Its new promise, Housing First—an old promise, actually, since it dates back to —is that the city can solve the homelessness and cost-of-living crisis at once if it will fund enough new units of subsidized housing. No city can build its way out of either problem with subsidized housing, which, like any other good, is subject to the laws of supply and demand.
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If apartments are made available at below-market rents, demand for those units will always outstrip supply. For every low-rent apartment that the city builds, another thousand people will be standing in line, in perpetuity. Until policymakers change the system of incentives, there will be no end to the cycle of waste and corruption. Their number includes the rebellious Ave Rats—the homeless crowd on University Avenue—as well as gutter punks and opioid migrants.
In a sense, the addiction evangelists are the intellectual heirs of the s counterculture: whereas the beats and hippies rejected bourgeois values but largely confined their efforts to culture—music, literature, photography, and poetry—the addiction evangelists have a more audacious goal: to capture political power and elevate addicts and street people into a protected class.
Incredibly, Murphy has become a player in Seattle politics. The city provides funding for his organization, and King County has recruited him to serve on its opioid task force. Harm reduction has had notable success in countries like Portugal and Switzerland, but in North America, where national drug policy remains staunchly prohibitionist, cities that practice the policy have become magnets for addiction, crime, and social disorder. During the debate on public-injection sites last year, the addiction evangelists often pointed to Vancouver, which has operated the Insite supervised-consumption facility for over ten years.
While Insite provides clean needles and administers naloxone injections for overdoses, the evidence from a longitudinal study of the Downtown Eastside neighborhood shows that the injection site and concentration of social services have substantially increased the number of opioid migrants moving to the city. According to the study, between and , the number of homeless individuals from outside Vancouver rose from 17 percent to 52 percent of the total homeless population.
Indeed, since the Insite facility opened, crime in the neighborhood has increased and homelessness has nearly doubled; no reduction in addiction has occurred. The question almost never asked about harm reduction is: Harm reduction for whom? Whatever help they might offer addicts, public-consumption sites do tremendous damage to businesses, residents, and cities at large.
When I visited Vancouver and drove down Hastings Street, where the Insite facility is located, it looked like an apocalyptic future vision of Seattle—a public-health nightmare, with hundreds of addicts lining the sidewalks, yelling, and shooting up behind Dumpsters. In Seattle, the influx has already begun. According to survey data, approximately 9. As the city builds out its addiction infrastructure and focuses social services in the downtown core, the problem will intensify. Yet the addiction evangelists are making gains. I n , the top experts in Seattle and King County government formed the Committee to End Homelessness and launched a ten-year plan to eliminate the problem in metro Seattle.
The plan has clearly proved a dismal failure.
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Unfortunately, Adrienne Quinn, the new boss of the Committee to End Homelessness—which has since rebranded itself as All Home—is even worse than the old boss. But no amount of money will make any difference until we correctly diagnose the problem and focus on practical solutions, not utopian dreams. For the past 70 years, sociologists, political scientists, and theologians have documented the slow atomization of society. As family and community bonds weaken, our most vulnerable citizens fall victim to the addiction, mental illness, isolation, poverty, and despair that almost always precipitate the final slide into homelessness.
Alice Baum and Donald Burnes, who wrote the definitive book on homelessness in the early s, put it this way:. Homelessness is a condition of disengagement from ordinary society—from family, friends, neighborhood, church, and community. Poor people who have family ties, teenaged mothers who have support systems, mentally ill individuals who are able to maintain social and family relationships, alcoholics who are still connected to their friends and jobs, even drug addicts who manage to remain part of their community do not become homeless.
Homelessness occurs when people no longer have relationships; they have drifted into isolation, often running away from the support networks they could count on in the past. I know 3, of them by name and know their stories. The biggest problem is broken relationships. In the near term, cities like Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, and Los Angeles must shift toward a stance of realism, which means acknowledging that compassion without limit is a road to disaster.
Homelessness should be seen not as a problem to be solved but one to be contained. Cities must stop ceding their parks, schools, and sidewalks to homeless encampments. Encouragingly, citizens and local governments all along the West Coast are starting to demand an end to the policy of unlimited compassion. We have offered services time and time again and gotten many off the streets, but there is a resistant population that remains, and their tents have to go. Of course, it will take years to catch up on housing construction. In the meantime, rent hikes and evictions will continue. To that end, Los Angeles County plans to use Measure H funds to provide temporary rental assistance to help people on the brink of losing an apartment.
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The county is also funding legal services to help poor renters fight eviction or to help them qualify for relocation assistance. The federal government has not done enough. HUD should significantly increase funding for the Section 8 voucher program in Los Angeles County, taking into account the high cost of housing here.
Ultimately there has to be a recognition that every new apartment unit rejected is a family denied an affordable place to live.
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Just as Los Angeles voters were willing to say yes to higher taxes for homeless housing and services, they have to be willing to say yes to the housing construction in their neighborhoods. That will, over time, alleviate the shortage. After moving into the shelter she began working full time at a big insurance company doing data entry to save money for an apartment.
Few co-workers knew she was living in a shelter.
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A national disgrace. The mentally ill. Skip to content. Most Read. Asia Last year he went on vacation to Vietnam. Now he faces 12 years in prison. Dodgers Dodgers' unusual lineup is able to hold off the Diamondbacks. The best location is one sparse enough to avoid nosy onlookers but populated enough that the car does not stand out, they say, near enough to walk to a restroom but far enough to avoid passers-by. Parking lots of big-box retailers are a popular choice.
If free, hospital parking lots are also an option. Guards often take pity when told that you are waiting to visit a sick spouse, many say. Finding a place to shower can take ingenuity. Like several others interviewed, Mr. Chaney said that when he lost his trucking business after Hurricane Katrina and was evicted from his home, he was lucky enough to have already paid for a yearlong gym membership. View all New York Times newsletters. Chaney, who moved to Pennsylvania to be near his son, who was in college there.
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Chaney said that while he looked for work, he did not reveal his situation to his son, who was going to school on a basketball scholarship, because he did not want to become a distraction. While pride is usually the motivation for not telling friends or family, worries about the law and harassment are more often the reason people give for keeping their situation hidden. Safety is also a concern, advocates say, since homeless people are frequently targets for crime and physical abuse.
People often develop severe back problems because they resist reclining their seat while sleeping, Ms. Wakin said. If questioned, they wanted to be able to tell the police that they were just napping, she added. People also built elaborate compartments in their cars, she said, to hide bedding. Alford said he had learned to move slowly to avoid attracting attention by rocking the car when he was inside.
When he has a lot of items to take from his car to the library where he spends much of his time, he makes several trips rather than load his arms and seem like a "bag lady," he said. Alford, who works occasionally as a Web developer. Out here, the cops are out the door in no time when that call comes in. Experts say there are 2.