When I was about ten years old, my father took me to a Major League Baseball game in a large city. Walking into and out of the stadium that day, I noticed multiple homeless people, and one man, in particular, had caught my attention. The man had acquired a shopping cart, the kind that you typically find at supermarkets, and it was filled with what I assumed were all of his belongings. Among other things, he had a sleeping bag, a pillow, and several jugs of water in the cart. He and his cart were stationed underneath the overpass of an overhead roadway, at the top of an embankment about ten feet above the sidewalk on which we were walking. He had other items spread along the ground around him, including a small hibachi that I assumed he used to cook things. He looked like a typical homeless person: disheveled, unshaven, and unhappy. Initially, I was struck by his resourcefulness as I considered what his daily life must have been like. He was under the bridge, which probably kept him dry, but where did he get food from? What did he do when he needed to use a bathroom? What did he do in the winter when it got really cold?
I came to the obvious conclusion that his life must have been extremely unpleasant. Over the years since that day, I’ve occasionally found myself trying to look at life like he lived it. For instance, if I come across a park bench that is protected from rain by some natural or man-made structure, I might determine that the bench would be an acceptable place to hunker down, at least temporarily. As I go through the exercise in my head, I view it as if I were the one who was homeless. If I had to, I think to myself, would this location work? That day as a ten-year-old, I was already well aware of the Golden Rule: do unto others as you would have them do unto you. I concluded then – as I continue to conclude now – that allowing people to live on the street as that man was doing, along with countless others that I’ve come across over the years, was not abiding by the Golden Rule. People shouldn’t have to live like that, and herein lies a fundamental question of an important debate in America: what should be done to help homeless people?
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The rate of homelessness in America increased by 2.7% from 2018 through 2019, in spite of record-low unemployment rates and a roaring economy nationwide. So why the increase? The answer to the question lies in the location of the problem. According to a San Francisco Chronicle article published last December, “While the latest counts compiled by the federal government show that America’s homeless population is growing again after more than a decade of declines, the entire national increase and more can be attributed to California alone.”
In other words, homelessness continues to be on the decline in the U.S., if we exclude California. To their credit, the Chronicle looks inward in assigning the blame, stating, “The dire statistics underscore the extent to which state and local policies drive” the failure. The state and local policies they refer to are in the bluest of blue states, and the cities impacted are almost exclusively run by Democrats. The homeless problem in cities like San Francisco and Los Angeles is the result we can expect when leftists run a government, and voters continue to double-down by voting them into office every year. Yet somehow, the New York Times can’t help but try to point the finger at the federal government and President Trump.
According to the New York Times last year, potential solutions from the Trump Administration could be problematic as there is, “fear Mr. Trump’s pending executive order could crack down on homeless encampments, give more resources to police departments to clear shanty towns and threaten cities that fail to control their homeless populations.” California’s homelessness grew at over 16%, but the New York Times thinks that taking a tough stance would be wrong. The compassionate thing to do, according to the Times and the Left in general, is to continue to allow people to live on the streets. That’s compassionate, don’t you know. The California Right to Rest Act of 2018 states just that. The state government is working on the problem of affordable housing, it tells us, but in the meantime, it’s OK for people to live wherever they want. To hell with the taxpayers who want to be able to walk on the sidewalks in front of their homes without stepping in human feces, that homeless person has a right to live there and the kind-hearted thing to do is allow them to. Don’t you worry California, we Democrats got this. Just bear with us while we fix the housing problem, and then everything will be wonderful, you’ll see – unicorns roaming plush meadows, with rainbows and soft music playing. But they’re not fixing the housing problem in California, they’re making it worse.
Last October, California Democrat Governor Gavin Newsom signed into law a rent control bill, limiting rent increases to 5% per year, as if restricting landlords on what they can charge for rent will fix the problem. It won’t. What’s needed to solve homelessness in California is the free market, not more government intervention. Liberal, big-government policies are what brought this mess on in the first place. Rent control is a disincentive to any prospective real estate investor, which will result in less investment. Less investment in real estate will result in less housing, and less housing will result in even more homelessness: a vicious cycle. It’s time for true compassion and a common-sense approach to the problem.
First, it’s not OK for people to live on the streets. It’s not compassionate to the homeless and it’s not fair to the taxpayer. Scrap the stupid laws advocating for living on the streets, construct shelters, and bring the homeless in for safe and humane housing; on a temporary basis. Second, provide effective care for the mentally ill and drug-addicted members of the homeless population, which makes up a majority. Allowing them to exist as they are, living on the streets as they deal with their challenges being untreated, is wrong; it’s cruel. Help the addicted to get clean, help the sick to get well, and use a proper approach for those who can do neither. Finally, stop being so hostile to corporations and partner with them to employ the homeless. Work with businesses, don’t just tax them.
The next time you see a homeless person shivering in the cold and muttering under his breath, consider the misery they’re dealing with. Then, perform the mental exercise of putting yourself in their shoes. How would you handle the situation? Where would you be planning on spending the night? And then, consider the root causes of the problem. If you’re walking past a homeless person in today’s America, there’s an extremely high likelihood you’re walking in a city that’s been controlled by leftist Democrats for years. So ask yourself… what’s the solution?
This article was first published by The Blue State Conservative on August 8, 2020.