S.F. homeless housing nonprofit blasted for misusing taxpayer funds

One of San Francisco’s largest providers of housing for formerly homeless people “misused” taxpayer funds, lacked key financial controls and engaged in other problematic practices that “heightened the risk of fraud,” according to a city report released Tuesday.

“(T)he breadth and magnitude of financial and compliance problems we found at HomeRise is concerning,” wrote Sjoberg Evashenk Consulting Inc., an independent firm the city hired to audit the nonprofit.

Janéa Jackson, CEO of HomeRise, said Tuesday afternoon that the nonprofit’s leadership is “100% committed” to resolving the issues noted in the audit. Jackson, who took over as head of the nonprofit in June 2023, said she has already addressed several of the concerns. 

San Francisco nonprofits receive hundreds of millions of dollars to provide services to the city’s most vulnerable residents — whether unhoused or struggling with mental illness or substance abuse. But nonprofits have come under increasing scrutiny in recent years as local organizations have been accused of financial mismanagement, or worse. 

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HomeRise was the subject of controversy last week after one of the nonprofit’s complexes in Mission Bay was criticized during a hearing at City Hall where residents complained it was contributing to violent and disturbing incidents in the neighborhood, a characterization the city rejected.

The revelations in the report on HomeRise follow a slew of scandals at nonprofits that contract with San Francisco over the past three years. The executive director of a Bayview food bank was accused of using city funds to enrich herself. Other nonprofits were accused of labor violations and overspending their budget. And a public-safety-focused nonprofit fired its executive director after finding it spent nearly $80,000 in grant money on ineligible expenses, including a Lake Tahoe trip, luxury gift boxes and limo service.  

HomeRise operates more than 1,500 units at 19 properties across the city, with an annual budget of about $34 million and some 250 employees. The city’s current agreements with HomeRise total more than $240 million in loans, grants and subsidies. That includes $110 million in loans to develop or rehabilitate properties, $90 million for operations and maintenance, and more than $40 million in grants for support services.

Auditors found “unallowable, imprudent, or questionable spending” by HomeRise that was inconsistent with the terms of its agreement, such as using city dollars for fundraising, paying staff bonuses, and providing lunches and gifts to its staff.  

As of January 2023, the nonprofit had 118 active credit cards in use — equivalent to roughly half of its workforce — of which more than a third had credit limits of $10,000 or higher, according to the audit. HomeRise did not have sufficient controls on the credit cards to prevent risk of fraudulent expenses, waste or other abuse going undetected, the report found. 

Jackson said Tuesday that the organization has recently reduced its number of corporate credit cards to about 30 and that most now have a limit of $2,500.

The audit also uncovered that the nonprofit gave out “signing” bonuses to employees who had been working for HomeRise for two to 13 years. Through job promotions, one HomeRise official’s salary allegedly increased more than $87,000, or 74%, in the span of just nine months. More than $200,000 in bonuses were “unplanned and unbudgeted,” worsening cash flow problems, the report stated.

The large raises and bonuses were handed out despite the nonprofit reportedly losing millions of dollars a year due to high vacancy rates in its buildings. In July 2023, more than 14% of units across the nonprofit’s properties were empty, the report found. Two of the nonprofit’s oldest buildings, the San Cristina at 1000 Market St. and the Senator Hotel at 519 Ellis St., had vacancy rates of 34.5% and 29.2% respectively.

The audit stated that the vacancies not only reduce the nonprofit’s potential rental revenue, but, “More importantly, vacant units represent missed opportunities to provide unhoused people with permanent, supportive housing.”

At the same time, the nonprofit had questionable costs including more than $100,000 in temporary rental charges, $96,000 for salaries paid to tenant program services staff and $12,500 for a social event.

The report criticized the lack of leadership and accountability at the organization, which was partly due to an “alarming rate of turnover” in key corporate positions, the document noted. 

The controller’s office could not determine the total magnitude of HomeRise’s inappropriate spending or unallowable charges because, in most cases, there was no supporting documentation.

After trying and failing to work with HomeRise to address growing concerns, the homelessness department and the Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development, or MOHCD, requested the audit in 2022. 

Formerly known as Community Housing Partnership, HomeRise was founded in 1990 as a partnership between the Coalition on Homelessness and a group of nonprofit housing developers called the Council of Community Housing Organizations. To this day, the coalition and council each get to appoint four members to the organization’s board of directors. 

Six months after a city department issued a notice of default at one of HomeRise’s properties, the city controller placed HomeRise on “elevated concern status” due to its financial instability. 

HomeRise remains on that elevated concern status. 

Click here to read the full article in the SF Chronicle

Californians split on ballot measure to tackle homelessness crisis

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California voters were split in early returns over a statewide ballot measure touted by Gov. Gavin Newsom as a necessary step to tackle the state’s ongoing homelessness crisis.

Proposition 1 would be the first major update to the state’s mental health system in 20 years. The measure needs a simple majority vote to pass. It was too early to call Tuesday night, and it could take days before the final results are tallied.

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Newsom spent significant time and money campaigning on the measure’s behalf, raising more than $13 million to promote it with the support of law enforcement, first responders, hospitals and mayors of major cities. Opponents raised just $1,000. He did not make any statements Tuesday as votes were counted.

“The status quo is not acceptable,” Newsom said Monday at a final campaign stop.

The Democratic governor says the proposition is needed to address the state’s homelessness crisis by boosting investments in housing and substance use programs, but social providers worry it would threaten programs that are keeping people from becoming homeless in the first place.

Republican Darlene Farnum, a retired salesperson from the Southern California suburban city of Fountain Valley, said Tuesday she voted for the proposition even though it was backed by Newsom, someone she said she disagrees with on just about everything else.

“We need to do something besides letting people die and be homeless,” she said.

Brian Frey, a programmer who lives in Sacramento, also voted for the proposition and said the issue is personal to him.

“My brother is actually homeless. He’s suffering from some mental health issues right now,” Frey said. “I think it’d be good to provide funding for treatment centers.”

The measure would restrict how counties use money from a voter-approved tax enacted in 2004 on millionaires that currently is earmarked for mental health services under broad guidelines. Revenue from the tax, now between $2 billion and $3 billion a year, provides about one-third of the state’s total mental health budget.

Counties would be required to spend about two-thirds of those funds on housing and programs for homeless people with serious mental illnesses or substance abuse problems.

Newsom wants to give the state more control over how that money is spent, but critics say it would apply one formula to all counties regardless of the size of the local homeless population and could pit programs for children against those for homeless people.

Proposition 1 also would authorize the state to borrow $6.38 billion to build 4,350 housing units, half of which would be reserved for veterans, and add 6,800 mental health and addiction treatment beds.

In an effort to ensure accurate, comprehensive tallies, counting ballots in California has become a weekslong drama that, in close contests, can transform Election Day into an election month. Mail ballots postmarked by Tuesday can arrive within seven days and are still valid. The heavy reliance on mail ballots — every voter receives one — also results in an extended tally, since each must be opened, validated and processed.

Click here to read the full article in AP News

Proposal Would Turn Marina Del Rey Freeway Into Park With Low-Cost Housing- What a Lousy Idea

A new study is looking into converting one Los Angeles County freeway into a park with low-cost housing. And the plan already has the backing of some LA officials, like Mayor Karen Bass.

The Marina Central Park study is a potential plan which would convert the 90 Freeway that stretches from Marina del Rey to Culver City, and turn the stretch into a park.

“It’s the shortest freeway in LA County, it’s the least-trafficked freeway in LA County,” said Michael Schneider with Streets for All, which is responsible for the initiative. “We have a housing crisis. We don’t have enough places for people to live. We don’t have enough parks. And so it’s a study at this point to see, could we use the space a little bit better?”

The plan proposes converting the three-mile stretch into one of the biggest parks in LA County, with nearly 4,000 units of low-cost housing, retail spaces, rapid bus and bike paths, and access to the Centinela Creek, the Ballona Creek trail, and the Ballona Wetlands Ecological Reserve.

In August 2023, LA Mayor Karen Bass wrote a letter to U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, requesting $2 million for a feasibility study for the proposal.

“Tearing down the Marina Freeway, which sits on 100 acres of right-of-way with 50 acres of concrete and steel, represents an opportunity to address past harms, build housing, and create community space for all Angelenos,” she wrote. The full letter can be found here.

And the proposal would not completely eliminate car lanes along the three-mile stretch, just fewer than what currently occupy the space now.

SUGGESTED: Home prices will rise in 2023 as affordability crisis worsens, Goldman says

The people FOX 11 spoke to about the proposal were divided. Many people expressed skepticism about the plan. One person called it a “terrible” idea. Another said, “there’s already a lot of traffic going up Lincoln (Boulevard). That is going to make it worse.”

Others though, said the project would fill a need.

“I think we need affordable housing for low income people, one person said. “We have a huge problem in LA.”

Click here to read the full article at FoxNews LA

Voters Say State Is On Wrong Track

Californians surveyed cite homelessness, gas prices and housing among top concerns.

Tents from a homeless encampment line a street in downtown Los Angeles on Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2016. Some 7,000 volunteers will fan out as part of a three-night effort to count homeless people in most of Los Angeles County. Naomi Goldman, a spokeswoman of the organizer the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, said the goal is to “paint a picture about the state of homelessness.” (AP Photo/Richard Vogel)

Coronavirus cases are dropping and the state’s unemployment rate is on the decline, but most California voters still say the Golden State is headed in the wrong direction, with high gasoline prices, low housing affordability and persistent homelessness cited as the biggest challenges.

In a new survey on some of the most prominent economic topics, nearly 6 in 10 voters said the state is on the wrong track and more than 70% rated high gasoline prices as a “very serious” or “somewhat serious” problem. The survey of registered voters by UC Berkeley’s Institute of Governmental Studies was co-sponsored by the Los Angeles Times.

“Californians are giving a negative rating of the direction of the state,” said Mark Di Camillo, director of the Berkeley institute’s poll. “That coincides with how voters are viewing their personal financial situation.”

In response to the pain at the pump, voters said they are likely to cut back on driving.

Few, however, said they expected to switch to public transit. Only 25% said they were likely to take buses or trains more often.

By contrast, 7 in 10 said they were likely to drive less around town or cancel vacations or weekend road trips because of the high prices.

The pain of high gasoline prices, which last month reached a statewide average of $5.73 a gallon — up $1.79 from a year ago, is felt most keenly by lower-income Californians, Black and Latino residents and those under 30, according to the survey.

Among California voters earning less than $40,000 a year, 81% said gasoline prices were a “very serious” or “somewhat serious” problem. At the other end of the income scale, 57% of those earning more than $200,000 said the prices were not a serious problem.

Gasoline prices were described as a “very serious” or “somewhat serious” problem by 79% of Black voters, 85% of Latino voters and 75% of voters under 30, according to the survey.

Lorena Mendez, an airline catering company worker at Los Angeles International Airport, struggles weekly deciding how to fill her tank and buy groceries, among other household expenses. She bought a house in Bakersfield because housing is more affordable there, but her commute to LAX is two hours in each direction. On some days, rather than driving home she stays with her mother, who lives closer to her job, to save on gas.

“Everything has gotten more expensive, gas and groceries,” she said in Spanish. “It’s hard to figure out which bill to pay first.”

Until recently, Mendez said, she earned about $22 an hour, but her bosses have cut her pay to about $18 an hour. She hopes to work extra hours to make up for the pay cut.

“I was barely able to pay my bills, and now with everything getting more expensive, it’s a struggle,” she said.

For many workers like Mendez who have long commutes, public transit isn’t a viable option. The poll asked voters who said they were not likely to take transit more often to choose up to two main reasons. Among the most common responses were that buses or trains were not convenient either to their destinations (45%) or their homes (35%), that transit takes longer than driving (39%) or that service isn’t frequent enough (20%).

A significant number said they don’t feel safe waiting for or riding on a bus or train (34%) or that they worry about catching COVID-19 or some other illness (16%). Safety concerns were more common in Los Angeles and Orange counties than in the San Francisco Bay Area or San Diego. Few voters — 3% statewide — said transit costs too much.

In 2016, Los Angeles County voters showed just how frustrated they were with traffic. They approved a half-cent sales tax that will pump out $120 billion over four decades to further build out a massive rail system that can carry commuters from the foothills to the sea and to make highway improvements.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority has already spent $9.2 billion in the last 10 years on transit projects, including a yet-to-open light rail line running from the Mid-City area to the South Bay, a regional connector line and an extension of a line that connects the Westside to downtown L.A.

The agency projects it will spend an additional $30 billion on rail in the coming decade and will over the next few decades double the length of its interconnected rail system in the hope that it will lure more commuters across the region.

Academics said voter reluctance about riding transit in response to gas prices was not surprising.

“While gas prices have gone up, most roads and parking continue to be free and plentiful, incentivizing their use,” said Jacob Lawrence Wasserman, research project manager at UCLA’s Institute of Transportation Studies. “And, with transit not given the priority and service to get Angelenos to many destinations reliably, many are left stomaching higher gas prices instead.”

At the same time, by 56% to 35%, voters supported the state’s effort to build a high-speed rail system between Los Angeles and San Francisco that is already expected to be more than three times the original cost estimated when voters approved funding in 2008.

Registered Democrats favored the project 73% to 18%, but Republicans opposed it 66% to 25%. Nonpartisan voters supported the project 55% to 35%.

The glum attitude about the state’s direction was shared, to varying degrees, by California voters of nearly every age group, ethnicity and political stripe.

Just over half of Democrats said the state is headed in the wrong direction, and 93% of Republicans agreed with that gloomy assessment.

Only 21% of voters said they were financially better off than they were a year ago, 42% said they were worse off and 34% said there had been no change.

The survey showed voters are pessimistic about the future: Only 21% predicted they will be better off financially in a year, 30% said they would be worse off, and 44% expected no change in their financial situation.

The poll found that voters now rank the coronavirus near the bottom of a list of 15 challenges facing the state, far behind problems such as housing affordability, homelessness, crime, gas prices and climate change.

Over the last week, the state has averaged 2,824 new coronavirus cases, a decrease of 

Click here to read the full article at the LA Times

San Francisco Residents Use Environmental Lawsuit to Stop Homeless Shelter

In the most played-out storyline in urban politics, San Francisco residents are alleging that a new housing development was approved without appropriate environmental review.

The development in question is a planned 200-bed temporary homeless shelter on the city’s Embarcadero waterfront area. It would replace what is currently a publicly owned parking lot used by fans visiting the nearby Giants stadium.

The shelter was first proposed by Mayor London Breed back in March as part of the city’s Navigation Center program, which provides temporary shelter to homeless people while they are connected to other city services.

These plans met immediate opposition from neighbors, who in, public hearings, protests, and official appeals raised objections that commonly dog proposed homeless shelters: The new shelter would bring drugs and crime to the nearby residential neighborhood. Its 200-bed size would prove too large for the city to effectively handle, particularly given its record managing other Navigation Centers. The presence of contaminated soils and groundwater at the site would create health hazards for the people who would live there.

The city’s Board of Supervisors ultimately rejected these complaints, approving the Navigation Center in June. In doing so, they also declared the project was exempt from the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), which requires that government agencies study the environmental impacts of proposed projects before approving them.

The kind of environmental impact reports that CEQA demands cost a lot in both time and money to prepare, and would have delayed the approval of the Navigation Center by months at the very least. Because of how long and expensive these delays can be, NIMBYs frequently use the law to slow down, alter, or even stop projects they don’t like.

This includes not just homeless shelters and affordable housing, but also regular market-rate developments as well.

City officials tried to avoid this problem in this case by saying that an exemption built into CEQA for urban infill projects applied to the Embarcadero Navigation Center.

But in a lawsuit filed last week, the neighborhood group Safe Embarcadero For All (SEFA) has argued that the many, many negative environmental impacts the project would bring to the neighborhood amounted to “unusual circumstances” that made this infill exemption inappropriate.

“This project will have a significant effect on the environment due to these unusual circumstances, including by attracting additional homeless persons, open drug and alcohol use, crime, daily emergency calls, public urination and defecation and other nuisances,” reads the lawsuit.

Their lawsuit also argues that the state government’s sign off is necessary for the Navigation Center.

SEFA is currently asking for an injunction to stop the Embarcadero Navigation Center from going forward while the case winds through the courts.

San Francisco’s homelessness population has increased by 30 percent in the last two years.

This is not to say that the city’s Navigation Centers have been a huge success at transitioning people into permanent housing. They haven’t.

But the SEFA lawsuit is nevertheless a good example of how any response to the city’s dire homelessness problem, whether its the constructions of more shelters or just the construction of more housing in general, is hamstrung by the state’s onerous environmental review laws.

CHRISTIAN BRITSCHGI is an associate editor at Reason.

This article was originally published by Reason.com

California’s Homeless Industrial Complex – Causes and Solutions

In his final speech from the White House in January 1961, President Dwight Eisenhower warned the nation that the military had joined with the arms industry and had acquired unwarranted influence over American politics. His term for this alliance was the “military industrial complex.”

Since that time, Eisenhower’s term has been co-opted by other critics of special interests pooling their resources to exercise dangerous influence on America’s democracy; one example would be the so-called “homeless industrial complex.”

This label has been around awhile, and has bipartisan origins. In 2012 a guest editorial appeared in the liberal Washington Post entitled “Dismantling the social services industrial complex.” In it, the author explains “an odd mirror image of this huge complex has emerged in the very ‘industry’ that seeks to feed, clothe and otherwise meet the needs of the poor and vulnerable in our society. It’s a social services-industrial complex, if you will, one that could prove even more difficult to subdue than its military counterpart.”

In 2013, writing for Poverty Insights, author John Roberts asked “Is There a Homeless Industrial Complex That Perpetuates Homelessness?” And in January 2017, a former homeless activist published in the ultra-liberal Huffington Post an article entitled “The Homeless Industrial Complex Problem.”

The alliance of special interests that constitutes what has now become the Homeless Industrial Complex are government bureaucracies, homeless advocacy groups operating through nonprofit entities, and large government contractors, especially construction companies and land development firms.

Here’s how the process works: Developers accept public money to build projects to house the homeless – either “bridge housing,” or “permanent supportive housing.” Cities and counties collect building fees and hire bureaucrats for oversight. The projects are then handed off to nonprofits with long term contracts to run them.

That may not sound so bad, but the problem is the price tag. Developers don’t just build housing projects, they build ridiculously overpriced, overbuilt housing projects. Cities and counties create massive bureaucracies. The nonprofits don’t just run these projects – the actual people staffing these shelters aren’t overpaid – they operate huge bureaucratic empires with overhead, marketing budgets, and executive salaries that do nothing for the homeless.

None of these dynamics are terribly unique. Government funded programs are rarely considered bargains. And despite prodigious waste, America’s military is nonetheless the most fearsome in the world. Similarly, despite mismanaging literally billions in proceeds from bonds and taxes collected to help the homeless, in absolute numbers America’s population of homeless may have actually declined over the past 10 years.

How Many Homeless Are There in America?

This surprises a lot of people, but there’s a lot more to that story. According to the U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), in 2007 there were 647,000 homeless people in the U.S., but by the time the most recent count was released in 2018, that number had declined to 543,000. Why, if so much money is being wasted, and the homeless crisis seems to be more acute than ever, are the absolute numbers of homeless actually falling? First of all, the numbers may be incorrect. These counts may be grossly understated.

An illuminating critique of how HUD’s “point-in-time” homeless count may be understating the numbers was published by CityLab in March 2019. Author Alastair Boone participated in an official count, covering a section of Oakland, California, in the early hours of January 30, 2019. HUD requires cities and counties to complete the count, on this day, every two years, in order to receive federal funding for homeless programs. But canvassing the streets of any city during the pre-dawn hours during the coldest month of the year is bound to miss a lot of people. Quoting from the article, “The count is during the winter early in the morning, when it’s harder to actually find folks because they’re seeking some sort of refuge. They want to stay out of sight in general for their own safety.”

Knowing just how many Americans are homeless is further complicated by competing definitions of homelessness. The National Center for Educational Statistics (NCES) claimed in a 2015 report that 1.3 million K-12 students were homeless in that year. But NCES defines the homeless as not only those who are unsheltered or in homeless shelters, but those sharing housing due to loss of their own home, or living in hotels or motels.

Even in California, a state where homelessness is now a crisis célèbre for state legislators in Sacramento, and a cautionary horror story for conservative critics of California politics, at first glance, the overall numbers suggest the problem is overblown. On the map depicted below, using HUD data, the state by state homeless trend is shown for the ten years from 2007 to 2017. California’s total homeless population actually dropped by 3.4 percent.

But reports from around the state dispute the HUD assessment. According to a June 2019 article published in the New York Times, “in Alameda County, the number of homeless residents jumped 43 percent over the past two years. In Orange County, that number was 42 percent. Kern County volunteers surveying the region’s homeless population found a 50 percent increase over 2018. San Francisco notched a 17 percent increase since 2017. When Los Angeles officials released the results of their most recent count, homelessness was up by 12 percent over last year in the county and up 16 percent in the City of Los Angeles.”

Nobody seems to know whether these flaws and ambiguities in how the homeless are counted mean that the crisis is in fact worse now than ever, despite official numbers showing a decline. But total numbers alone don’t tell the whole story. How the homeless are treated, and where the homeless are concentrated, has changed a great deal in the past ten years. This is the real reason the homeless crisis today is worse than ever.

The next map, below, using data from the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness, shows 2018 estimates of the total homeless population by state. Viewed in this context, the states where homelessness increased dramatically over the past ten years, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wyoming, nonetheless confront a relatively insignificant challenge. As of 2018, the estimated homeless population of all three of those states combined totaled only 2,340 people.

Most homeless, on the other hand, are concentrated in states that share one or more of three characteristics; a mild winter climate, large urban centers, and liberal politics. New York, with the nation’s second largest homeless population, fulfills two of those three criteria. Sunny California, in first place with an estimated homeless population exceeding 129,000 in 2018, fulfills all three.

Whether the numbers of homeless people are up or down in California is only half the story. How California’s homelessness has worsened over the past ten years represents a qualitative change. The mismanagement of California’s homeless can be attributed to the Homeless Industrial Complex, but other policy failures are also to blame. All in all, California’s response to homelessness is a textbook example of how to get almost everything wrong.

Policies That Made California’s Homeless Crisis Worse

An assortment of policy failures can be directly linked to why homelessness in California is a bigger problem than ever, even in the unlikely event the numbers of homeless have not dramatically increased. These policy failures have taken the form of overzealous court rulings, citizen approved ballot measures that wreaked havoc in their unintended consequences, and flawed legislation.

Court Decisions: The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, unsurprisingly, is the author of at least three rulings that have tied the hands of law enforcement in dealing with the homeless. The first of these is Jones v. the City of Los Angeles, decided in 2006, that ruled that law enforcement and city officials can no longer enforce the ban on sleeping on sidewalks anywhere within the Los Angeles city limits until a sufficient amount of permanent supportive housing could be built. Subsequent to the Jones ruling, activist attorneys have repeatedly sued cities and counties to force them to define “permanent supportive housing” with specifications that make it far more difficult and expensive to get anything built.

An analysis published by Washington State based municipal law attorney Oskar Rey in June 2019 describes similar cases in other states. The Jonesruling was reinforced in Sept. 2018, quoting from Rey, “in the case of Martin v City of Boise, where the 9th circuit found that the City of Boise’s enforcement of ordinances prohibiting camping, sleeping, or lying in public violated the Eighth Amendment ban on cruel and unusual punishment if an individual does not have a meaningful alternative (such as space in a shelter or a legal place to camp).” Rey continues:

“A different Ninth Circuit case, Lavan v. City of Los Angeles, decided in 2012, addresses a related issue—due process requirements for the removal of unauthorized encampments on public property. Prior to clearing encampments, local governments must provide notice to camp resident (72-hour minimum notice is common). It is also important to have outreach personnel present during encampment removal, whose job it is to help individuals in an encampment identify shelter options or alternative locations to go to. Personal property found during the encampment removal must be held for a certain amount of time so that it can be claimed by the owner.”

The practical impact of these cases is to create private space wherever a homeless person camps on publicly owned property. Apart from trying – often ineffectively – to prevent the homeless from blocking passage on roads and sidewalks, if a homeless person wants to camp in a public space, they cannot be removed.

State Ballot Initiatives: In 2014 California voters approved Prop. 47, which downgraded drug and property crimes. Prop. 47 has led to what police derisively refer to as “catch and release,” because suspects are only issued citations with a court date, and let go. With respect to the homeless, passage of this initiative has made it a waste of time for police to arrest anyone for openly using illegal drugs or for petty theft. Only very serious crimes are still investigated. Prop. 47 has enabled anarchy among the homeless and in the neighborhoods where homeless are concentrated.

In 2016, California voters approved Prop. 57, intended to make individuals convicted of nonviolent felony crimes eligible for parole. About 7,000 inmates became immediately eligible, and as of early 2016, there were about 25,000 nonviolent state felons that could seek early release and parole under Proposition 57. Hopefully most of these released inmates reintegrated successfully into society. But those among this at-risk population who did not joined California’s homeless.

State Legislation: Flawed legislation by California lawmakers would include AB 109, passed in 2011, which released tens of thousands of “non-violent” criminals out of county jails due to overcrowding without providing adequate means to monitor and assist their transition back into society. Thousands of these inmates were coping with drug addiction and mental illness, and they have found their way onto California’s streets and parks. Many of them are “non-violent” drug dealers or convicted thieves. As with Prop. 57, AB 109 has changed the character of California’s homeless population.

And then there’s the infamous AB 953, a ridiculous bit of legislation that epitomizes the mentality of California’s utopian leftist politicians. As if there weren’t enough laws and court rulings tying the hands of law enforcement, AB 953, the “The Racial and Identity Profiling Act of 2015” makes it even harder. This law, supposedly intended to address dubious claims, especially in California, of discriminatory policing, requires police departments to submit to the State of California an annual report of their “stop data.” The following table, drawn from this report, shows the “Officer Reporting Requirements.”

When it comes to the practical effect of AB 953, it’s hard to find anything good. Every single time they interact with a citizen officers have to input 17 variables into a form that is either paper (four pages, requiring reentry into a database), or onto a tablet, cell phone, or in-car laptop. The mere fact that this is a time consuming process will prevent a police officer from making as many stops during a normal shift, and may deter them from even making some stops. Worse, the data collected is designed to either prove or disprove that officers in any given police department are stopping a disproportionate number of citizens who are members of “protected status groups.” Needless to say, officers, and their departments, may become reluctant to exceed their “quotas,” and as a result have an incentive to not make stops when stops are warranted.

No summary of counterproductive state legislation would be complete without mentioning the laws that make it nearly impossible to get treatment for mentally ill homeless people. According to a report published by CalMatters, this problem began way back in 1967 in California with “a law signed by then-Gov. Ronald Reagan. Aimed at safeguarding the civil rights of one of society’s most vulnerable populations, the Lanterman-Petris-Short Act put an end to the inappropriate and often indefinite institutionalization of people with mental illnesses and developmental disabilities.”

Ever since, and especially in recent years as the percentage of homeless who suffer from mental illness has increased, attempts to reform the Lanterman-Petris-Short Act have been tenaciously resisted by the ACLU and other homeless advocacy groups. As reported by San Francisco’s public radio station KQED, during 2018 three laws were introduced by California legislators that would “attempt to change conservatorship rules to allow city health workers to help homeless people with substance abuse and mental health problems by legally and temporarily stepping in to force a mentally ill person into treatment.” Only one, SB 1045, became law, and the final version was so watered down that San Francisco’s Mayor London Breed, a liberal Democrat, claimed “As drafted, SB 1045 would allow us to help fewer than five individuals.” There are an estimated 7,000 homeless living on the streets of San Francisco.

Most of these court rulings and laws, nearly all of them passed or decided in the last decade, have made it far more difficult to manage California’s homeless population. Their effect has been to increase the proportion of mentally ill, drug addicts, and criminals as a percentage of the homeless, at the same time as police and social service workers have far less ability to detain, relocate, or even offer help to the homeless.

Mismanaged Homeless Encampments Raise Threat of Medieval Disease Epidemics

Notwithstanding the many passed or proposed state laws that attempt to create more housing, or throw additional billions at the Homeless Industrial Complex to be largely squandered, another set of state laws – either proposed or already passed – threaten to turn California’s homeless epidemic into a serious disease epidemic. In 2014 the California Legislature passed AB 2657, banning rat poison that uses anticoagulants. The reason for this legislation was to protect endangered species who feed on the poisoned rats and themselves become poisoned. While the law didn’t explicitly prohibit use of the poison within inner cities, the City of Los Angeles has stopped relying on the poison, and instead is setting traps and considering bringing in “working cats” to control the rodent population. It’s not working. An even more restrictive ban on effective rodenticides, AB 2422, is currently moving through California’s state legislature, and is expected to pass.

Most people agree that using poisons this potent should be restricted in suburban areas bordering wildlife habitat. But the consequences of denying its use in the downtown core of Los Angeles could be catastrophic to the human population. And the mountains of trash that create rat habitat are not just coming from homeless people, they are a product of a disastrous decision by the Los Angeles City Council that has led to mountains of uncollected trash from businesses and residences.

In 2017, the Los Angeles City Council began to implement the “RecycLA” program, where they gave seven companies the exclusive right to collect trash. Putting small haulers out of business in the name of saving the streets from excessive traffic, the measure was sold as a way to create economies of scale. Instead, these companies were unable to smoothly absorb the additional work, at the same time as in many cases they doubled or tripled their collection fees. The consequences of these failed schemes are that Los Angeles now has two sources contributing to the mountains of trash in the city – homeless encampments, but also illegal dumping by disgruntled businesses and residences.

Where there’s trash, there are rats, and where there are rats, there are disease carrying fleas. Dr. Drew Pinsky, an outspoken celebrity doctor and Los Angeles native, recently quoted on Fox News, said: “Rats have taken over the city. We’re the only city in the country, Los Angeles, without a rodent control program. We have multiple rodent-borne, flea-borne illnesses, plague, typhus. We’re going to have louse-borne illness. Measles could break into that population. We have tuberculosis exploding.”

All of this is easily confirmed. Los Angeles has already had outbreaks of typhushepatitis and tuberculosis, as have other cities in California. Shigella, a communicable form of diarrhea, is now common among the homeless. There have even been outbreaks of trench fever, spread by lice. As reported by the Atlantic earlier this year “Medieval Diseases Are Infecting California’s Homeless.”

To-date, except for those people living and working in proximity to the many encampments, the homeless crisis in America has been an abstraction. But now there is a possibility that this perfect storm of neglect, indulgence, and corruption may lead to disease outbreaks on a scale not seen in this country for over a century. The homeless problem has become a timebomb.

Homelessness Around the United States

When it comes to mismanaging the homeless, California may be leader of the pack, but other major urban centers are not far behind. The following table shows which American cities have the largest homeless populations. While four out of the top ten – Los Angeles, San Diego, San Jose, and San Francisco – are in California, it is New York City with the most homeless. An estimated 78,000 homeless are living on the streets of the Big Apple. As usual with numbers, however, there’s more to this story. According to a report from the Department of Housing and Urban Development, New York City has one of the lowest levels of unsheltered homeless at 5 percent, while in Los Angeles, 75 percent of people were found in unsheltered locations. Overall, over half of all homeless people live in one of the country’s 50 largest cities. In fact, nearly a quarter of all people sleeping unsheltered did so in either New York or Los Angeles. ‘

But how is it that New York City manages to get 95 percent of their homeless into overnight shelters, whereas Los Angeles only gets 25 percent of their homeless into shelters? An interesting analysis published in Medium in May 2018 explains how New Yorkers addressed the problem of homelessness. The approach was first to simply build more shelter beds. The correlation between the number of available shelter beds and the number of sheltered homeless is high across the nation, as the graphic below illustrates.

What New York City did was to prioritize getting people under a roof for the night. In other cities where this has been tried, such as Columbus, Ohio, the number of unsheltered homeless has been brought under control. But New York City has gone a step further, offering reasonable conditions and incentives to their sheltered population even at this most basic first step of assistance. Quoting from Medium:

“In New York, shelters have common areas and guests are allowed during certain hours. People can leave during the day — they are expected to look for a job if they’re able to work, and they receive assistance in that pursuit — but must come back by 10 p.m. in most cases, unless they receive a job-related exemption. All facilities have access to laundry and showers, and residents receive 3 meals a day. New York shelters provide a small platform from which people can rebuild their lives, but are also affordable enough to be able to scale to meet the city’s immense problem.”

As the next chart shows, New York City’s nearly 800 shelters with an overnight capacity of over 62,000 individuals gives them a rate of unsheltered homeless of only 45 per 100,000 residents. San Francisco and Los Angeles, by contrast, have a rate of unsheltered homeless ten times higher; Seattle, five times higher. What’s different in these cities?

Part of it is New York’s legacy of providing assistance to the homeless dating back to the Great Depression of the 1930’s. New York’s network of overnight shelters were acquired over decades, meaning New Yorkers today are able to allocate a higher percentage of the nearly $1.7 billion in city, state and federal money on caseworkers and shelter subsidies, and relatively less on acquisition of new shelter capacity. And because New York City prioritizes providing immediate shelter over the far more expensive “permanent supportive housing,” what seems like a prodigious amount budgeted to help the homeless comes out to only around $21,000 per homeless person.

One obvious challenge facing cities such as Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and other West Coast cities facing a homeless crisis is the high cost of housing. But other policies have helped cause the problem, and are making the problem worse. As described, state and local laws, court rulings and citizen initiatives have all made California’s homeless crisis much harder to manage. Not only is it harder to compel the homeless to seek shelter, or get them into treatment for addiction and mental illness, or prosecute them for criminal offenses, but the emphasis on permanent supportive housing takes money away from funds that could be used for overnight shelters. Up north, Seattle faces similar policy failures.

Four articles published in City Journal over the past six months by Christopher Rufo, a research fellow at the Discovery Institute’s Center for Wealth & Poverty, offer a blistering critique of Seattle’s inept response to homelessness, and the growing backlash from residents. For starters, the Seattle metro area spends more than $1.0 billion fighting homelessness every year. That equates to nearly $100,000 per homeless individual living in Seattle, nearly five times as much as New York City spends. And yet, as previously shown, Seattle’s rate of unsheltered homeless is five times greater than New York City. By these measures, New York City is twenty-five times more efficient at battling homelessness than Seattle.

Why is it that Seattle, the “Emerald City,” home to what is arguably the second biggest high-tech nexus on earth, a locus for fabulous wealth and a place of dazzling scenic beauty, with per capita income 50 percent higher than New York City, can’t begin to manage their homeless problem?

Rufo attributes the root cause of Seattle’s failure to what he calls “unlimited compassion,” and calls for a complete rethink of the assumptions that guide policies towards the homeless. It would not be much of an overstatement to characterize Rufo’s lengthy first article, from the Fall of 2018, entitled “Seattle Under Siege,” as a seminal manifesto challenging the entire ideological framework of the “compassion brigades” that dominate Seattle politics. This ideology is not unique to Seattle. It informs failed homeless policies across the U.S., especially in blue states, and especially on the West Coast.

The Socialist/Liberal Ideology That Fails to Help the Homeless

What Rufo identifies as the “four ideological power centers” that frame the homeless debate in Seattle (and elsewhere) are “the socialists, the compassion brigades, the addiction evangelists, and the homeless-industrial complex.” The first three fit nicely into a Socialist/Liberal ideology. The last of Rufo’s categories, his shared concern about the “homeless industrial complex,” is a bit more complicated, and motivated not by ideology but by desire for power and profit. More on that later.

An interesting fact about the urban centers on the West Coast is that their high-tech driven wealth is highly correlated with higher wealth inequality, along with higher home prices and higher rents. And where the rich and poor live elbow to elbow at the same time as the cost-of-living soars, socialists come out of the woodwork, offering indignant soundbites and instant solutions. In Seattle, along with San Francisco, Los Angeles, and elsewhere, avowed socialists sit on the city councils, offering a political agenda that’s guaranteed to make everything worse for the people its supposed to help.

In Seattle, the “Socialist Alternative” city council member is Kashama Sawant, who along with Adrienne Quinn, the new of boss the homeless activist group “All Home,” promotes an agenda that is all too familiar for anyone watching urban politics in cities controlled by liberals. For Sawant, that agenda includes rent control, public housing, minimum-wage hikes, and punitive corporate taxation. As for Quinn, Rufo writes: “In an op-ed in the Seattle Times, she lays out her plan to ‘address the root causes of homelessness’ by solving ‘racism,’ ‘wage inequity,’ ‘climate change,’ ‘housing costs,’ ‘public transportation,’ ‘green building,’ ‘sanctuary cities,’ the ‘child-welfare system,’ ‘brain injuries,’ and ‘mental-health and addiction services.’”

Needless to say, this socialist agenda will never solve the problem of homelessness. Rent control discourages investment in housing; public housing is rarely built cost-effectively, especially in blue cities with extreme environmentalist building codes and costly labor laws, minimum wage hikes are job killers, and punitive corporate taxes send corporations packing for Texas. The most ironic thing about the socialist agenda in 21st century America is that it is inevitably co-opted by the corporate Left. The only thing these two special interests have in common, ultimately, is a vested interest in never seeing lasting solutions to any of the problems they’re supposedly fighting to solve. Lasting solutions would end their revenue streams.

Compassion brigades, as Rufo puts it, “are the moral crusaders of homelessness policy, the activists who put signs on their lawns that read: ‘In this house, we believe black lives matter, women’s rights are human rights, no human is illegal,’ and so on. They see compassion as the highest virtue; all else must be subordinated to it.”

What Rufo refers to is expanded on by the idea of six universal moral foundations, first expressed in 2004 by Jonathan Haidt, a professor of social psychology at the University of Virginia. These virtues (and their opposites) are: “Care/harm, Fairness/cheating, Loyalty/betrayal, Authority/subversion, Sanctity/degradation, and Liberty/oppression.” Needless to say, Haidt’s paradigm is fodder for ideologues of all stripes. Liberals are accused by conservatives of possessing only two of these virtues – Care (compassion), and Fairness. As an aside, conservatives accuse Libertarians of only possessing one of these virtues, Liberty. For themselves, conservatives familiar with Haidt’s work rather immodestly consider themselves to possess all six universal virtues.

But regardless of what social psychologists theorize, or how those theories are latched onto by various ideologues, Rufo’s assertion that the “compassion brigades” ascribe inordinate emphasis to compassion, at the expense of other moral considerations, is evidence based. And understanding this moral weakness in the moral arguments of liberal advocates for the homeless is a prerequisite to developing counter-arguments that offer equivalent moral worth.

Which brings us to Rufo’s third ideological power center, the “addiction evangelists,” who he describes as the intellectual heirs of the 1960’s counterculture. This time, the counterculture wants to “elevate addicts and street people to a protected class.” Rufo identifies Seattle’s proponents of this ethos, but they’re found everywhere. One primary justification for the pro-addiction movement is “harm reduction” by providing clean needles, and safe injection sites. But providing addiction infrastructure has the predictable consequence of attracting addicts, and the more addiction infrastructure is provided, the more addicts are attracted.

In all of these ideological movements – socialism, compassion, addiction evangelism – Rufo documents how the unintended consequence has been to increase the number of homeless people and the number of drug addicts on the streets of Seattle. Another consequence has been to invite a growing backlash from residents who have had enough. But progress is slow, especially when the will of the people isn’t enough. When over 70,000 Seattle residents submitted a ballot measure to ban safe injection sites, it was thrown out in court. Apparently “public health policy is not subject to veto by citizen initiative.”

The Homeless Industrial Complex

As is usually the case with leftist movements in America, public policies would not embrace the movement unless powerful special interests saw an economic benefit. In the case of the homeless, this economic benefit has grown over time. Litigation and legislation, as described, have increased the cost of providing shelter for the homeless. These costs have also increased because the character of the homeless population has changed due to a variety of causes, making it more costly to effectively help them: permissive drug laws combined with easier access to harder drugs such as opiates, mass release of nonviolent prison inmates, and laws restricting the ability to compel treatment for addiction or mental illness.

At the same time as per capita costs have risen, public awareness has led to massive increases in funding to provide assistance. Institutions have arisen that benefit from perverse incentives. If the problem gets worse, they get more money. Seattle provides dramatic examples of this. Again, from Christopher Rufo:

“It wasn’t always this way. When I spoke with Eleanor Owen, one of the original co-founders of Seattle’s Downtown Emergency Service Center, she explained that the organization’s mission has shifted over the years from helping the homeless to securing government contracts, maintaining a $112 million real-estate portfolio, and paying a staff of nearly 900. ‘It’s disgraceful,’ she said. ‘When we started, we kept our costs low and helped people get back on their feet. Now the question is: How can I collect another city contract? How can I collect more Medicaid dollars? How can I collect more federal matching funds? It’s more important to keep the staff paid than to actually help the poor become self-sufficient.’”

Nowhere, however, is the mismanagement of homeless more acute than in the deep blue state of California, where land values and anti-development legislation, along with a host of other laws and court rulings as previously described, combined with the most forgiving winter weather in America, have combined to make it America’s homeless capital.

California’s homeless are estimated to number over 130,000, living on sidewalks, parks and parking lots, vacant lots and on the beach. In Los Angeles County, the most recent count puts the number of homeless at 59,000. And in greater Los Angeles, there is plenty of money available to help the homeless. In 2016 Los Angeles voters approved Measure HHH, allocating $1.2 billion in bonds to build 10,000 units to house the homeless. Since then, Los Angeles voters approved a quarter cent sales tax increase, also to help the homeless. Additional hundreds of millions are coming from the state to help the homeless.

Every major city in California is spending tens of millions or more on programs for the homeless. But most of the money is being wasted. Why? Because there is a Homeless Industrial Complex that is getting rich, wasting the money, while the homeless population swells.

A disgraceful example of wasteful spending can be found in the homeless shelter being built in Venice Beach, where a permanent population of over 1,000 homeless have taken over virtually every public venue, including the beach. Because their tents are now protected by law as private space, they not only serve as housing, but as pop-up drug retailers and brothels. To get these folks off the streets and off the beach, a 154 bed shelter has been approved by the Los Angeles City Council. It will be a “wet” shelter, meaning druggies and drunkards will be able to come and go as they please. The estimated cost for this shelter so far is at least $8 million, which equates to over $50,000 per bed.

These costs, grossly inflated and far too expensive to offer a solution scaled to the overall problem, are nonetheless unsurprising if you consider the cost of any new construction in exorbitant California. But this isn’t new construction, it’s “temporary” construction of very large tents on three acres of land. Eight million dollars (or more), to put up some large tents and plumb for bathrooms and a kitchen. As a “wet” shelter, it will become a hotel for freeloading partiers as much as a refuge for the truly needy. Not only is it only capable of housing a small fraction of the 1,000+ homeless already in Venice, it will attract more homeless people to relocate to Venice.

The story gets worse. This property, owned by the Los Angeles Metropolitan Transit District and located on some of the most precious real estate on earth, could have been sold to private investors to generate tens if not hundreds of millions of dollars. Why wasn’t that choice made? Why, for that matter, aren’t homeless shelters being built in Pacific Palisades, or Brentwood, or Beverly Hills, or the other tony enclaves of LA’s super rich? The answer speaks to the hypocrisy of the proponents of these “solutions” as much as it nurtures the cynicism of its critics. Because as with all boondoggles that destroy neighborhoods in the name of compassion, the Homeless Industrial Complex knows better than to foul their own nests.

The Homeless Industrial Complex’s expensive maltreatment of Venice Beach in particular, and taxpayers in general, is an example of how “bridge housing” projects are co-opted and corrupted. But even more horrendous waste is exemplified by the efforts to construct “permanent supportive housing.”

According to an NPR report from June 2018, “when voters passed Measure HHH, they were told that new ‘permanent supportive housing’ would cost about $140,000 a unit. But average per unit costs are now more than triple that. The PATH Ventures project in East Hollywood has an estimated per-unit cost of $440,000.”

A privately funded development company, Flyaway Homes, has debuted in Los Angeles with the mission of rapidly providing housing for the homeless. Using retrofitted shipping containers, the company’s modular approach to apartment building construction is purported to streamline the approval process and cut costs. But the two projects they’ve got underway are too expensive to ever offer a solution to more than fraction of the homeless.

Their 82nd Street Development will cost $4.5 million to house 32 “clients” in 16 two-bedroom, 480 square foot apartments. That’s $281,250 per two-bedroom apartment. The firm’s 820 W. Colden Ave. property will cost $3.6 million to house 32 clients in eight four-bedroom apartments. That’s $450,000 per apartment.

These costs are utterly unsustainable. But the Homeless Industrial Complex has grown into a juggernaut, crushing the opposition. At community hearings across California, “homeless advocates,” who are often bused in from other areas expressly to shout down local opposition, demand action, because “no one deserves to live on a sidewalk.”

Money is squandered, and the population of homeless people multiplies.

The “Transformation” vs “Containment” Approaches to the Homeless

San Diego has the fourth highest number of homeless of any city in the U.S., over 8,500. According to Paul Webster, operator of a privately funded homeless shelter in San Diego, there are two ways to treat the homeless, the “transformational model” and the “containment” model. The transformation model works to identify homeless individuals who are able to transition back to self-sufficiency and gives them the training and services to accomplish that. The containment model emphasizes getting shelter for the homeless before offering additional services. Webster is critical of a relatively recent federal law, the 2009 Hearth Act, that bureaucratized the process of getting public money to combat homelessness at the same time as it made it harder to secure funding for transformational programs. Since 2009, all organizations set up to help the homeless have to submit applications through regional quasi-government organizations called “continuums of care.” The applications have to be “evidence based” and reliant on data such as the HUD “point in time” counts. All grant requests as well have to include “homelessness management information systems” that facilitate “coordinated entry” of the homeless into supportive care.

The new guidelines, enforced by HUD, also incorporated “low barrier entry” requirements in order to “reach the most vulnerable.” This meant applicants could not prohibit drug use, they can’t require work, and they cannot require program compliance. Applicants for state and local grants have to adhere to these same HUD guidelines.Webster’s organization, Solutions for Change, requires no drug use, work, they have roommate restrictions, partying restrictions, and they do drug testing. This means that they can’t accept federal funds and they also aren’t eligible for state funds because of the “housing first” rule, meaning that housing has to be provided before providing any other solutions to homelessness.

The implications of the Hearth Act on how the homeless are treated go well beyond determining who gets funds. It has created an incentive for homeless organizations to prioritize helping drug addicts, because one of the ways to attract benefits to help the homeless is by getting Social Security Disability income. The so-called “housing navigators” who help qualify people for SSDI know it is easier to secure this benefit if the person is afflicted with drug addiction.

According to Webster, there are three types of homeless. The “cannots” who are mentally ill or disabled; these comprise about 15 percent of the homeless. Then there are the “have nots” who could succeed if they were trained to acquire new skills and had access to services. The have-nots are often not counted; they live doubled up in homes, with friends, in cars, many of them are single mothers who want to avoid living on the street. These have-nots are about 42 percent of the homeless. The third group are the “will nots” who do not want to change. Most of these are drug addicts or alcoholics. These are the most problematic of the three.

The will-nots know they have safe havens on the street, where they can get drugs cheaply and readily. The will-nots become very sophisticated at getting things for nothing – the government doesn’t make a distinction between the unwilling and the unable – as a result the unwilling will always have the ability to crowd out the unable. The result of laws aimed at helping the homeless, the Federal Hearth Act, or at criminal justice reform, California’s Prop. 47 and AB 953, are that the will-nots generally receive the bulk of the services aimed at helping the homeless, despite the fact that their treatment is invariably more expensive, and the likelihood they will ever change is much lower. Left behind are the cannots and the have-nots. Also left behind, at least when it comes to funding, are organizations that work on permanent transformation, instead of mere containment.

To state the obvious, all of this must change. Here are some ways to make that happen:

Solutions to America’s Homeless Crisis

Pick Up the Trash: With Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, and other cities already facing the imminent threat of a breakout disease epidemic, this measure comes before all others. It ought to be easy, America’s cities in the second half of the 20th century were not inundated with tons of uncollected trash on the streets. In the case of Los Angeles, if their recently launched “RecycLA” program is truly the corruption riddled, ineffective, price gouging, trash neglecting disaster it appears to be, then cancel the program and go back to what worked in the past.

The failure of large urban cities to even pick up their trash points to larger shifts in culture and governance that have to be addressed. Some cities, notably New York City, still manage to fulfill most of these basic obligations of local government. To the extent that piled up trash remains a problem after waste management contracts are restructured and the system of garbage collection works again, these larger structural issues have to be addressed – starting with the homeless encampments.

Time could be running out. If rodent populations aren’t brought under control – perhaps also by temporarily permitting application of otherwise problematic rodenticides in infested urban settings – large numbers of innocent people may become afflicted with deadly diseases. If this does happen, it will be something that was totally avoidable. Look for an avalanche of lawsuits and possible criminal prosecutions against negligent local politicians.

Lower the Cost of New Housing: This is a monster topic, but cannot be excluded from any discussion of the homeless crisis. In some respects it is an excuse, since with other policy revisions it would be possible to shelter the homeless without having to engage in ridiculously expensive housing solutions. But the cost of housing, especially in blue states that are dominated by extreme environmentalists and labor unions (in that order), is artificially high as the result of policies that must change if costs are to come down.

California, ever the cautionary example, needs to eliminate or dramatically reduce the scope of extreme environmentalist inspired mandates, starting with the California Environmental Quality Act. This law, passed in 1970, has been abused by opportunistic attorneys and state bureaucrats to stop most housing developments in their tracks. It takes years, if not decades, to approve housing projects that in other states would take weeks or months to get approval. CEQA and similar California laws are the reason why the median price of a home in California is $547,700, whereas in Texas it’s $196,100.

Also afflicting blue states is what might be termed the “density delusion,” that is, the delusional conventional wisdom among liberal policymakers that the only environmentally correct way to permit housing construction is to engage in “infill” within the borders of existing urbanized areas. Somehow, the theory goes, if everyone lives in tightly packed cities, “greenhouse gas” emissions will be reduced. That, and preservation of “open space,” are the moral arguments for high density housing. But these arguments are flawed.

The “climate” argument for high density housing ignores the extra fuel burned as more and more commuter vehicles idle on a finite allocation of congested roads. It ignores the fact that jobs move to the urban periphery when new homes are constructed out there, relieving rush hour congestion. It also ignores the fact that high rise housing costs far more per unit, because of the massive quantities of cement and steel required for any construction over three stories. And it is cruelly indifferent to the destruction of established suburban neighborhoods as apartments are seeded onto lots right next to single family dwellings. America is less than four percent urbanized. There is plenty of extra “open space,” and it is futile to expect infill alone to enable housing supply to increase enough to lower prices.

Politically contrived housing scarcity creates a real-estate bubble, something that is in the economic interests of wealthy investors and speculators, pension portfolio managers, and local governments who collect higher property tax revenue. It also increases profits to those mega-development firms that have the financial clout to push their projects through the approval process. This is perhaps the true motivation for “smart growth.” Reversing these policies will not solve the homeless crisis, but it will make it less likely for the hard working “have nots” (roughly 40 percent of the homeless population) to lose their homes and rentals, and it will make it easier for them to afford housing once they get back on their feet.

Quit Blaming Homelessness on Prejudice and Privilege: According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness, African Americans make up 13 percent of the general population, but more than 40 percent of the homeless population. Similarly, American Indians/Alaska Natives, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders, and people who identify as two or more races make up a disproportionate share of the homeless population. Clearly, minority communities are disproportionately represented among the homeless.

While these statistics are probably accurate, they are used to reinforce the liberal catechism that finds all disparities by race to be the result of white racism. Accepting this catechism results in policies that are ineffective, expensive, and divisive. Rather than granting preferences and entitlements to people based on their alleged status as victims of racism, it would be far more productive to identify the more likely cause of individual criminality, addiction, unemployability, which is the parental status of the homes they grew up in.

The next table, below, shows parental status by race for children under 18. As shown, 57 percent of Black children in 2014 were being raised by single mothers, compared to only 18 percent of white children. Note the remarkable degree of correlation between the proportions of homeless by race, and the proportions of single parent households by race. It’s easy, and plays well to the crowd, to attribute minority homelessness to racism. But a growing body of evidence suggests that intact families are the prevailing indicator of individual success in life. Until that evidence is confronted by the communities affected by it, other suggested causes for minorities being disproportionately represented among the homeless lack authenticity, and smack of opportunism.

Untie Hands of Law Enforcement: The theory of “Broken Windows,” or “order maintenance” policing argues that “tolerating too much local disorder created a climate in which criminal behavior, including serious crimes, would become more likely, since criminals would sense that public norms and vigilance were weak.” Broken Windows policing, whereby police crack down on low level crimes, was begun in the 1990s in New York City and is often credited with greatly reducing crime rates.

At the other extreme is the near lawlessness that prevails on the streets of Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and other cities experiencing a homeless crisis. In California, as described, well-intentioned citizen approved ballot measures and ill-conceived legislation have tied the hands of law enforcement. Public intoxication, petty crime and vagrancy are all either decriminalized or have been downgraded to the point where offenders have to be released almost immediately after apprehension. California’s legislature has even passed laws supposedly necessary to prevent “racial profiling” which in practice make police hesitant to make stops both because of possible repercussions and because of the time consuming new reporting requirements.

The consequences of tying the hands of law enforcement are obvious. It is preposterous that criminals, drunks, drug addicts, and insane people are permitted to take over entire sections of cities and neighborhoods, but that’s exactly what’s happened. It is important to stress that of while a little over 40 percent of the homeless are so-called “have nots,” these people almost all find shelter, often with friends or family. The remainder, the “cannots” and the “will nots,” are the ones found living on the streets. Virtually all of these “cannots” and “have nots” are either mentally ill, alcoholics, or drug addicts; many of them are criminals.

In every state where they’ve been enacted, measures that tie the hands of police have to be overturned by voters or repealed by the legislature. The police need to be allowed to do their jobs.

Make it Easier to Incarcerate the Mentally Ill: It’s worth wondering how anyone can think it is compassionate to allow a raving schizophrenic, terrified by their own thoughts, to roam unmedicated on crowded city streets. But that’s exactly what’s been happening in the interests of protecting their human rights. Certainly it is important to avoid overreach, but at this point laws available to compel the mentally ill into treatment are inadequate. Often the afflicted have family members that have the means to help, and are desperate to get their relative into treatment, but the laws prevent them.

Approximately 15 percent of the homeless are mentally ill; arguably, the alcoholics and drug addicts are also suffering from a form of mental illness. Together these cohorts constitute well over half of all homeless, and nearly all of the unsheltered homeless seen on the streets. Families, caseworkers, and mental health professionals need to be given the legal tools to help these people.

Overturn Jones vs Los Angeles and similar court rulings: Starting over a decade ago with the 2006 decision in the case Jones vs the City of Los Angeles, homeless cannot be prohibited from sleeping on the street unless “permanent supportive housing” is available. Similar rulings have been issued in Idaho and Washington State. The impact of these rulings, combined with the other constraints on law enforcement, make it nearly impossible to clear the streets of homeless encampments. The problem has been exacerbated by subsequent lawsuits to enforce the Jones decision which have defined “permanent supportive housing” in ways that make it more expensive. The practical impact of the Jones case has been to make it financially infeasible to ever deliver adequate housing alternatives to the homeless. A major city with the financial wherewithal to pay for a sustained legal battle needs to challenge the Jones decision all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, with the objective being a ruling that will permit less elaborate, more cost-effective housing and shelter solutions to be allowable.

Set Limits on Costs: In Los Angeles today, a temporary shelter (designed to last three years) is being constructed at a cost of over $50,000 per bed, and “permanent supportive housing” units are being constructed for, on average, over $400,000 each. Los Angeles is also planning to deploy mobile toilets for the homeless to use, with the expected cost per unit of $339,000 per year. In Seattle, the cost for existing programs to help the homeless is approximately $100,000 per homeless person per year. Given the number of unsheltered homeless in Seattle, this spending is totally ineffective. These costs are absurd. Designing solutions that cost less, but offer shelter to 100 percent of the homeless, is vastly preferable to solutions that cost so much that only a fraction of the homeless get assistance.

Creative solutions exist that cost far less. Off the shelf tents, sheds, prefab “tiny homes,” and prefab homes made from shipping containers are all less costly options. Relocating the homeless to repurposed industrial or retail sites that are already built out and not on premium real estate would cut costs. Putting shelters in the middle of some of the most expensive real estate on earth not only squanders finite available funds, but when the unused property is government owned, the chance is lost to sell that property and invest the proceeds in less expensive locations. Somehow, pressure has to bear on politicians to recognize that costs are out of control and act accordingly.

Assert the Moral Argument for a New Approach: Most citizens who live in neighborhoods or commercial centers overrun with homeless people feel a justifiable anger at the failure of civic leaders to get the problem under control. But no serious conversation about solutions should fail to acknowledge the fact that the homeless are people who deserve compassion. For every predator, opportunist, or slacker, there are far more who have simply lost their way. Who knows what happened in the life of an inmate just thrown back onto the streets, or a teenager who just aged out of foster care?

When discussing new policies to manage the problem of homelessness, the importance of compassion can remain first among equals when considered along with other moral virtues; fairness, loyalty, authority, sanctity, liberty. When offering new solutions, practical solutions, solutions that work for everyone affected by homelessness, reformers have to emphasize the moral worth of their ideas. They may have to shout this over the well-orchestrated objections coming from the compassion brigades. But fighting the compassion brigades does not require one to lack compassion.

The culture of normalizing drug use, protecting the rights of the mentally ill to their detriment, insisting on prohibitively expensive accommodations for the homeless – these are all morally flawed arguments. The deterrent value of strictly enforced laws against vagrancy has moral worth, because individuals – specifically, the “will nots” – will not be enabled to more easily choose a life of idle indulgence. Compelling the mentally ill to submit to treatment is a humane policy, not oppression. Similarly, compelling addicts and alcoholics into treatment facilities where they can detox and work productively is often the only way to offer them a chance to recover their dignity and regain control of their lives. Part of this moral conversation must examine the wisdom of the “housing first” policy of containment that is now a condition of receiving federal funds for homeless programs. Proponents of new approaches to helping the homeless should consider the success of transformational programs, which offer job training, counseling and sobriety programs in addition to shelter.

When discussing the moral worth of a new approach to combating homelessness, perhaps the most urgent area to demand reform is to put an end to the waste and corruption that infests the entire process as it is today. The absurd costs of any sort of construction, the myriad parties to the process, all with their hands out, all of them hiding behind righteous rhetoric. The Homeless Industrial Complex has spawned far too many charlatans and opportunists. They must be exposed and expelled.

America’s Homeless Industrial Complex has acquired money and power by presiding over a problem that has only gotten worse, year after year. The worse the problem has gotten, the more money and power they have acquired. Creative solutions exist, and only await a critical mass of networked citizens and conscientious policymakers to insist on change.

An edited version of this article originally appeared on the website American Greatness.

Lack of Political Will Allows California’s Homeless Epidemic to Continue

Los Angeles could be at risk of a deadly typhus epidemic this summer according to Dr. Drew Pinsky, an outspoken celebrity doctor and specialist in addiction medicine. Pinsky, a Los Angeles native, recently quoted on Fox News, said: “We have tens and tens of thousands of people living in tents. Horrible conditions. Rats have taken over the city. We’re the only city in the country, Los Angeles, without a rodent control program. We have multiple rodent-borne, flea-borne illnesses, plague, typhus. We’re going to have louse-borne illness. Measles could break into that population. We have tuberculosis exploding.”

All of this is easily confirmed. Los Angeles already has outbreaks of typhushepatitis and tuberculosis,  as do other cities in California. Shigella, a communicable form of diarrhea, is now common among the homeless. There have even been outbreaks of trench fever, spread by lice. As reported by the Atlantic earlier this year “Medieval Diseases Are Infecting California’s Homeless.”

There are estimated to be over 55,000 homeless in Los Angeles County, and at least 130,000 statewide, living on sidewalks, parks and parking lots, vacant lots and on the beach. There is no sanitation and no trash collection. The populations of disease carrying animals and insects that thrive in these conditions are exploding: rats, fleas, mosquitoes, ticks, mites, lice.

The problem of the homeless could be completely solved in a few months if there were the political and judicial will to get it done. The national guard could be deployed, working with city and county law enforcement. The homeless could be sorted into groups; criminals, substance abusers, mentally ill, undocumented aliens, and all the rest. For each of these groups, separate facilities could be built on vacant or underutilized government land in or near urban centers but away from downtowns and residential areas. They could consist of tents, porta-potties, and mobile modules providing food and medical services.

There’s plenty of money available to do this. Just in Los Angeles, in 2016 voters approved Measure HHH, allocating $1.2 billion in bonds to build 10,000 units to house the homeless. Since then, Los Angeles voters approved a quarter cent sales tax increase, also to help the homeless. Additional hundreds of millions are coming from the state to help the homeless.

Every major city in California is spending tens of millions or more on programs for the homeless. But most of the money is being wasted. Why? Because there is a Homeless Industrial Complex that is getting filthy rich, wasting the money, while the homeless population swells.

WHAT IS THE HOMELESS INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX?

Here’s how the process works: Developers accept public money to build these projects to house the homeless – either “bridge housing,” or “permanent supportive housing.” Cities and counties collect building fees and hire bureaucrats for oversight. The projects are then handed off to nonprofits with long term contracts to run them.

That doesn’t sound so bad, right? The problem is the price tag. Developers don’t just build housing projects, they build ridiculously overpriced, overbuilt housing projects. Cities and counties don’t just collect building fees, they collect outrageously expensive building fees, at the same time as they create a massive bureaucracy. The nonprofits don’t just run these projects – the actual people staffing these shelters aren’t overpaid – they operate huge bureaucratic empires with overhead and executive salaries that do nothing for the homeless.

An example of wasteful spending can be found in the homeless shelter being built in Venice Beach, where a permanent population of over 1,000 homeless have taken over virtually every public venue, including the beach. Because their tents are now protected by law as private space, they not only serve as housing, but as pop-up drug retailers and brothels. To get these folks off the streets and off the beach, a 154 bed shelter has been approved by the Los Angeles City Council. It will be a “wet” shelter, meaning druggies and drunkards will be able to come and go as they please. The estimated cost for this shelter so far is $8 million, which equates to over $50,000 per bed. Why doesn’t anyone ask why?

These costs aren’t that bad if you consider the cost of new construction in exorbitant California. But this isn’t new construction, it’s “temporary” construction of very large tents on three acres of land. Eight million dollars, to put up some large tents and plumb for bathrooms and a kitchen. As a “wet” shelter, it will become a hotel for freeloading partiers as much as a refuge for the truly needy. Not only is it only capable of housing a small fraction of the 1,000+ homeless already in Venice, it will attract more homeless people to relocate to Venice.

Finally, this property, owned by the Los Angeles Metropolitan Transit District and located on some of the most precious real estate on earth, could have been sold to private investors to generate tens if not hundreds of millions of dollars. Why wasn’t that choice made? Why, for that matter, aren’t homeless shelters being built in Pacific Palisades, or Brentwood, or Beverly Hills, or the other tony enclaves of LA’s super rich? Because as with all boondoggles that destroy neighborhoods in the name of compassion, the Homeless Industrial Complex knows better than to defecate where they masticate.

The Homeless Industrial Complex’s expensive maltreatment of Venice Beach in particular, and taxpayers in general, is an example of how “bridge housing” projects are co-opted and corrupted. But even more horrendous waste is exemplified by the efforts to construct “permanent supportive housing.”

According to an NPR report from June 2018, “when voters passed Measure HHH, they were told that new ‘permanent supportive housing’ would cost about $140,000 a unit. But average per unit costs are now more than triple that. The PATH Ventures project in East Hollywood has an estimated per-unit cost of $440,000.”

A privately funded development company, Flyaway Homes, has debuted in Los Angeles with the mission of rapidly providing housing for the homeless. Using retrofitted shipping containers, the company’s modular approach to apartment building construction is purported to streamline the approval process and cut costs. But the two projects they’ve got underway are too expensive to ever offer a solution to more than fraction of the homeless.

Their 82nd Street Development will cost $4.5 million to house 32 “clients” in 16 two-bedroom, 480 square foot apartments. That’s $281,250 per two-bedroom apartment. The firm’s 820 W. Colden Ave. property will cost $3.6 million to house 32 clients in eight four-bedroom apartments. That’s $450,000 per apartment.

These costs are utterly unsustainable. But the Homeless Industrial Complex has grown into a juggernaut, crushing the opposition. At community hearings across California, “homeless advocates,” who are often bused in from other areas expressly to shout down local opposition, demand action, because “no one deserves to live on a sidewalk.”

Money is squandered, and the population of homeless people multiplies. This is not compassion in action, rather, it’s corruption in action.

WAYS TO REIN IN THE HOMELESS INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX

(1) Acknowledge there’s a problem. Agree that it’s no longer acceptable to throw money at the homeless epidemic without questioning all the current proposals and the underlying premises. Billions of dollars are being wasted. Admit it.

(2) Recognize that a special interest, the Homeless Industrial Complex – comprised of developers, government bureaucrats, and activist nonprofits – has taken over the homeless agenda and turned it into a profit center. They are not going to solve the problem, they are going to milk it. Their PR firms will sell compliant media a feel-good story about someone who turned their life around, living in a fine new apartment. What they won’t tell you is that because of the $400,000 they charged to build that single apartment unit, dozens if not hundreds of people are still on the street with nothing.

(3) Act at the municipal and state level to set a limit on the cost per shelter “bed.” This cost must represent a compromise between ideal facilities for homeless people, and what is affordable at a scale sufficient to solve the problem. There is no reason the capital costs for a shelter bed should be $50,000 each, but that’s exactly what’s proposed in Venice – $8 million for a semi-permanent “tent” with 154 beds. Similarly, there is no reason a basic apartment unit for the homeless should cost over $400,000, but in Los Angeles, by most accounts, that’s what they cost. This is outrageous. Durable tents and supportive facilities should be set up for a small fraction of that amount. Pick a number. Stick to it. Demand creative solutions.

(4) Stop differentiating between “bridge housing” (basic shelter) and “permanent supportive housing.” Permanent supportive housing IS “bridge housing.” Amenities better than a durable, dry, sole occupancy tent and a porta-potty can belong exclusively in the realm of privately funded nonprofits and charities. Until there isn’t a single homeless person left on the street, not one penny of taxpayer money should be paying for anything beyond basic bridge housing.

(5) Accept that homeless shelters will be more cost-effectively constructed and operated if they are in industrial, commercial (where appropriate), or rural areas, and not in downtown areas or residential neighborhoods.

(6) Abandon decentralized solutions that involve seeding safe neighborhoods with mini-homeless shelters in converted residential homes. Estimates vary, but between 35 and 77 percent of homeless people suffer from substance abuse, and between 26 and 58 percent have mental illness, and by some accounts over half of them have a criminal record. It is not just too expensive, it is dangerous to mix a homeless population into family neighborhoods.

(7) Go to court. Challenge the decision in Jones vs the City of Los Angeles, that ruled that law enforcement and city officials can no longer enforce the ban on sleeping on sidewalks anywhere within the Los Angeles city limits until a sufficient amount of permanent supportive housing could be built.

(8) File a state ballot referendum to overturn Prop. 47, which downgraded drug and property crimes. Prop. 47 has led to what police derisively refer to as “catch and release,” because suspects are only issued citations with a court date, and let go.

(9) Recognize that the rights of the homeless must be balanced with the rights of local residents, and that homeless accommodations should be safe but should never be better than the cheapest unit of commercial housing.

10) Confront the fact that a lot of homeless people are homeless by choice, not because they’ve ran out of options, and they DON’T WANT HELP. Act accordingly: Do we give these people control over our public spaces, our neighborhoods, our parks and beaches? And what of the others? The mentally ill, the substance abusers, the criminals? Do we give them control of over our public spaces?

It is terribly difficult for proponents of rational policies to be heard in public hearings on the homeless. Professional activists, often hired by developers or well-heeled nonprofits, abetted by sincere homeless advocates who simply haven’t ran the numbers, will usually outnumber and shout down neighborhood “NIMBYs” who have come to raise objections. But the NIMBYs are right.

We have a moral obligation to help the homeless. But we are not obligated to cede our downtowns, our tourist attractions, and our residential neighborhoods to homeless encampments. And as a society, we also have a moral obligation to protect the general population from rampant infectious diseases. What if Dr. Pinsky is right? What if there is a major infectious disease epidemic in Los Angeles this summer? Is that what it’s going to take before we clean up our streets and get the homeless into cost-effective, safe, supervised, sanitary encampments?

The moral question of how to help the homeless cannot rest apart from financial reality. It is impossible to solve the homeless crisis under current law and according to current policies. Therefore a new approach must be taken.

Before criticizing the suggestion that we spend a $5,000 per bed (or less) instead of $50,000 per bed (or more) to build bridge housing facilities, imagine what could be done with all the money we save. We might be able to help a lot of people get their lives back on track. Instead of feeding the insatiable excesses of the Homeless Industrial Complex, which helps a few but neglects so many.This article originally appeared on the website California Globe.

San Francisco Homeless Population Rises 17% in Two Years

San Francisco continues to struggle with homelessness, with a population count revealing last week that the local homeless population had risen by 17% since 2017 — though youth and veteran homelessness had dropped.

Many cities across the U.S. have struggled with rising homelessness in recent years, partly due to the pressure of rising housing costs, and the social devastation of the opioid epidemic. However, in California the problem is compounded by the presence of warmer weather and the availability of generous welfare benefits, both of which tend to attract transients from other parts of the country. Unscrupulous drug treatment clinics have also exploited the state’s health insurance system, luring addicts to receive treatment and kicking them out when the state insurance money runs out.

A news release from the office of San Francisco Mayor London Breed stated:

Every two years, San Francisco is required to conduct a homelessness Point-in-Time Count by the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The HUD count, which was conducted on January 24, 2019, counted 8,011 homeless people, both sheltered and unsheltered, in San Francisco. The 2017 HUD count recorded 6,858 people. The increase in unsheltered people was driven largely by people living in vehicles, accounting for 68% of the increase in unsheltered people. There was also an increase in sheltered residents, resulting from the investments the City has made to add shelter beds.

The mayor pledged $5 million in additional spending on the problem.

Los Angeles has also struggled with homelessness — so much so that Mayor Eric Garcetti, who has struggled to deal with the problem, is widely considered to have abandoned plans for a presidential run because of the issue. He has pledged to end street homelessness by 2028, which is also the year that the city is due to host the summer Olympics. The Los Angeles Times notes that the city is due to release its own homeless count by the end of May.

Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. He is also the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, which is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.

This article was originally published by Breitbart.com/California

Proposed Homeless Shelter in the Heart of San Francisco Sparks Community Outrage

sanfranciscohomelessThe prospect of a 225-bed homeless shelter on the Embarcadero, one of San Francisco’s most scenic and economically vital areas, took residents by surprise. Only eight days earlier, the proposal had been unveiled to turn what is now a parking lot — Seawall Lot 330 — into the largest homeless shelter of its type in the city. Neighbors arrived en masse at the Port Commission hearing to express their views. It was standing-room only, with people crowded on floors and in aisles, and spilling out the door.

After a brief presentation by Jeff Kositsky, executive director of the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing, who touted the merits of the “Navigation Center” — as the new shelters are called — local homeowners, renters, and workers were granted two minutes each at the mic. All spoke passionately about their ties to the neighborhood and how the shelter would erode safety and quality of life. They worried that it would intensify drug use and other illegal activity and draw additional homeless people onto their property, leaving more needles and feces behind. Several described how their toddlers have already been poked by discarded syringes and had to take HIV tests. A father explained that his baby stroller was stolen as he was placing her in her car seat; a senior citizen recounted being chased by “a crazy person.”

Their testimonies were often agonizing. A few broke down as they pleaded with the commissioners to reject the proposal. Many emphasized that the waterfront is a jewel of the city. Placing an enormous homeless shelter in the center of it, in such close proximity to the prized Ferry Building, is bizarre. The location, they pointed out, is also a poor choice because few amenities like hospitals or grocery stores are nearby, and police response time in the area is slow. With no requirement for shelter residents to be sober, drug dealing, overdoses, and crime would proliferate.

Port Commissioners Kimberly Brandon, Willie Adams, and Doreen Woo Ho sat poker-faced. The Port of San Francisco owns Lot 330, and the proposal depends on their consent, which seems likely. Mayor London Breed supports the idea. The site itself was likely chosen for expediency, because the Port of San Francisco oversees the location, and commissioners are appointed by the mayor and approved by the Board of Supervisors.

“The community is feeling blindsided and shortchanged in regard to public process or a sincere desire for public input,” says Jamie Whitaker, who lives a block away from the site. “They cast us as millionaires who don’t care about the homeless, which is completely wrong. We just do not have faith in the city to provide the right kind of place for them and us. For example, there should be serious talk of building a mental hospital. It’s clear we have schizophrenic people in this city and they need help.”

After community members expressed their objections, a small contingent of homeless-rights activists spoke, trivializing their neighbors’ concerns as NIMBYism, and, predictably, accusing them of hating the poor. Most of the residents, however expressed compassion and praised the nearby Delancey Street Foundation, a self-supporting residential community for ex-convicts, addicts, and homeless people, because it provides vocational and social skills training in a drug and alcohol free setting. It’s a critical difference but the activists are deaf to nuance and unconcerned about anyone with homes, children, or businesses.

More crucial, though, is the attitude of city leaders and the media. The San Francisco Chronicle ran an editorial headlined, “San Francisco Neighbors are Wrong to Fight A New Homeless Facility,” dismissing the concerns of residents as “the magnetizing fear of a homeless influx,” and implying that elitism fueled their protest. But the Chronicle also admitted that those living on the streets are “often struggling with addiction or mental illness.” The proposed Navigation Centers are neither psychiatric hospitals nor substance-abuse facilities, both of which the city desperately needs.

Further, the Navigation Centers have not reduced homelessness. At last count, approximately 7,500 people were living on the city’s streets on any given night; shelters aren’t making a dent because so many homeless people are “service-resistant.” No one is required to go or stay, and many don’t. Tents and illegal activity mushroom around the shelters, despite so-called good-neighbor policies that are supposed to maintain a modicum of safety in the surrounding area.

The city, however, refuses to guarantee that there will be no uptick in crime and vagrancy. “We feel swindled,” says Wallace Lee, a retiree living in the area. “Something strange is going on. I used to be a lawyer and how this city works is confusing even to me. What I do know is that city officials don’t care about our concerns. I’ve been coordinating people to show up at these meetings. We will challenge the legislation. I’ve made this my full-time job, I stay up until midnight. I heard from a lot of people who want to continue to fight and I’m encouraged.”

And now Mayor Breed claims that she is “ready for battle over housing, homeless.” Her attitude is making enemies of tens of thousands of San Franciscans. An us-versus-them approach is counterproductive. At worst, she’ll get what she’s preparing for: a war with the people who care most profoundly about the city. The commission vote is expected on April 23.

Gov. Newsom has a $500 million plan for homelessness

Tent of homeless person on 6th Street Bridge with Los Angeles skyline in the background. California, USA. (Photo By: Education Images/UIG via Getty Images)

Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg and a dozen other California mayors asked Gov. Gavin Newsom on Wednesday to allocate more state money for homelessness than what the governor has proposed.

Newsom’s proposed budget includes $500 million for homelessness — the same amount that was included in the state’s 2018-19 budget. The mayors did not say how much more money they’re requesting.

“We deliberately did not put a number in there because it’s a different relationship with this governor. He’s made housing a priority,” said Steinberg, who chairs the Big City Mayors group that met with Newsom at the Capitol. “He’s already said, and it’s backed up by his budget, that housing and homelessness is a priority. Of course we want to bump the number up … but we’re going to do it with him.”

Newsom did not commit to an additional amount of money, Steinberg said. …

Click here to read the full article from the Sacramento Bee