Fixing California – Part Six, Homeless and Law Enforcement

The homeless population in California now tops 160,000, concentrated in Los Angeles County, but growing in every major city and in smaller towns up and down the state. Despite throwing tens of billions of federal, state, and local spending at the problem, the number of homeless increases every year. Expensive housing is part of the problem, and increasing the supply and lowering the cost of homes might help.

It is a huge mistake, however, to claim that a shortage of housing is the primary cause of homelessness in the Golden State. After all, during 2021 an estimated 103,000 new housing units were built in California, slightly more than half of them homes and the rest apartments. Meanwhile, California’s total population actually declined by 182,000 people, the first time that’s happened in over a century.

There must be more to this puzzle than housing, and there is: California’s homeless problem is caused by the inability of law enforcement and health professionals to deal effectively with criminals, substance abusers, and the mentally ill. If these people were taken off the streets and treated appropriately, the remaining homeless could easily be accommodated by existing shelter programs. Solving the homeless crisis requires reassessing the underlying assumptions informing the policies of recent years, rethinking the nature and meaning of compassion, and recalibrating where tolerance ends and law enforcement begins.

As it is, the so-called “housing first” policy has been a disaster. It has spawned a Homeless Industrial Complex of developers, […] Read More