A homeless man walks along a street lined with trash across the street from LAPD Central Community Police Station in downtown Los Angeles on Thursday, May 30, 2019. The union that represents the LAPD is demanding a cleanup of homeless encampments in the city after one detective who works downtown was diagnosed with typhoid fever and two others are showing similar symptoms. (AP Photo/Richard Vogel)
There are many people across the nation with many opinions about California’s homeless crisis. But you know what they say about opinions and mouth holes…everyone’s got one. Well, it goes something like that anyway.
There is a tragically large contingent of people who think that our homeless woes are mostly a result of our housing costs. Our housing costs are indeed outrageous. However, the homeless crisis is not a housing crisis. It isn’t even a funding crisis, as the state and all our various cities are literally spending billions of dollars a year to build housing and provide shelters.
The homeless crisis is an addiction and mental health crisis. Jesus told us that the poor will always be with us. It is naive to believe we will ever totally solve poverty and homelessness, but we can make it a negligible problem with some common sense solutions (a rare commodity in the Golden State). Here are my top five proposals for easing the current homeless insanity in my fine state. Pass this along to Governor Newsom if you see him around. Good luck with that, because he spends more time out of the state than in it.
1.Immediately repeal Prop 47 and demand city prosecutors begin prosecuting petty thefts. Deceptively known as the “Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Act”, this is the ballot proposition that basically killed the rule of law. It reduces the penalties for drug and petty theft convictions, making most of them misdemeanors. It also provides for early release of some convicted felons who have served time on their misdemeanors…this means that many felons who have a misdemeanor charge, like petty theft, on their record will have that charge considered first for early release even if they are serving time for other violent felonies. Prop 47 has dumped thousands of criminals on the street, many who have no place to go so they end up living the homeless life. It has also stripped business owners of their protections from theft. In the city of Los Angeles one can steal up to $950/day of goods without prosecution. This has led to an epidemic in petty crime as homeless addicts steal at will to feed their addictions. Many homeless may be mentally ill, but they know their rights and they know what they can get away with. I would repeal this horrific prop and restore power to peace officers to do their jobs and protect the law-abiding citizens who pay their taxes and only wish to run their businesses and lives in peace.
2.Re-empower police to enforce vagrancy laws, repeal laws aimed at legalizing camping on public streets, and allow citizens and business owners, once again, to take measures to make their properties less inviting to homeless encampments – things like placing decorative planters on sidewalks to reduce space for tents, spraying down sidewalks daily to remove feces and urine, removing tents and tarps that use the walls of their property as part of their encampments. These may seem like common sense things to you, but all of these things are illegal to do right now. Taxpayers and business owners literally have no recourse to solve their own problems and the police are no longer allowed to enforce vagrancy laws. It’s the Wild, Wild West without the fun fashion.
3.Work with federal, state, and local lawmakers to change the laws surrounding mental health and psych holds for the dangerously ill. Currently, it is nearly impossible to commit a mentally ill person to a mental health facility. Many of the homeless in California are suffering from severe mental health issues like schizophrenia. Many more are suffering the ravages of long-term drug addiction. If left untreated, many will become violent. Across the state, we are suffering a rash of random, violent crimes perpetrated by homeless persons coping with untreated mental illnesses. I would return the power to place the dangerously ill in psychiatric facilities (and administer treatment) to doctors and mental health professionals.
4.Bring back mental hospitals…or psych hospitals…or sanitariums. Whatever we want to call them. The elimination of these public services may have originally been rooted in compassion, but we have made a grave error in eliminating them altogether. Some people are simply too ill to seek help on their own, and that untreated illness can lead to fatal violence. We need a way to not just take these people off the streets, but to help them. 95% of the homeless in Los Angeles refuse housing help when offered. Some just want to live that way, but most are so mentally disturbed that they simply can’t accept the help. They are not able to see it as help. They still deserve help, because they are human beings. We need a way to force those people out of their unsanitary and dire circumstances and into a facility that can help them kick addictions, find clear minds and rejoin general society in some meaningful way.
5.Gradually reduce public funding for homeless projects and lean more heavily on a partnership approach with private charity organizations like The Salvation Army – organizations that have extensive and historical experience in serving the homeless. The government of California has been treating the homeless issue as a campaign issue. We need people who will treat it as a compassion issue.
I realize this is a wish list more than a proposal. To do any of this would require a massive overhaul of California bureaucracy and culture. As crazy as it sounds, the best hope for any of this to happen is that indeed California may be on the precipice of that shift. The homeless crisis is no longer limited to ideological camps. Everyone is sick of it and everyone is affected. Perhaps soon the rage of the taxpayer will finally come to a boil, at least on this one issue.