When do We Finally Say ‘No’ to Tolerating the Damage and Chaos of Homelessness?

What’s the best way for a free country to make decisions about how to spend tax money?

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One way to do it is to hold elections to choose public officials who will make decisions on behalf of the people who elected them, then hold a fully public process to create budgets and appropriate the money that taxpayers are required to hand over.

Another way to do it is to find the people in society who are totally unable to manage their own lives and put them in charge of public spending.

That’s how we do it in California.

Our government at all levels has accepted the argument that the moment people self-identify as having “nowhere else to go,” they acquire a civil right to pitch a tent and live on public property ansanfranciscohomelessywhere, including streets, sidewalks, plazas, parks, stormwater channels and freeway embankments.

Then it’s your responsibility as a taxpayer to pay whatever it costs to mitigate the damage and clean up the chaos.

The cost is rapidly becoming incalculable, from the $17 million needed by the L.A. Bureau of Sanitation for homeless encampment cleanups, to the staggering damage from wildfires caused by cooking in the midst of dry brush, to the catastrophic toll of a hepatitis A epidemic that took 20 lives in San Diego and put hundreds of people in the hospital.

Taxpayers in Orange County are paying for month-long motel vouchers for hundreds of people as the price of reclaiming the intended public use of the Santa Ana River trail. It’s not clear what will be different in a month, but that was the deal reached in the courtroom of U.S. District Judge David O. Carter. He was involved because attorneys for seven homeless people filed a federal lawsuit alleging that their civil rights were violated by the eviction from the huge encampment.

Judge Carter personally walked the river trail with county and city officials to see the problem first-hand, and he acknowledged that the offer of shelter would be rejected by many. “Some who want to wander will wander,” he said.

Justice William O. Douglas said something similar in 1972, when the U.S. Supreme Court threw out a vagrancy law in Jacksonville, Florida. This was the text of Jacksonville’s ordinance:

“Rogues and vagabonds, or dissolute persons who go about begging, common gamblers, persons who use juggling or unlawful games or plays, common drunkards, common night walkers, thieves, pilferers or pickpockets, traders in stolen property, lewd, wanton and lascivious persons, keepers of gambling places, common railers and brawlers, persons wandering or strolling around from place to place without any lawful purpose or object, habitual loafers, disorderly persons, persons neglecting all lawful business and habitually spending their time by frequenting houses of ill fame, gaming houses, or places where alcoholic beverages are sold or served, persons able to work but habitually living upon the earnings of their wives or minor children shall be deemed vagrants and, upon conviction in the Municipal Court shall be punished as provided for Class D offenses [90 days imprisonment, a $500 fine, or both].”

The law was “unconstitutionally vague,” Douglas wrote for the court in Papachristou v. City Of Jacksonville, criminalizing activities that “by modern standards are normally innocent.”

The justice defended night walking. He wrote that in his personal experience, “sleepless people often walk at night, perhaps hopeful that sleep-inducing relaxation will result.”

Douglas also cited poets as authority to throw out Jacksonville’s ordinance. “Persons ‘wandering or strolling’ from place to place have been extolled by Walt Whitman and Vachel Lindsay,” Douglas wrote, “They are embedded in Walt Whitman’s writings, especially in his ‘Song of the Open Road.’ They are reflected, too, in the spirit of Vachel Lindsay’s ‘I Want to Go Wandering.’”

And that’s federal law now, if you’re wondering how we got where we are today.

No matter how much money we choose to spend on services or housing — and the tax increases are stacking up — the public has no right to demand that people get off the streets. We’ll pay for the services and housing and still have to pay for the damage and the chaos.

Eventually some city or county official will have the courage to reject a settlement in one of these lawsuits, and he or she will fight all the way to the Supreme Court in defense of the public’s right to preserve public spaces for their intended use.

By then, five of the justices may recognize that Walt Whitman didn’t write “Song of the Open Sewer.”

This article was originally published by Fox and Hounds Daily

olumnist and member of the editorial board of the Southern California News Group, and the author of the book, “How Trump Won.”


  1. Maybe Jerry Brown will let them hang out on his train to nowhere… They then can wander aimlessly at high speeds.

  2. Funny Dustin and I think alike, only difference was my idea was to redirect the pet train project to the homeless, we don’t need no stinking train to the middle of nowhere

  3. For what ever reason they have chosen this path.

    There are a multitude of organic and psych. reasons. It does not solve the criminal and social problems allowing it have on the society as a whole.

  4. maybe we could follow a department at Cal Berkeley’s lead and surcharge the equity in our real-estate

  5. Brenda Torres says

    When we find a CURE for Homelessness! Buckle up little Buckroo, if California keeps going in the direction of the Democrat’s…We will have more, much more Homelessness!!!

  6. The Captive says

    You don’t have to be LDS to have Common Sense -but the LDS do manage funds in an excellent manner when it comes to aiding these big problems. You are on a time limit- and also you have to pay back-by doing something that counts and aids others. To take and take forever is UNACCEPTABLE!. jerry brown has no concept of these matters because he is from the criminal element and so are all the other Dems-Lib-Leftists who scam and steal our tax money-THEY DO!

  7. tomsquawk says

    Jerry is basically “out of there” but what about Jerry’s Kids who will carry his torch?

  8. True Teacher says

    “Another way to do it is to find the people in society who are totally unable to manage their own lives and put them in charge of public spending.”

    I read this to a realtor today and he said that he knows people who clean Gov Brown’s house. Said he lives like a tramp. Chicken bones under his bed. That is our Governor.

  9. Gotta Gedada Displace says

    Aren’t chicken bones used in voodoo ritual ?

  10. We thought the property we were living on was ours but the ACLU corrected us. The ACLU told there was no such thing as private property. Do we allow the “intelligentsia” to tel us how to live?

  11. Rottweiler says

    You can build a 5 star hotel on our dime (with the progressive’s vote) and guess where they will elect to stay? On the street!. CA is circling the drain from progressive/leftist/Alinsky leadership. It has nothing to offer excluding the weather and they try to seed that with chem trails weekly so what is left? Corrupt leadership if you could call it that, pandering to illegal aliens yes I said it those who are here but did not wish to do so legally because they want something for nothing, crappy education, worthless money grabbing unions, exhorbinate health care and taxes, taxes and more taxes. 5 yrs I am out the door.

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