Who really cares about the homeless? Not the government.
That is the subject of today’s 10-minute episode.
The numbers of homeless are mounting, and not just in publicized magnet cities like Seattle, San Francisco and LA. I live in Colorado Springs, and it is an increasingly important topic here, and up I-25 in Denver–where it is even worse.
Let’s follow the Revolution 2.0™ deliberate solution-seeking process to address this issue:
- What is the problem?
- What is the desired goal, the common goal?
- Who do we get there?
Why, despite growing amounts of cash being spent to address homelessness, do the numbers of homeless continue to grow, and grow rapidly? In LA alone, there are 35,000 homeless, a whopping 16% increase over last year. Seventy-five % of them live outdoors. We have all read or heard about the horrific and tragic stories of San Francisco, replete with dangerously aggressive beggars, open, hard-core drug use and large amounts of human waste on the streets.
The problem is that this is a very difficult issue, and politicians, and the electorate, us, the voters, don’t have the stomach for what needs to be done. Study and after study shows that drug addiction, mental health issues and look-away law enforcement are common elements in areas with large and growing homeless populations. Add in free food, free needle exchanges, and in a growing number of areas, showers and free drugs, and you no longer have the homeless, you have permanent street people. The streets are their home. They are not homeless, unhoused people, an assessment that clearly implies that with available housing, these unhoused people, with lots of support, could be on the road back to being housed, contributing citizens. A small percentage, likely in the 10% range, could be helped, rescued, this way. I am in full support of the “housing first” approach to the 10%, and wish godspeed to any person or entity engaged in this valuable work. These people genuinely care about the homeless. But that leaves you with the other 90%.
So what is the desired goal, a goal that we can all agree on? Try this one: Get everyone off the streets, using strategies and tactics that are effective and use taxpayer funds efficiently. Wait, Will, did you say everyone? Yes, well, just about everyone. Like unemployment, the number will always be somewhat above zero because of people moving in and out of jobs. The number of people on the street will never be zero because of people transitioning from homes to the street and back. But like unemployment, the reasonable expectation is that the number should be irreducibly low.
Okay, Will, how?
- First, encourage the entities that are identifying and helping the 10% who want to and can be treated with a “housing first” approach.
- Use a needed–and correct–tough love approach with the rest, requiring–requiring–them to go to the appropriate treatment, mental, drug, etc., to get any benefits from the taxpayers. After, say, multiple attempts over a three-month period, all publically funded benefits would be cutoff, and there would be limited–if any–access to hang out and sleep on public streets and lands. Anything from food and medicine to clean up would be removed. By the way, in San Francisco alone, the street people generate 6 tons of trash every day. Let me point out, emphasize, that every effort should be made to get people, in this tough love approach to get the treatment they need. Multiple attempts at persuasion, using social workers, successful “graduates” from treatment programs, friends and family if you can find them. Get resourceful, get creative; try over and over again. These are fellow humans. But at some point, we need to realize when this heartfelt process works–and when it does not. If all publically funded attempts at making this tough love approach fail, charitable assistance would, of course, be allowed, and encouraged if it was provided in a way that did not simply enable the continuing behavior that is a negative to the street people, and an unfair negative to the businesses, residents, tourists, workers and anyone who has to contend with the filth, inconvenience and dangers the remaining street people would create.
Wow. Just Wow. Do you really mean this? Are you that harsh? What happened to being your Brother’s Keeper? If you follow Revolution 2.0™, you will know the answer to the question of am I my brother’s keeper is a resounding “yes!” This tough love approach is far more effective, far more loving, than what is going now.
Today’s Key Point: Today’s approach to street people is frighteningly like the approach that Roman Emperors employed when they used bread and circuses (blog only) to keep the citizenry appeased. The emperors provided food and amusement for the citizens to keep them happy, and to maintain their place as rulers. There was little or no guidance about how the citizens sitting in the arenas watching evermore spectacular and violent games could learn to feed and amuse themselves. There were no societal improvements gained in return for the lavish expenditures on food and games. There was no genuine compassion, just a desire to keep a lid on things, and for the leaders to continue to enjoy their privileged lives. Sound familiar? The rulers, the governments in cities with ballooning populations of street people, know that what they are doing is not working; the evidence is all-too clear. So why don’t they do something different? Simple. They fear the citizens would not stand still for a tough love approach, and would vote them out of office. So they continue to sell the, “I am so very compassionate. Just a little more money will fix it.” approach. The rulers in our larger cities provide food and amusement, including facilitating drug use, for the street people, callously knowing that it is completely ineffective, so they can stay in power. They truly do not care about the homeless; they care only about staying in power. They must be onto something; we keep voting for them.
I am very open to anyone who thinks that I got this one wrong. And I am always happy to learn. Please note that I did not simply express a feeling or pass along a cliche or sound bite. I tried to follow a process of stating what I think should be a shared goal, introduce some associated facts, then apply non agenda-based reasoning to find a way to reach that goal. What is your approach? Where does it lead you? Tell me in the comments. Tell all of us. We are very interested in your thinking.
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Will Luden, coming to you from 7,200’ in Colorado Springs.