In many parts of the nation, the blight of roadside tent cities has become an acceptable part of the deteriorating landscape of our great country. Most of these encampments have sprouted in or near crowded cities, where liberal Democrats have ruled for decades. Regardless of the reason these encampments exist, their continued presence is inhumane to the people living inside them and to the people forced to live outside them.
California and New York shamefully boast the largest homeless populations in the country. One only has to walk around cities like New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco to see filthy tents and ramshackle structures blocking sidewalks and doorways in front of residential buildings, schools and businesses. These makeshift abodes create an unsanitary, dangerous atmosphere of disorder for you the law abiding citizen, while Liberal, woke, elitist policy makers like California’s Gavin Newsom and New York’s, Kathy Hochul, live in wealthy communities and travel safely with armed security.
There are no tents near their homes. They don’t have to walk their kids to school sidestepping human feces, rivers of urine and hypodermic needles, to get there. The elders in their families don’t need a volunteer security escort to venture out to the grocery store or withdraw money from an ATM like seniors in Korea Town in Los Angeles and other unsafe communities.
A big part of the problem is that we have allowed these leftist politicians and their corrupt media partners to create, define and perpetuate a “homeless” narrative that is patently false.
We’ve been told the tent cities are full of struggling, unemployed families who have suddenly fallen on hard economic times and lost their homes or can’t afford to live in one through no fault of their own. What person with a heart or conscience wouldn’t want to help these unfortunate souls? If only it were true.
According to the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), there are two types of homeless people — chronic homeless and temporary homeless.
HUD defines a chronically homeless individual as a person: “…living in a place not meant for human habitation, a safe haven, or emergency shelter continuously for at least 12 months, or has had four distinct occasions (previously known as “episodes”) in the last three years where the cumulative length of time for those occasions total at least 12 months.” Many of the chronic homeless are living in those tents lining our streets.
In 2018, the Seattle/King County, Count Us In Survey estimated 30% of the homeless population in Seattle is chronically homeless. It also found nearly two thirds of those homeless abused alcohol or drugs.
63% admitted to suffering emotional or mental conditions. 57% were suffering from some type of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. More than 50% of the chronic homeless respondents said that their “behavioral health or medical issues” were the major cause of their homelessness.
And let’s be honest. Those are the people who admitted addiction problems or psychological issues. The number is likely much higher.
Liberal policies like bail and prison reform, the decriminalization of dangerous narcotics and most property crimes in liberal cities like New York and Los Angeles have put dangerous criminals, drug addicts and in some cases the mentally ill into those tents. Combine this with the Biden administration’s open border policy that allows Fentanyl to pour over the southern border fueling an epidemic of Opioid addiction that has heavily contributed to the chronic homeless situation.
To be fair, each year, there are many thousands of people who become temporarily homeless through no fault of their own due to unforeseen circumstances and some may live in tents for a period of time. But many, if not most of the temporary homeless, especially those with children, usually obtain a more conventional and safe means of shelter. And as a country our government should help those people get back on their feet.
Unfortunately, it’s no coincidence that violent crime and random acts of violence committed by hardened criminals, drug addicts, and the mentally ill are soaring in and around illegal homeless encampments. But have no fear, our woke, brain-dead politicians have a solution. We need to spend billions of your tax-payer dollars on affordable housing to make the tents disappear. Governor Newsom would have you believe that’s what the people in those tents are waiting for.
But based on my experience in the NYPD — actually speaking with some of these chronic homeless individuals — affordable housing is the furthest thing from their minds. Most wake up each day with a different set of questions on their mind: how am I going get money for my next dose of heroin, meth, or drug of choice? Whose car or home am I going to break into? Which CVS am I going to steal from? Which random old lady am I going to rob?
According to an article in the California Globe, early in 2021, in addition to the approximately $1.1 billion California spend annually to eradicate homelessness, California state lawmakers proposed an additional $20 billion to combat the problem — much of it going to housing the “homeless”. But unfortunately, the more money Newsom spends, the more tents pop up.
A 2022 article on the Sacramento-based Capradio website estimates the homeless population in California has increased by 22,000 over the last three years to 173,800 people. If you do the math, with that $20 billion, California would spend more than $115,000 dollars per homeless person. That’s almost a half million dollars for a homeless family of four.
That would buy a lovely home in many areas of California or pay several years worth of rent in a very nice apartment. The insanity of these wasteful policies and the lunacy of the proposed solutions evokes a call back to the Will Ferrell character, Mugatu, in the movie “Zoolander” when he screams out in frustration, “Doesn’t anybody else notice this? I feel like I’m taking crazy pills.”
I’m not taking crazy pills and I still do have hope. We cleaned up vagrancy in New York City in the 1980’s and 90’s, under mayor Giuliani’s leadership without investing billions in affordable housing and we can do it again. But the first step to finding a solution is properly identifying the problem. We must direct our homeless resources to those who need our help and away from those who don’t want it, don’t deserve it, and don’t need it. Tent cites have to be treated as a law enforcement issue and a mental health issue not a homeless issue.
We are still a country of laws. We should be re-funding our police not defunding them. We should be enforcing existing laws and creating new ones that make our streets safe and clean and free of these illegal encampments.
Second chance programs like forced, custodial rehabilitation in lieu of incarceration for drug offenses is an example of a sensible and humane approach to dealing with rampant Opioid addiction that helps fuel the chronic homeless problem.
Laws also exist pertaining to the mentally ill and more should be passed to protect the mentally ill and us from them. If you are and danger to yourself or others or if you commit a violent crime, you can be removed from the street and held against your will in a mental facility for 72 hours. If you are deemed incompetent to stand trial or innocent of a crime by reason of insanity, you should be incarcerated in a secure mental health facility and treated for your mental illness until you are no longer a danger to the community.
Decisions about bail and parole for violent criminals has to be placed back in the hands of elected judges parole boards and not the Soros-backed leftist politicians and District Attorney’s masquerading as members of the law enforcement community. That’s up to you and it has to happen at the ballot box. The good news is, it’s $20 billion cheaper than the solution Newsom is offering and it’s coming soon to a polling place near you.
John Dove is a retired NYPD Detective Lieutenant and the former co-executive producer of CSI-NY starring Gary Sinise.
The views expressed in this piece are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.