Misguided Solutions to State Homeless Problem

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)

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Recently, state Senator John Moorlach (R-Orange County) wrote in this space about California’s struggle to solve the problem of homelessness. In his piece “Grappling with California’s Housing Crisis” Moorlach, however, comes dangerously close to accepting the notion that if government throws enough money at a problem like homelessness we can solve it.

Homelessness in California is a grand example of how government largesse may be hurting and not helping. As Moorlach’s Democrat colleague Jim Beall said at last year’s hearing of the Senate Committee on Transportation and Housing, “more than $10 billion has been spent on the homeless the last few years, yet, the crisis is not over . . .” Einstein defines insanity as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. If true, the state’s policy towards the homeless, as articulated by Committee Chairman Beall, is insane.

While it’s likely Democrat Beall would just as soon press on with more spending, I’m surprised Republican Moorlach, who asked good questions at the hearing, didn’t ask something like “$10 billion spent and what do we have to show for it?” Or, “if we’ve spent that kind of money trying to build our way out of the problem – and it’s not working – why haven’t we tried something different?”

California has indeed spent billions of dollars over the years building housing to deal with its chronic and episodic homeless problems and they’re still with us today. In fact, homelessness has gotten worse. The condition in the City of Los Angeles, according to the LA Times, has risen a breathtakingly 75 percent over the past six years. The City of San Francisco is not far behind as almost all urban areas in California have experienced profound increases. Some estimates have homelessness growing in the state by over 65 percent over the past few years.

Past solutions clearly don’t work. Plus, building has its own set of complications:

First, on average, a unit of affordable housing costs nearly $400,000 to build in California – even more in the state’s high-cost areas. Given that situation, the historic level of funding in Proposition 1 ($4 billion) will barely support 10,000 units. Proposition 2, spending half as much as its sister measure, may only build 5,000 units of housing for the homeless mentally ill – that’s barely enough to match the population of living on the street tonight in Sacramento.

Secondly, getting past the legions of activist neighbors who frown on new housing of any kind, will take some doing. A 150-unit project for seniors was just dismissed from a San Francisco neighborhood after opponents spoke up. NIMBYs have just commenced a lawsuit to stop a “smart” development in San Diego. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti was recently confronted by a roomful of angry beach residents over the prospect of erecting a new homeless facility nearby. A bill in the state Legislature to promote greater downtown living was defeated after several housing combatants stormed a hearing room to express their outrage.

Lastly, forcing someone into a rental housing situation may not be a solution. When 63 percent of tent-dwellers in Seattle recently refused to leave their current street abodes for the warmth and security of emergency shelter something is wrong. So, simply “housing the homeless” doesn’t work. Moreover, despite some evidence to the contrary, there is little direct correlation between homelessness and the obvious lack of affordable housing – competing data suggests that nexus only exists for a few. By contrast, according to a survey done in 2015 by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) nearly half of the homeless population suffers from mental illnesses. In addition, the National Coalition for the Homeless tells us that drug addiction is clearly a factor in remaining homeless.  Is it possible we’ve been flying blind all these years? In other words, have we been enacting billion-dollar policies while ignoring the facts? Even if California had the fiscal and political wherewithal to build more permanent housing for the homeless, it won’t solve the problem.

Senator Moorlach deserves praise for co-sponsoring the state legislation that authorized SB 2 and put it on the 2018 ballot. Its assistance – importantly, including services – is, by definition, aimed at caring for homeless individuals with mental illnesses. Against prevailing attitudes, he seems to be admitting that housing isn’t the only problem. “So many of the homeless are on the streets because of substance dependency and mental issues,” Moorlach states.

But then, inexplicably, he falls back on endorsing the failed strategies of the past, saying “In Orange County, we hope to harness existing public and private funds and contributions from governments and foundations” to build more housing. He further applauds fellow Orange County legislators Tom Daly (D-Anaheim) and Sharon Quirk-Silva (D-Fullerton) for authoring AB 448 “which sets up the Orange County Housing Finance Trust to enable local municipalities to plan and construct additional housing for the homeless.”

As compassionate as I know Senator Moorlach is – and his consideration of policies that address the various ills that affect homeless populations is unmatched in Sacramento – he should be consistent in his policy making and associated rhetoric. The homeless problem in California is not one dimensional (housing, only) and Senator Moorlach knows it isn’t. Social scholars Alice Baum and Donald Burnes tell us, instead, homelessness is a disengagement from ordinary society – from family, friends, neighborhood, church and community.

With the right policies coming from Sacramento, we can begin to arrest the social decline and downward spiral of so many fellow Californians. Starting with:

* • Immediately building or rehabilitating temporary, emergency shelters;
* • With teams of volunteers, removing the homeless from street living;
* • Providing regular on-site addiction, mental health and medical services;
* • Facilitating the provision of these services through qualified non-profits;
* • Considering a state policy for “re-institutionalizing” the mentally ill; and
* • Yes, help clear a land-use path for building more housing, of all kinds.

onsultant specializing in housing issues.

This article was originally published by Fox and Hounds Daily


  1. Why won’t anyone listen to me??? The solution is simple. Moonbeam owns a 2300+ acre Retirement ranch in Colusa County. I can’t think of a better place to house the State’s homeless. Since Jerryboy caused so many of the homeless with his release early criminal program, his ranch would be perfect. Far away from the rest of society yet of no cost to the taxpayers. The perfect solution. All aboard everyone???

  2. Our state government continually steps in it and then hops around trying to get the problem cleaned up.
    Our state government was highly complicit in pushing the Christian church aside when most traditional churches were led by men of wisdom and discernment.
    Why do I mention this?
    Discernment can tell the difference between the really needy and those on the dole.
    The real down and out and needy need our help. Those on the dole, we should just flat stop feeding them.
    No greater motivational force than hunger to get someone in the fields with a shovel or pick and off the dole.
    Government needs to get out of the House of God, out of business, out of our schools, and serve the people and not themselves and their egos.
    Democrat and Left Progressives are what are destroying this state!

  3. It is true that Government creates problems with our tax money, and then needs more tax money to try to fix the problems that they have created!!

    It is time we use common sense about this problem that we are creating in huge proportions throughout America.
    JimM has made wise statements. What I have suggested is that there be only a few centralized facility locations in rural areas throughout California to house those that are truly in need of medical care and mental evaluation, drug detox, even skills training while in temporary shelter. These facilities should be multi-purpose and large enough to house hundreds. Because it is centralized it would be cost efficient. It would also be safe for the public-at-large since it is located outside of populated areas. I have suggested this over and over, but due to progressive liberal thinking, to no avail. Since homelessness SHOULD be temporary, only TEMPORARY shelter and assistance should be available.

    Instead, then O.C. Supervisor Spitzer (Now D.A. Of Orange County!) orchestrates a 60 million dollar retrofit mental health facility right in the middle of the City of Orange and at a Business Complex!!!! When the inevitable tragedy occurs, a Class Action suit against the O.C. Supervisors should be brought.

    Since many homeless potentially have many serious problems and are often antisocial, they should be taken from populated areas until they are diagnosed and treated, hopefully rehabilitated, and given the legal disclaimer to become a law-abiding citizen or be incarcerated if arrested. There will be no end to this dilemma unless tough love and finite parameters are set.
    Did you know that Churches are given Federal funding to HELP those in need? So, a lot of tax dollars are already being spent in vain. Churches should be left to teach faith and be independent, not subsidized by Government.(!)

    Many Californians are leaving the state because they cannot afford to live here, and this should be the case for homeless people, as well. The public cannot bear the cost to support these people throughout their lives from sunup to sundown. They should go to live with family or migrate to a location with a low cost of living. In reality, not everyone can sit in the front seat at the opera!

  4. Housing is not a magic panacea for homelessness. While there is a percentage of those that will benefit from stable housing, it is only one part of a much more complicated puzzle.

  5. Everyday I drive by the homeless encampments in Lodi on the sides of the freeway. I curse the CHP and Cal Trans for allowing this but what are they to do? Not their fault so I rescind my curses. Here is the real deal. Former Lodi Mayor was once homeless so he sympathizes with them “theyre struggling to find their place in society” blah blah blah… Here is my little scope of reality. These fine folks are living off the grid tax free with free cellular service via “Obama Phones”, No accountability for stealing shopping carts and rummaging through peoples garbage and mail. Free food from the good citizens and Salvation Army. They have dogs , cigarettes and dope. Again no accountability. I offered one of these dudes a job who sits behind my strip mall and drinks everyday. told him I’d pay him to clean up the parking lot. He laughed at me. I threw his empty beer can at him and told him to get the EFF off my property. Cops wont remove him. I have too much to loose by removing him myself. My answer begins with no more handouts but again I have no control over it. Im at my wits end but am continually grateful that I have been spared this lifestyle. Stll sick of seeing it though. Bottom line they DO NOT WANT TO WORK! Housing for them? HA! They destroy every empty houyse they break in to. They even defecate on the floor and if they do manage to poop in the bathroom wont even flush… My rant ends here as my blood pressure has spiked again.

  6. There is a myriad of reasons and solutions. Carrot and stick work universally. Like, create a controlled place to stay and make it tough not to. Like, invite them to become independent garbage collectors and reward them with uniforms and meals. Help the ones who can be helped and keep track of the others. It is truly a growing menace.

  7. You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink it.

  8. I have nothing to add to the wise observations and solutions listed above except to voice support for those already offered…
    And to add that political correctness, social virtue signaling and progressivism are cancers that are rotting away our culture, not only in California, but Colorado and every major city across the United States…
    I fear for our Republic….
    God Bless President Donald J. Trump and his efforts to singlehandedly fight this menace….

  9. Homelessness in California is a forever political football.

  10. SHANE CONWAY says

    Homelessness is not a problem. It is an indicator of other problems, especially drug addiction (or, in modern day liberal parlance, substance abuse). Drug addicts, alcoholics and chronic criminals are the majority of “homeless” people. If you all want to end homelessness, attack drug use. Treat it for what it truly is: an antisocial behavior. Not a disease. Cancer is a disease. Some years ago, San Francisco city government bought and refurbished hotels and gathered “homeless” people. The city told them they had homes to live in and offered them places to stay. Instead of being grateful, the “homeless” cursed at the mayor and told the city they would not be forced to live in their new homes. They all went back to sleeping on park benches and continued to destroy the city’s parks. If anyone is serious about solving homelessness, stop legalizing drugs and stop wasting tax dollars on drug addicts. Placing them back into prisons would get them off the streets, off of drugs and reduce crime for the rest of us. Money wasted on homelessness could be spent on prisons and public safety would be your dividend from the savings.

  11. Donald Haddock says

    Proposal for Closure of Fairview (Partial Facility Recommended Use);
    1) I propose that the City of Costa Mesa and the State of California create a partnership to address the critical “first 72 hours” for both the Drug and Alcohol addicted, and the Homeless population of our city, by providing the Professional, Medical, and psychological services needed by both populations before they can be placed in a group home within the City.
    2) I propose that City officials and State representatives put together a Joint Task Force to evaluate the viability of acquiring ,through lease or grant, some of the unused residential housing units at Fairview Developmental Center.
    3) I propose that the State Health and Human Services Department, and the City on Costa Mesa ,as well as other stake holders both Private and Public join together to provide funding for the full time staff and volunteer services that will be needed to provide these short term critical care services.
    4) Finally, I propose that one of these residential units be set aside to house individuals that may need longer than 72 hours of medical and psychiatric services to acclimate themselves back into the general population in order to meet the community standards for a group home lifestyle within a neighborhood. *************************************************************************************
    I am sure there will be resistance from all sides as to why this partnership cannot be accomplished. But Costa Mesa and Fairview Developmental Center have over 50 years of cooperation and partnerships being formed for the betterment of all. Both the existing Golf Course ,and the Harbor Village Apartments surrounding Fairview were once vacant land owned by the State. Through mutual need and benefit , these lands have been developed to the betterment of Costa Mesa . In recent years, the City of Costa Mesa and Fairview Developmental Center partnered once again to develop a new Lighted Soccer practice facility on the grounds of the existing school at Fairview which is used by Costa Mesa youth soccer teams.. The social problems of poverty, addiction, and homelessness are not exclusive to our Community. They are a reflection of society as a whole. But, we cannot turn our backs on this issue and make it go away. As a City, we have a responsibility to provide safe harmonious neighborhoods. It is my hope that the City of Costa Mesa and our State leaders will take a look at this proposal as a way to possibly deal with the first critical days of contact with the most needy members of our society. It is my hope that such a system could be used to augment the existing Sober Living group home model, and offer some possible options for addressing the issues of the Homeless population to the State and local agencies responsible for providing solutions/services.
    Donald H Haddock

    Sent from Yahoo Mail on Android

  12. Live in a mid-size beach town in Southern California. Property taxes are high and voters are very liberal. Vagrants have now taken over all out parks, sports fields, beach areas, and destroyed downtown retail. They blight the areas around the multiple shelters and sue us for not letting them live in their cars and RVs in every neighborhood. Our creeks are polluted and children can’t play out doors. Needle sticks in children playgrounds was only the latest assault. Yet these same people get called “the vulnerable among us”. They are con artist grifters and have destroyed our retail tax base and eroding our property tax base, leaving the rest of the city with few to no benefits. 80% of very expensive police time is spent on vagrants, drugs and alcohol. Police chief just announced vagrants are not a police problem; they are a social problem. No, throwing more money at them only made our city a magnet. Now we are rotted out at the core. How can this be stopped? From a city that did not use to lock doors to daylight burglaries of parked cars. This is what enabling vagrancy has done to us.

  13. Treatment-resistant addicts do not want to go into shelters or programs. We need to let them bottom-out. Honor their choices; but they also have to honor ours. They cannot live the way they chose within our cities. They must find some other environment.

  14. We the people, who discipline our lives to provide for our own basic needs, must come first. They get sloppy seconds or else they are put into institutions. No middle ground. They can make the choice for themselves. Come to this state with no means of support and you will be either shipped back out, out or put into an institutionalized reservation where you must take care of your own needs.

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