Subsidizing homelessness

The late President Ronald Reagan famously said, “If you want more of something, subsidize it; if you want less of something, tax it.”  The truth of that dictum has been demonstrated many times in the past, and nowhere more clearly than the epidemic of homelessness affecting many US cities.  For example, City Journal reported last year:

Seattle is under siege. Over the past five years, the Emerald City has seen an explosion of homelessness, crime, and addiction. In its 2017 point-in-time count of the homeless, King County social-services agency All Home found 11,643 people sleeping in tents, cars, and emergency shelters. Property crime has risen to a rate two and a half times higher than Los Angeles’s and four times higher than New York City’s. Cleanup crews pick up tens of thousands of dirty needles from city streets and parks every year.

At the same time, according to the Puget Sound Business Journal, the Seattle metro area spends more than $1 billion fighting homelessness every year. That’s nearly $100,000 for every homeless man, woman, and child in King County, yet the crisis seems only to have deepened, with more addiction, more crime, and more tent encampments in residential neighborhoods. By any measure, the city’s efforts are not working.

Over the past year, I’ve spent time at city council meetings, political rallies, homeless encampments, and rehabilitation facilities, trying to understand how the government can spend so much money with so little effect … for now, four ideological power centers frame Seattle’s homelessness debate. I’ll identify them as the socialists, the compassion brigades, the homeless-industrial complex, and the addiction evangelists. Together, they have dominated the local policy discussion, diverted hundreds of millions of dollars toward favored projects, and converted many well-intentioned voters to the politics of unlimited compassion. If we want to break through the failed status quo on homelessness in places like Seattle—and in Portland, San Francisco, and Los Angeles, too—we must first map the ideological battlefield, identify the flaws in our current policies, and rethink our assumptions.

There’s more at the link.

$100,000 per homeless person, per year?  It’d be cheaper to pay every homeless person half that sum to go away and look after themselves!  How many people and organizations are funding themselves by demanding public funds to help the homeless?  I suspect most of those involved are doing precisely that, at taxpayer expense.

A business in San Diego is now standing up for its rights against the compassion fascists.  City Journal again, a few days ago:

Last month, the downtown San Diego franchise of the Burgerim restaurant chain closed its doors, contending that chaotic conditions caused by large numbers of homeless people in and around nearby Horton Plaza Park had driven customers away and made it impossible to operate, even during the Christmas season. The shuttering of the Burgerim location, which had been open for little over a year, was a warning signal to the San Diego business community—and to city hall, too. Burgerim would not be leaving quietly. The franchisee, backed by parent company Burgerim USA, intended to sue in state court, claiming that neither its landlord nor the City of San Diego had lived up to their responsibilities to keep the city’s historic Gaslamp Quarter clean and suitable for business.

Burgerim’s legal action will be of special interest to members of the multi-billion-dollar homelessness industry nationwide … San Diego County’s homeless number about 8,500, which means this beautiful Southern Californian region has the nation’s fourth-largest homeless population (after New York, Los Angeles, and Seattle), a rank it has held for several years. The San Jose area is fifth.

Despite the many billions spent on homelessness, however, the problem is getting worse, especially in California. Along with homeless encampments come deadly outbreaks of hepatis A, typhus, and other communicable diseases, driven by attending drug addiction. Some parts of the city are littered with syringes. A desperate San Diego now steam-cleans its streets and sidewalks. Even in expensive neighborhoods, unguarded greenery is often strewn with trash and toilet paper, revealing where homeless people have spent the night. The city tries to keep the squalor at bay with improved shelter programs. It even plans to provide 500 bins, where the homeless can stash their belongings, but that effort alone will cost the city about $2 million a year in overtime for the cops who guard the lockers. Advocates suggest that these overtime millions could be better spent placing hundreds of homeless in their own studio apartments.

Will Burgerim’s lawsuit have any effect on this complex, expensive, and apparently intractable social issue? Can retail and restaurant tenants really use the courts to force landlords and municipal governments to protect them against a problem that no one seems able to solve?

Again, more at the link.

I think President Reagan provided the obvious solution in the quote that began this blog post. If we continue to subsidize homelessness, the problem will continue and get worse. That’s already clearly visible in the movement of homeless people to cities and states where compassion fascists rule the roost. Those places offer more money to “help” the homeless: therefore, the homeless move there, to take advantage of their generosity. If you want to cut down on homelessness, stop subsidizing it. Before long, when it’s no longer made viable by taxpayer dollars, many of the homeless will change their lifestyles.

Does that sound heartless? Does that solution appear to lack compassion? I beg to differ. I’ve worked with the homeless on city streets in both South Africa and the USA. I know something of the problem at first hand. Some of the homeless are certainly in need of institutional treatment, probably involuntary, because they’re mentally ill. Some are drug addicts or alcoholics, homeless because all their income and assets have gone or are going to support their addiction. For those people, we need effective intervention, something that will either solve their problem, or remove them from the streets to places where they’re less of a danger to others and themselves.  On the other hand, many of the homeless are shiftless and irresponsible in their lifestyles, preferring to do as little as possible to support themselves. They’re only going to change if they have no alternative but to change . . . and as long as we subsidize their homelessness, we’re not only enabling them, we’re also enabling the legion of compassion fascists who live off our taxpayer dollars in an endless loop of trying to solve the insoluble problem. People have built entire careers off this issue, living for years, even decades, at taxpayer expense while accomplishing precisely nothing to actually solve the problem (as opposed to applying temporary panaceas that never work).

It’s time we learned the lesson. Stop subsidizing homelessness.



  1. Related Thoughts:
    1. Mental health issues are huge homeless issues, but ignored. Ca closed most mental hospitals.
    2. Drug use/addiction is another huge issue. Meth especially.
    3. Courts have made it harder in Ca to do anything.
    4. Some of the homeless were left behind as part of society that has issues, can’t fit in, don’t have the skills / temperament. Anger issues, criminal record, not reliable, no useful skills. And on the low end is a better deal to hire an illegal that won’t scam you / take advantage of you, than a homeless.
    5. Housing prices and rents are sky high in these areas. Lots of affordable housing is gone. And it’s super hard to build new affordable housing due to fees, requirements, zoning, etc. and subsidized housing forces spreads crime, study in Chicago showed that.
    6. I’m amazed at the amount of money being thrown at the homeless, with little impact.
    7. Homeless often being down the quality of life in an area. Sf being a poster child of this.

  2. My wife feeds songbirds in the winter. Suet, sunflower seeds, cut fruit, etc.

    If you want to see more birds, my yard is a perfect example of avian welfare.

  3. The locals and the Feds should be involved in getting a database of names and faces for the homeless.
    Each will be an individual with individual problems.

    They all need a place to sleep, to go to the toilet, and food to eat.
    Often they'll need some medical care. Often they'll need replacement clothes; much more often a way to clean their clothes.
    More "mental institutions" should be opened, re-opened, with voluntary entrance & exit (on a weekly? monthly? basis; not daily – no in, out next day, in next day).

    Society refuses to even discuss how dumb, irresponsible should be supported in living — since they refuse or are unable to support themselves.

  4. The Two Things About Economics:
    1. Incentives Matter
    2. There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch

    Translation: people work to get money and resources, and being homeless gets them resources. And it costs something (not necessarily money) to do anything.

  5. I worked about six blocks from Horton Plaza for a few years. The business, across the street from a church that had a homeless encampment on their grounds, was surrounded by a razor wire topped fence. We had no problems. Can't say the same for the church.

  6. Used to work in a business building downtown Toronto. Had to deal with the homeless on a regular basis (every freaking day). There were about 20 that that inhabited the one block I worked at. Every morning at about 5 am they would line up and wait for the Sally Ann truck to swing by with hot coffee, food, and toiletries. I would find all the toiletries and half the food thrown away.

    The majority of them were drug addicts or alcoholics. Three, maybe four, were actual mental health homeless. The city at the time was spending over 50 million a year on the homeless problem. Rents, jobs, or other problems weren't the reason for their situation. And all the money thrown at them through services just kept them on the street.

    I used to feel sorry for them until I saw how they lived and acted to charity.

  7. There will always be a portion of the population who will do the absolute minimum to avoid starving to death and dying of exposure, rather than take responsibility for themselves. There have always been homeless and there will always be homeless. Addictions enable people to become solely focused on their habit, and doing the absolute minimum to stay alive becomes easy, since they have plenty of resources available to make it someone else's problem. This provides little incentive to change. Wonderfully enabling.

  8. The whole "homelessness" thing came about largely due to a combination of ill-thought-out deinstitutionalization of the mentally ill, shutting down SRO hotels where a lot of down-and-outs used to live (it wasn't nifty but it beat a back alley all hollow) and NIMBY attitudes about building the "community based treatment centers" for mentally ill people which were supposed to replace the old asylums. One particular political faction seized on it as a stick to bash the GOP with in Reagan's time. I've noticed that during Democratic administrations, the "homeless" fall off the map, only to reappear when the GOP's back in the White House.

  9. Homeless growth at its simplest: build it, and they will come. To take advantage of the largesse and permissiveness of those who produce and pay their taxes. Many (most?) are mentally ill or at least non-hackers and will get what they can, where they can, when they can. Too bad if you don't like it.

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