As we come to the end of 2023, I find myself thinking about Auld Lang Syne.
While for many that old dirge — first penned by the Scottish poet Robert Byrnes in the 18th century — has become the anthem of our collective transition into the new year, for me it has always been tinged with a touch of melancholy. I can’t help but think about the slow march of time, opportunities lost, tales ended. In some ways it’s like finishing a good book: once you turn the final page, there’s some aspect of that completed story that you can never fully relive.
So to turn away from some of the darker tidings that come with that imminent tune, I try to reflect on the good that’s been accomplished and what more needs to happen in 2024. Fortunately, I don’t have to look far to find some reasons for optimism in our work to help others.
Santa Clara County last week approved funding for six new deeply-affordable housing developments, which will create 716 homes for working families, vulnerable elders, and disabled adults. With this allocation of funding, the county has now almost fully utilized the 2016 Affordable Housing Bond to support 56 developments with 5,800 units in 10 cities across the region. And more housing is opening everyday, giving folks a way to permanently leave the streets. When you think about the vast array of elected officials, government agencies, affordable housing developers, nonprofit service providers and community advocates it has taken to move this work forward, you can’t help but have some glimmer of hope for our prospects ahead.
But there’s more to it than that. It’s not just the numbers. There’s been a growing willingness to share power and resources with the people who have never had it. I see groups like the African American Cultural Center, Si Se Puede Collective, and the Lived Experience Advisory Board advancing placed-based strategies, integrated policy work, and collaborative and innovative partnerships. People are dreaming bigger now and moving forward concrete plans that will make their communities a better place for all of us.
And yet we’re still falling short. The cost of living is sky high and there aren’t nearly enough places for people to live. So folks are outside, with more and more becoming homeless every day. That’s why 2024 needs to be a big year for doing the most possible for our poorest residents. A regional housing bond will be on the ballot next November that could be a game changer for housing production for years to come. And undoubtedly, there will be other measures, elections and new legislation that will have a direct impact on our affordable future. We need the scales to tilt toward housing justice next year because we can’t bear the alternative.
Despite all of our efforts, the times of long ago remembered in Auld Lang Syne are still here with us today and ghosts of past, present and future still haunt us, floating down the halls unsure of which door is open. I don’t know what to do about that right now, but we can’t afford to stop and think about it for too long.
I suppose when you know that so many people don’t have a home, it’s hard to completely forget the wisps of sadness, even if you can still hold up a glass and toast to the promise of what’s ahead.
San José Spotlight columnist Ray Bramson is the Chief Operating Officer at Destination: Home, a nonprofit that works to end homelessness in Silicon Valley. His columns appear every second Monday of the month. Contact Ray at [email protected] or follow @rbramson on X, formerly known as Twitter.