Ending Homelessness - Crusade of Zealots

By: 
Al Jacobs

During these past several years we Americans witnessed an ever increasing preoccupation with the plight of our nation’s homeless inhabitants.

At an earlier time those persons without a permanent residence were mostly ignored, or when noticed at all, dealt with locally and truculently. Since the eras of the hobo villages of the 1890s, the beatnik encampments of the 1940s and 1950s and concentrations of the 1960s youth movement known as hippies, who spread irreverently into areas such as New York City’s Greenwich Village and San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury district, few persons expressed any sympathies for those regarded as nothing more than loafers, bums and troublemakers. As members of these groups invariably lived with no permanent roots, they appeared rarely, if ever, to be viewed with toleration or consideration.

I specifically recall how the community of Laguna Beach, Calif., dealt with an influx of indigents in the early 1980s. The local Episcopalian church, in an act of misplaced compassion, began offering bedding accommodations on their premises, as well as operating a twice-a-day soup kitchen, to all takers. With an agreeably mild climate and vague indifference by city officials, the city soon became inundated with permanent interlopers from miles around. As their visibility increased, problems developed.

I recall when my wife and I entered an art store on Pacific Coast Highway, we literally stepped over several of them sprawled out across the front doorway. Finally, at the demand of local residents requesting something be done, the mayor and city council instructed the police to clean things up.

The general consensus: Run the bums out of town! It took no more than 45 days to clear them all from the city. In retrospect, such action seems a splendid way to resolve homelessness; Laguna Beach remains today as a delightful place to reside.

It’s some four decades later, but we’ll no longer be accused of acting in the depraved manner we once did, for homelessness is now a cause célèbre. Perhaps it’s appropriate to say society evolved – or perhaps devolved – to the point where the homeless are now an acceptable segment of society, entitled to those benefits befitting the privileged class they’ve become.

You might note my nearby neighbor, the City of Los Angeles, is no stranger to this ailment. As far back as 2003, then-Mayor James Hahn appointed a panel of illustrious civic and elected leaders to end the city’s homelessness over the next decade. Although the panel, which included Antonio Villaraigosa and Eric Garcetti, both to become mayors, met and formulated various programs, nothing of consequence occurred during the designated decade.

And in 2013, as Garcetti campaigned for the mayoral position he now holds, he vowed to “end chronic homelessness.” By 2017 the official count became 34,189, including about 9,000 who spend nights in shelters. Of the 25,237 unsheltered, Garcetti claimed he’d get half of them off the streets by 2022. As you might guess there are more homeless on the streets now than ever before.

Is it possible our problem is we’ve not adequately reached out to federal and state leaders, so to take advantage of their superior authority and insight, as well as their ability to cooperatively target their endeavors so to resolve this dilemma? If this is the case, we’re in luck, for on Thursday, Feb. 13, a massive assemblage of such individuals gathered in Los Angeles at the USC Sol Price Center for Innovation, to spend a full four hours to tackle this very issue. Included in the group was the nation’s Housing and Urban Development Secretary, Ben Carson, former California governors Arnold Schwarzenegger and Gray Davis, the mayors of some of the state’s major cities, a number of state legislators and a variety of lesser bureaucrats. In all, a formidable group attended.

They wasted no time getting into serious business, with a group called the Urban Voices Project Choir singing a few gospel-flavored songs as an introduction. Then followed a young woman, Marquesha Babers, who recited a poem about growing up homeless and asking Santa for a real Christmas. Housing Secretary Carson then addressed the group, where he called for bipartisan collaboration on his plan to engage faith-based communities to cooperate in an “adopt-a-homeless-person program.”

He said the Trump administration plans to call on “every church, synagogue and mosque” to take care of a homeless person or homeless family, with the goal of making them self-sufficient in a year’s time. He added that if every faith-based group in the country signed up, “we would pretty much wipe out homelessness” across the nation.

In his speech, Carson emphasized the need for compassion and putting aside political differences. In response, former President pro tempore of the California Sate Senate, Kevin de Leon, branded Carson’s speech as “heavy on faith-based platitudes but nothing substantial.”

Former Governor Gray Davis then addressed the crowd to give his view of the proper action to be taken. He stated the thing to do is “Declare an emergency.” He followed up with his comment “we must not only house, but treat, the homeless,” although he didn’t elaborate further. Thereafter Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg expressed his belief we must declare a “Silicon Valley movement,” so to come up with innovations leading to housing on a large scale. Such housing, he remarked, “could be smaller, easier, faster to build and less expensive to build and own.”

He concluded with a recommendation the cities need to set some mandates to fix the problem … but offered no proposals as to how this might be arranged.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti then addressed the group, as he joked about what he called “a strange buddy movie” of his working with Carson, where he’s “surprised how well they worked together despite their profound political and ideological differences.” He then remarked, of Carson’s earlier statement during a skid row visit: “It’s not a new bright idea that’s needed, but a focus on tactical efforts to make the system – at all various levels of government, policies and jurisdictions – work better.”

The participants then learned of a joint online poll of 1,000 persons, conducted by the Public Policy Institute of California during the first week of February, concerning the subject of homelessness. Of the respondents, 22.9% ranked it as the top problem, with 72.3% saying “its root cause is the high cost of a dwelling,” while a similar number (75%) believe “most people who are homeless suffer from mental illness or some other health problem.”

After mulling over these responses for a short time, one member of the audience interjected his belief such statistics may be of interest, but the challenge for the elected officials at this symposium is agreeing on how to house homeless people, where to put housing, what services they need and whether there is political will and money to do it as quickly and expansively as needed. With that statement, and the realization the four hours allocated for the meeting was drawing to a close, the attendees began to drift off in different directions.

It became clear the assembly of enthusiasts were about to take leave of one another. Accordingly, the top element of homeless crusaders must await a future date before they can resume their aggressive action to resolve the nation’s foremost crisis.

I’ll concede I’m tempted to continue with countless examples of activities going on all over our nation to facilitate poverty and perpetuate homelessness, but it will be mere repetition. Unfortunately, what I cannot provide are examples of programs to actually address these conditions in a realistic fashion. It’s for this reason I believe the homeless will continue to grow in number while the impoverished consume more and more of our nation’s resources.

Simply stated, the activities underway at all levels are not to eliminate it, but rather to enhance and sustain it.

A final thought: Why do government officials dream up outlandish programs? It’s understandable when you realize their involvement.

Persons with no proprietary interest in a project are free to embrace anything, with no concern as to the outcome.

Al Jacobs, a professional investor for nearly a half-century, issues weekly financial articles in which he shares his financial knowledge and experience. Al can be contacted at al@abjacobs.com.

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Comments

Well Long Beach Pony has decided that they can have a homeless person and there dog live in there sky box and have keys to all the parks locks plus the sky box and container. He has a tv microwave and frig in there as well. When will it end

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