in the city has decreased for the first time in three decades, the mayor told the Bay City News.

"We're well over the halfway point of getting to the 3,000 units, and that's a big deal. We know it's the solution, and we're proud of what we've done so far," the mayor's so-called homeless "czar," Dariush Kayhan, told

Abdalla Megahed, age 68, was homeless for six years. In an interview with a local web site, Megahed said he is finally in a permanent home thanks to the program. "It's heaven, it's a dream come true," Megahed said.

Newsom, who is thinking about running for Lt. Governor of the state, has pushed the initiative through despite enormous deficits that have plunged both the city and the state of California into a financial crisis.

To make further progress toward eradicating homelessness, San Francisco and its mayor will have to defy some pretty sizable odds. But given that the city has made it this far under such economic pressures, perhaps its one miracle that just might happen.

Charles Feldman is a journalist, media consultant and co-author of the book, " No Time To Think-The Menace of Media Speed and the 24-hour News Cycle." He has written about real estate related issues for several years.

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