The Big City Homeless Problem

By Chief

I was treated to a special on Fox News while at the local gym the other night. It was a series of reports from Los Angeles, Portland, San Francisco, and Seattle regarding the homeless issue. (Click on City name to view the video.) It was cringe worthy at best and flat out gross at worst. They discussed a vermin epidemic in San Francisco, Typhus outbreak in Los Angeles, a public health crisis in Portland, and a dire situation in Seattle where businesses are closing shop.

By the way, typhus, as described by our Governor, is a “medieval disease…in California….in 2019.” Think about that. We view ourselves as a state on the “cutting edge” of both medicine and technology and we have an epidemic of Third World diseases in our largest population center that we are powerless to stop.

The special showed makeshift tent cities, homeless camps, and some very elaborate dwellings built from scraps of cardboard and pallets. These camps are almost like their own city or municipality; complete with stoves, buckets used as a latrine, some set ups had a living room and a kitchen. These are not your typical homeless camps from years ago. The program also featured the incredible rat and vermin issues…which spread to the business districts nearby due to the sheer size of these camps. Keep in mind that these camps aren’t under an overpass anymore…they are behind businesses, in alleys, fields, parks etc.…they cannot just be shooed-off.

The process for their removal works similar to an eviction notice for a landlord, a sign must be posted to allow them to remove their belongings, and usually they get 72 hours to do so. Only then can a crew come through and throw away the piles of trash and feces left behind.

The program spoke about how this is all the fault of liberals, feel good policies and good money spent to solve the problem. However, the Blog Father and I disagree somewhat; we will lay it out later.

So, what caused all this? Well its complicated, but it’s a mixture of quite a bit. While electeds will say job loss, those folks look pretty raggedy for recently losing a job. Some say foreclosure…that crisis happened a decade ago. Some say insufficient wages to cover rents, and in some cases that could be true, have you seen rents in the Bay Area lately? Even that argument doesn’t hold much water once you consider that the same cities infested with the homeless are also home to “good paying” tech companies that are buying up land in that same area.

It’s amazing. Every one of these political folks fall over one another to get on camera and promise they have a plan to fix the issue…it just takes XXX millions of dollars a year…and a new fee or tax hike will pay for it! Pay attention to the word I used…. “folks” not Democrats, because there were likely several Republicans who voted for these very policies or fees! That’s correct, only recently was the GOP driven out of the inner city entirely, and the holdouts voted for these policies because “they were needed at the time, we thought it was the answer, or I needed to vote that way to fund the budget.” Because of these holdouts, the GOP is unable to make the argument that the Democrats “own it.”

This concept never seems to motivate the GOP. We always have a handful of weak-kneed turncoats who vote with the other side to allow the solution to seem bipartisan. Additionally, you can always count on a right leaning group or two to throw their name behind it because… well if it works, we can say we were a part of the solution. As a result, when the plan fails, the Left–who basically run the city government–can claim it was a bipartisan error, and “we all got it wrong.”

I have never understood the point of this needless compromise. If you make the other side vote in its entirety for some program…and it fails…with no opposition party support, they cannot call it bipartisan. At that point, the opposition can then say that our plan could have worked but we never got the opportunity. However, come to think of it, my side never has a solution so that would be a moot point, my guys just love to just vote “No”, and say it ain’t so. “Repeal and replace Obamacare” is the posterchild for the fecklessness of Republicans. Sadly, this is the rule and not the exception.

This issue is one where the tide is turning without any contribution from the GOP. Republicans won’t be picking up any new voters from this crisis, but it’s fun to see some of the natives getting restless. A prominent moderate Democrat radio host in San Francisco said the Democrats have been an abject failure on the homeless issue. A local Sacramento small business owner lashed out, saying she was tired of finding her store broken into, vandalized, having to shoo away homeless people, throw away cups of urine, feces, or syringes. She is moving to Austin, Texas by the way. The problem is very bad in downtown Sacramento. I have seen it first-hand. Residents in Los Angeles County want to know how the 118 million in new taxes were spent to combat the homeless when the issue has gotten worse. You now have moderate Democrats, independents, and Republicans on the same side of an issue.

Problem is there is no solution. You see, homeless people actually have the most freedom of any group in the country. They can camp wherever they darn well please, be a nuisance, create tons of trash, and face no repercussions. Liberal judges have granted them incredible rights to do as they please. Go to a big city and see for yourself. The touristy areas may be somewhat homeless free, but any business district is sure to be crowded with them. Hypodermic needles, syringes, urine, feces etc. all are common as well, because someone else will clean it up. Furthermore, they face no criminal charges since the politicians/Democrat voters passed Prop 47 which decriminalized almost every type of theft a homeless person is capable of.

Worse yet, our society actually attracts people into homelessness. As noted above you can pretty much do anything you feel like and get away with it, or if you need healthcare/dental care/eye care, just get arrested and the taxpayers will cover it free. In addition, we have places that will give you a couple square meals day such as Loaves and Fishes, or the “rainbow” Methodist church near me who proudly shares; they offer free breakfast and lunch on weekends. Also, there is Elk Grove Food Bank and various other charities that provide food as well for them to stock-up on.

Homeless folks also get taxpayer money given to them with no strings. Yes, they get Social Security money each month just for being a 30-year-old drug addict. They get paid out of the part of Social Security call SSI (Supplemental Security Income).

We spend millions on cleaning up their camps and the trash that comes with it. We provide them free needles to continue their drug habit. All of this is being done under the guise of we are trying to help them. We even are building housing to house them. Keep in mind all this is free for homeless people or those who game the system. The only adverse thing about being homeless is every so often they come to clean up your mess and you have to vacate the area with all your belongings for a few hours.

You see the issue here is despite all these well-intentioned laws and mandates, they never addressed the biggest problem within the homeless community…drugs and alcohol abuse. You see if you are under the influence of any of these substances, you cannot enter into any housing designated for homeless people. Thus, condemning them to the streets. It’s a viscous cycle, and this is a big reason why the situation is not improving. We can spend all the millions we want, and it makes no difference, literally. Some people want to spend even more! I see political types and nonprofits get in front of the camera constantly and always are offering up a plan, and it involves ample amounts of government money to make it work.

The City of Sacramento has been trying to remodel the Old Hotel Berry for years to house the homeless. Last I checked, they were just going to tear it down and figure it out later. However, in the end the City decided to remodel the Old Hotel Berry for 24.5 million in taxpayer dollars. Each room is for single person and that comes out to about $240,000 per unit. Each of the 104 units is between 151 – 317 SF.

Hotel Berry Sacramento – photo from June 2012

The truth is that most homeless people would rather live down by the American River as there as very few rules when you live in a tent city.

To fix the problem I recommend repealing Prop 47 and criminalizing low level misdemeanors again. This will land more homeless in jail upfront but over time, the problem gets better. In jail, homeless people will be provided for materially and mentally in a drug free environment. This is cheaper and more cost effective for both the community and the homeless people. Reforming the laws will make the police and business owners keep a closer eye on their neighborhoods and not be apathetic like they are today.

Ideas such as this one will infuriate Republicans, but the government should hire a cleaning crew similar to what BART did in the Bay Area. The crews do major deep cleaning, and after that they do a normal clean every week; “poof” the smells of feces and urine are gone, and trash removed! The homeless don’t typically congregate in areas where they will be shooed away, so the problem will deteriorate over time.

While it is not easy to accept a form of reality most are not accustomed to in America…some problems are not fixable. Some people do not wish to work, or live in housing, or play the by the rules of others (drugs and alcohol are all they care about). They do not want to clean up after themselves and this is all due to a problem we created. We have provided all these services for free. Cities like San Francisco have decided to try to “round up the homeless and force them in shelters” but the ACLU responded to the idea by announcing that they will provide free representation in court to the homeless. So, we all lose out.

Buckle in and fasten your chinstrap, this one is getting messy. This is what a full-on nanny state looks like, meals provided free, housing provided free, clean up services…free…. clean syringe…. free… government assistance… free…. outside groups willing to offer legal assistance… free. A lesson again, once you allow people a certain freedom or benefit good luck taking it away even if it’s for their own good.

The Chief