Tag Archives: homelessness

San Francisco – Slouching Toward Gomorrah

Drug injection needles on the street

San Francisco, once a lovely city, is now a poster child for urban decay. The Drug-Homeless Complex rules this once home to strong retail stores, industry, and port activity. What San Francisco has now is a cadre of tax-benefitted app makers, a gargantuan government bureaucracy, and Poop Patrols tasked with washing human feces from sidewalks. What happened?

The Just Vote No Blog recommends a beautiful opinion piece by Lee Edwards, Heritage Foundation Fellow, that appeared in the Washington Times on October 14, Is San Francisco the Future of America?  In this piece, Dr. Edwards speaks of visiting The City after some time of absence. He vividly describes a society that no longer believes in right or wrong, accepts a premise that the purpose of government is to rectify every injustice, and that disdains the universal benefits of the limited government our Founders envisioned.

The vividness of Dr. Edwards’ opinion piece is enhanced by his alluding to the fact that in an uncontrolled spiral, things fall apart. Also, the whole of America might have plunged into the spiral.

What has happened? Why is America slouching like some rough beast — not toward Bethlehem, but Gomorrah? Beyond dispute, things feel as if they are failing apart, and the common rules of a civil society no longer seem to apply.

So true that once civil society starts disintegrating, salvaging individual liberties, personal privacy, private property, and opportunity for upward mobility of all people becomes increasingly challenging. At this point halting and reversing San Francisco’s march towards Gomorrah – as well as halting the national tendency to march along – will require that responsible people pay attention to another admonition in W.B. Yeats often quoted poem The Second Coming.

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

The Founding Fathers envisioned a limited government hopefully free of special interests such as San Francisco’s Drug-Homeless Complex. Halting the slouching away from such a vision will require responsible people to acquire conviction and the same passionate intensity as those who espouse anarchy and decay.

Old Debate: Homelessness and Reagan

Ronald Reagan's inaugural address 1981In late 1980 and early 1981, interest rates hovered around 15%, unemployment was at 11%, and economists visualized a crises.  That is the backdrop of Ronald Reagan’s inaugural address .  In that address, Reagan said,

In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem. From time to time we’ve been tempted to believe that society has become too complex to be managed by self-rule, that government by an elite group is superior to government for, by, and of the people. Well, if no one among us is capable of governing himself, then who among us has the capacity to govern someone else?

These 74 words became a battle cry of both conservatives and progressives. Conservatives see Reagan’s words as warning against relying on government. Progressives see the same words as proof of the folly of not relying on government.

A favorite topic for battle is homelessness. In 1967, while Governor of California, Reagan signed the Lanterman-Petris-Short Act which ended the practice of institutionalizing patients against their will for indefinite amounts of time. At that time, there were 22,000 patients in state mental hospitals. By 1973, there were 7,000. Community clinics with the help of newly-developed medication assumed responsibility for patient care. In 1981, as President, Reagan signed the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act. The legislation created block grants for states, but reduced federal spending on mental illness.

To this day in 2017, more than half a century after the signing of the Lanterman-Petris-Short Act and 37 years after the Omnibus Budget Act, progressives are still convinced that closing the state mental hospitals is the cause of present homelessness.

However, 56 years seems ample time to reopen state mental hospitals, where the mentally challenged can be warehoused out of sight and out of mind with or without their consent, if that is what Reagan critics desire.

How is “Affordable Housing” Working Out For You?

Legislators pass housing bills
Sacramento Bee: Legislators announce passage of bills

In 2016, there were 550,000 homeless people in the United States, mostly concentrated in large cities such as New York and Los Angeles.  California has the largest percentage of unsheltered (not in emergency shelters) homeless in the U.S. at 66%.  California has 22% of U.S. homeless population (in shelters and unsheltered), and 12% of the total U.S. population.

The currently accepted reason for California’s large homeless population is the state’s traditional resistance to population density — the Not In My Back Yard syndrome.  Therefore, the accepted remedy is to force all counties to build “enough” taxpayer subsidized housing.  However, one could observe other contributing factors:

* Destruction of small transient hotels, where low-income or no-income individuals and families called home.  Old timers will remember the last stand, the battle for survival of the International Hotel.  The low-income residents lost and the developers won.

* Explosive growth in drug use that interferes with gainful employment. Is anyone going after the real causes of the growth?

* Advent of central planning that mandated high population densities along transit corridors and designated large swaths of land as conservation or protected areas closed to development. Some call it the Watermelon Plan, green on the outside and red on the inside.

* Acceptance of words such as “displacement,” “housing rights,” “fair housing.”  Rejection of principles such as self reliance, freedom of movement, local control.  Maybe Orwell’s Animal Farm is no longer read in school.

* Utter rejection of the word “suburban sprawl.”  New rule:  everybody stay put.

One would think that as density rises in confined spaces, housing prices would rise.  Thus, all funding options should be viewed as ongoing and forever increasing – never “enough.”

On September 15, 2017, the open-ended nature of California’s “housing crisis” became clear.  Senate Bills SB 35, SB 2, and SB 3 passed the legislature, and are expected to be signed into law by Governor Brown.  SB 35 further moves decisions on housing from cities and counties to state.  SB 2 loads residents with more fees when they need to file a property-related document.  SB 3 funnels $4,000,000,000 in bond money into subsidized housing.  Supporters in the legislature say “It’s just a start.”