The Huffington Post recently published an article titled “Why America Can’t Solve Homelessness.” It is a pretty typical piece of lazy journalism that blames the economy and apathetic government for increased homelessness.
The article repeats the tired liberal saw that the economy is a fixed pie and when some people do well, other will do poorly. The Washington Post repeated this theme in its article “How San Francisco Broke America’s Heart.”
The Post quotes Salesforce founder and chairman Marc Benioff on how business successes in San Francisco is driving out the middle class, non profits, small businesses, and exacerbating homelessness. “This is unregulated capitalism, unbridled capitalism, capitalism run amok. There are no guardrails,” says Benioff.
The implication is that government regulation will lead to better managed growth, a more equitable society, better places to live, and fewer homeless.
The mistake in both articles is the complete blindness to government policies and regulations that created or exacerbated these problems in the first place. The Department of Housing and Urban Development’s policy on homelessness is focused solely on creating housing for often drug addicted, un-em ployable, chronic homeless individuals. It biases funding against programs that require sobriety, work, and behavior change as a means of self sufficiency.
Heartily embracing the Fed’s approach, California made it state law and doubled down on government enabling and dependency by de-criminalizing drug use, squatting, and theft. When the government offers free housing, no accountability, no prohibitions on self-destructive behaviors, free needles, and the right to pitch your tent anywhere you please, it attracts people who seek to benefit from those policies.
It’s as if city after city is having the same conversation:
Needy – “I can’t, therefore I need the government to do for me.”
Government – “I guess we can do this. Helping the needy makes us look good. But we don’t have any answers, are terribly inefficient, and will do a half-assed job. So, okay.”
Needy – “Great! I’m saved! Wait, this free housing is crappy, the child-care is inconvenient, and the free food is not very good . Oh, and I’m going to continue the self-destructive behaviors that got me here in the first place.”
Government – “Whatever. We told you we suck at this.”
Reporter – “How can the government be so cruel and inefficient? Doesn’t it know it’s the answer to these problems?”
Government – “Ouch! Okay, give me more money and I’ll make up another program. But remember, you’ll get more bad service, no solutions, and worse off people.”
Everyone – “Never mind the unintended consequences. At least they are doing something!”
In spite of these backwards and ineffective policies, community-based organizations are helping transform lives everyday. Their biggest challenge is saying “no” to easy government money, which often perverts program effectiveness.
America can solve homelessness. The government, on the other hand, can’t.