Still Searching For A Solution to Homelessness

(The following was published today as a Guest Column in my local newspaper, The Signal:

On March 8 The Signal published a column by Gary Horton entitled “Deciding to decisively end homelessness.”

It seems that Gary and I agree on this issue, and I’m sure that blows his mind as much as it does mine.

In his column he called Measure H a “boondoggle of epic proportions,” and I’m right there with him. He also states, “We’ve got to have the backbone to declare homelessness plainly unacceptable and even ‘illegal.’”

The problem, as I pointed out in my own column urging a “no” vote on Measure H, is that the measures that used to be in place to combat homelessness – and they were pretty effective – were deemed decades ago to be violations of the rights of homeless people to self-determination and autonomy.

The “declare it illegal” strategy, as effective as it was, was nullified. That ship has sailed.

I actually believe that was proper, because if one class of people can have their rights taken away based solely on their economic status, none of us is safe.

Gary speaks of “zoning to allow both government and private enterprise to build affordable, or even free, housing,’ and maybe there’s a partial answer there.

But that has to be done in a realistic manner, putting aside the pie-in-the-sky approach so many bleeding hearts want to impose by forcing “affordable” housing into existing or developing communities in which such housing isn’t a natural fit with the rest of that community.

Sticking Section Eight or other “affordable” housing units in the middle of a planned gated community, for example, isn’t going to work, on many levels, and it also unfairly penalizes property owners who will suffer loss of the value of their homes when such units are dropped in their midst like meteorites falling from the sky.

Yes, areas can be specifically zoned for such housing, but then we have to accept that we’re just creating more “projects,” like Nickerson Gardens in Los Angeles and other such disaster areas.

And that still doesn’t address the unfortunate fact that, unlike in the movies, you can build it and a lot of people still won’t come.

It doesn’t acknowledge the reality that some homeless choose to be so, or are unable to live in such units due to mental deficiency or substance abuse, and simply won’t avail themselves of such accommodations.

So it seems he and I agree on the nature of the problem, and the fact that Measure H is going to be less than useless in actually “solving” it, but differ on what can actually be done about it.

Gary said he’s going to make some proposals in an upcoming column, and I’m eager to see what he proposes.

Frankly, I don’t see an actual solution that’s practical and legal.



6 comments on “Still Searching For A Solution to Homelessness

  1. captbogus2 says:

    I would be willing to say that an overwhelming proportion of “homeless” are “homeless” by choice and if this is the case No Amount of Government Interference will solve the ‘problem’.

  2. Kathy says:

    Government can’t fix everything – often times they just make it worse. Sometimes they just have to accept that ‘it is what it is’.

    Every homeless person has a different story/reason as to how they got to that point. Maybe you remember the piece I did a few years ago about the homeless guy that played the piano so beautifully in front of a restaurant…well, Part II was about how the restaurant owner, a barber and a few other people made him their pet project and got him cleaned up, found him a job and eventually helped him reconnect with his long lost son. Happy ending, right?

    Unless someone is willing to take on one of them, and see it through to the end, their lives will never change. Say you have a thousand homeless people – you need a thousand people, or at least a few hundred, who will step up to the challenge.

    There are just some problems that take a lot more work than simply throwing together some cheap houses or throwing yet more money at a project.

    • BrianR says:

      Great comment, Kathy. I do remember that essay of yours.

      But there’s another element, too. Some people CAN’T be helped, no matter what. Maybe they don’t want help; some do CHOOSE to be homeless. Many are suffering substance abuse, or mental issues.

      I think (I’m no biblical scholar) Jesus said that the poor will always be with you. That’s absolutely true, from the dawn of history, and will never change. It’s just a fact of life.

      I’m not saying we shouldn’t try to find ways to help them. Of course we should. BUT it has to be through private, charitable, and philanthropic efforts, not through the government, which usually just manages to screw things up and make them worse.

  3. CW says:

    Great comments there, Brian and Kathy.

    I think you hit on the crux of the problem when you quoted Jesus as saying “The poor will always be with you.” That’s so true. Still, we might be able to find an effective way to help the truly helpless if not for the corollary to that axiom which says, “The liberals will always be with you too.”

    A liberal doesn’t distinguish between someone who can’t take care of himself and someone who won’t take care of himself, and he finds it rewarding not to do so because the more people a liberal can “help” the more gratified a liberal’s ego will be. Liberal politicians see opportunity in government programs to help the homeless in the prospect of more Democrat voters and big bureaucracies. In his editorial Gary Horton said:

    “Let’s not mince words – homelessness, and our “cure” for it, have become a “thing.” An industry. A place where money goes and people are “served” and still, after hundreds of millions spent, we only see the problem growing. Maybe we are approaching this wrong?”

    Yep. You can start by getting the liberals out of government. Only then will there be any hope, albeit small, of solving the homelessness problem.

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