By Bob Shanahan
Image via Wikimedia Commons
Homelessness in America is out of control, especially on the West Coast. The total homeless population in the U.S. rose this past year for the first time since 2010, driven primarily by a steep increase in people living on the streets in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Seattle. City streets are becoming disgusting and dangerous. Residents are worried and regularly don’t feel safe. Something has to be done, but what can actually be accomplished?
There is urine and fecal matter on the streets of San Francisco and used needles all around as drug addicts shoot up wherever they please. Tent cities sprout up weekly along freeways and seedy areas of Seattle, which has recently passed an employee tax on Amazon, Starbucks, and other large employers to fund a program to combat homelessness. Homeless people sleep in front of high end retail shops in nice parts of LA and San Francisco. And scores of unwashed people in Sacramento berate residents for spare change and make many citizens feel unsafe in their own neighborhoods.
Seattle City Council unanimously voted to tax the city's largest businesses, such as Amazon and Starbucks. The plan charges big employers about $275 per full-time worker each year, to boost funding for homelessness. Story: t.co/cFRRg0xSy8 pic.twitter.com/X12i0eZXir
— AP West Region (@APWestRegion) May 15, 2018
In the popular tourist spot of San Diego, more than 5,600 people now live on the streets or in their cars. A Hepatitis A outbreak last year killed 20 people and affected over 600 after the San Diego River saw a massive spike in pollution from human feces. This human waste came into the urban environment as storms came in and washed the pollution into watersheds and sewage from leaky pipes seeped into the groundwater and infected rivers and creeks. The outbreak prompted California to declare a state of emergency last October that only ended in January of this year.
The issue of used needles littering San Francisco has gotten out of hand. The city gives out around 400,000 syringes each month to drug users. About 246,000 of these are properly put in the city’s disposal sites, but thousands more end up on the streets and other public places, according to AP. The opioid crisis is ripping across the nation and is especially apparent in the densely populated city of San Francisco. Last year, there were 9,500 requests by San Franciscans for the city to pick up used needles on the streets and there have already been 3,700 so far this year.
San Francisco's open drug use health crisis has tested the city's image as a liberal, compassionate urban oasis, and underscores a broader trend in large California cities that have been grappling with rising homelessness and drug use on their streets t.co/m3XH0Tot9v
— BuzzFeed News (@BuzzFeedNews) May 13, 2018
Digging into how to solve the escalating problem of homelessness on the West Coast and the rest of the country first entails finding out who these people really are. This is a nearly impossible task and would be quite expensive to undertake. But how can we move toward ending homelessness if we do not even know who the homeless are? Are they mostly people suffering from mental health issues? Are they all addicts and alcoholics? Do they want to be on the street and off the grid? Or are these homeless people simply down on their luck having been laid off or priced out of high cost areas? Instead of lamenting the outrageous rise in home prices and apartment rents, we should emphasize the fact that if you cannot afford to live somewhere, then you should move. That is not heartless. That is not impractical. That is common sense.
We need to treat the homeless people with compassion as many are definitely suffering from addiction of some sort, but one can only be so compassionate to someone that does not want to change their life or better it in any way. When you feel uncomfortable walking out of your front door or going out on your lunch break due to people outside talking to themselves or begging for money, what can you do to help them if you do not know their current situation? We cannot begin to tackle the problem of homelessness without first breaking down the makeup of the homeless population.
Throwing more money at the problem seems to be governments’ only solution to this problem. Enabling the homeless to continue their current lifestyles is only making matters worse. Money needs to be spent wisely and actually make a dent in removing the homeless from our city streets. Job programs are needed. Mental health and addiction programs are required. Housing or shelters for the homeless should be built. But this all costs money and won’t amount to anything if the homeless we are trying to help do not want help in the first place.
According to the California State Auditor’s recent report, Homelessness in California: State Government and the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority Need to Strengthen Their Efforts to Address Homelessness, “California leads the nation with both the highest number of people experiencing homelessness—about 134,000, or 24 percent of the nation’s total—and the highest proportion of unsheltered homeless persons (68 percent) of any state.” For comparison, New York shelters all but 5 percent of its homeless population and Boston shelters all but 3 percent. Needless to say, California’s homeless are literally left on the streets to fend for themselves and have nowhere else to go. People do not want them in their towns, but they will naturally flock to liberal enclaves on the West Coast that have sanctuary city laws and generous social programs to help those down on their luck or addicted to a substance.
Homeless population increases are most precipitous in cities along the West Coast where the growth has prompted more than 10 city and county governments to declare states of emergency over the last few years. Homeless encampments keep popping up along freeways and rivers as local governments grapple with how to stop this from happening while trying to enact long-term solutions that residents will be content with. The overall homeless population in California, Oregon, and Washington grew by 14 percent in the last two years. In Amazon-dominated Seattle, HUD reported that its unsheltered homeless population grew by 44 percent over two years to nearly 5,500. I can personally attest to that as I lived up in the Emerald City for over four years and it was certainly reaching a fever pitch when I left last August.
Los Angeles, in addition to San Francisco, is at the center of this crisis. Its homeless population topped 55,000 people last year, up by more than 13,000 year-over-year. But in cities like New York, they are able to house these homeless people somewhere rather than letting them pass out on the street or in public parks like California, Oregon, and Washington appear willing to let happen far too often.
Liberal utopias in California have finally had enough. Even residents of San Francisco are fed up with the city’s sanctuary city policies and soaring crime rates as thousands flee the Bay Area to get away from the drug use occuring right in front of their eyes. Many are moving to nearby Sacramento.
According to SF Gate, local residents are begging for its city officials to crackdown on criminals and tackle the homelessness problem. Mayor Mark Farrell recently allocated over $750,000 to help clean up used needles on the city’s streets and over $13 million for cleaners to clear garbage strewn about, treating the consequences of the problem but not getting at the root issue.
“The trash, our homeless, the needles, the drug abuse on our streets, I’ve seen it all in our city and it’s gotten to the point where we need to really change course,” Farrell said in a recent interview. “We’ve gone away from just being compassionate to enabling street behavior and that, in my opinion, is a shift that’s unacceptable.” Sounds like the libs are finally starting to wake up to their enabling ways and exacerbation of the problem!
California, one of three sanctuary states in the country, are unfortunately sheltering criminals and encouraging illegal immigrants and homeless people to flock to their cities. About half of Americans now live under some kind of sanctuary city policy that shields illegals from law enforcement, according to the Federation for American Immigration Reform.
FAIR reports that 564 states and municipalities currently have sanctuary status as of April 1st, up from more than 200 since President Trump took office in January of last year and up more than 500 a decade ago when there were only 40 sanctuaries when Obama took office in 2009. Will it ever end? Or will we live in a sanctuary country before we know it?
California cities and counties are beginning to rebel against the reckless policies passed into law by Governor Jerry Brown and his Democrat cabal in Sacramento. Los Alamitos kicked off the resistance earlier this year but has since grown to a strong opposition across Orange County and other counties that has Californians revolting against their own state government while that same government rebels against the Trump administration in DC, keeping its southern border wide open. 14 Southern California cities and two counties have passed ordinances or filed lawsuits against the state’s sanctuary state laws.
But what the hell can we do about the homeless? Do we need more rehab facilities that they can access? Do we need more temporary housing for them to at least get them off the streets? Do we need more mental health programs to give these troubled people the help they so obviously need? Do we need more prisons? Probably not. We already imprison 2.3 million Americans, almost 1 percent of our total population. The U.S. has more people in prison per capita than any other country in the world. While the U.S. represents about 4.4 percent of the world’s population, it has about 22 percent of the world’s total prison population. And another 4.5 million Americans are on parole as of the end of 2016, amounting to one in 55 adults being under supervision by the state.
As I said, we cannot begin to tackle the growing homelessness crisis without first identifying who these people really are and what kind of help they need or if they need help at all. Something has to be done quickly but it has to be effective and affordable. Politicians are well aware of this fact and West Coast cities are more than fed up with the problem that shows no signs of slowing down.
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Bob is a freelance journalist and researcher. He remains forever skeptical of the mainstream media narrative and dedicated to uncovering the truth. Bob writes about politics (in DC and CA), economics, cultural trends, public policy, media, history, real estate, Trump Derangement Syndrome, and geopolitics. Bob grew up in Northern California, went to college in Southern California, and lived 4+ years in Seattle. He now lives in sunny Sacramento. His writing also appears in Citizen Truth and has been posted on ZeroHedge.