Homeless Californians Adapt to Camp Sweeps and ‘The Caltrans Shuffle’

Yves here. It’s maddening to see how America treats its homeless. Experts and sometimes even the press points out that homelessness is almost entirely due to a lack of affordable housing. I’m old enough to remember when New York City had what would have been called flophouses in the 1930s and were more recently described as “single room occupancy hotels”. They were converted long ago to tonier housing.

But now the response is NIMBY-ism, both in terms of neighborhoods rejecting even mixed-income housing and as this article describes, trying to run the homeless off.

By Anna Maria Barry-Jester. Originally published at California Healthline, a service of the California Health Care Foundation

Every other week, Norm Ciha and his homeless neighbors temporarily relocate their camp from land alongside a freeway off-ramp in Oakland, Calif., to a nearby vacant lot, until state cleanup crews have come and gone. They call it “the Caltrans Shuffle.” (Anna Maria Barry-Jester/KHN)

It’s 5 a.m., and the thermostat reads 44 degrees. Cars round the bend of an off-ramp of state Route 24 in northern Oakland, spraying bands of light across Norm Ciha and his neighbors. They wear headlamps so they can see in the dark as they gather their belongings: tents, clothes, cooking gear, carts piled with blankets, children’s shoes and, in one case, a set of golf clubs.

Shredder, Ciha’s dog, takes a treat and then lets it fall from his mouth. He whines as Ciha walks away with a camping mattress. “I can leave him all day in the tent and he’s fine, but he freaks out every time we have to move,” Ciha said.

Every other week, the residents of this thin slice of state-owned land just off the freeway pack up their possessions and move to another empty lot nearby that they aren’t quite sure who owns. They do it in anticipation of the routine homeless sweeps ordered by the California Department of Transportation, which has jurisdiction over the state’s highways and exit ramps.

The highway crews check that the area is clear of people and their belongings, throwing away any items that remain. Once the trucks leave, the residents move back in. Ciha and his neighbors call it “the Caltrans Shuffle.”

Their makeshift neighborhood of tarps and tents is built on one of thousands of public spaces across California where people have set up camp. The state’s homeless population has ballooned in recent years; in 2019, there were more than 150,000 homeless people in California, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and 72% of them did not have shelter. A range of health concerns has spread among homeless communities. A few years ago, hepatitis A, spread primarily through feces, infected more than 700 people in California, most of them homeless. Ancient diseases such as typhus have resurged. Homeless people are dying in record numbers on the streets of Los Angeles.

Communities up and down California, increasingly frustrated with the growing number of homeless people living on public property, have tasked police and sanitation workers with dismantling encampments that they say pollute public areas and pose serious risk of fire, violence and disease. The roustings and cleanups have become a daily occurrence around the state, involving an array of state and local agencies.

But the response from officials has prompted a public health crisis all its own, according to interviews with dozens of homeless people and their advocates. Personal possessions, including medicines and necessary medical devices, are routinely thrown away. It’s a quotidian event that Leilani Farha, the United Nations special rapporteur on adequate housing, described as a “cruelty” that she hadn’t seen in other impoverished corners of the world.

Ciha, 57, learned the hard way that living on the street means his belongings can be taken in an instant.

Ciha says his dog, Shredder, hates the recurring moves: “I can leave him all day in the tent and he’s fine, but he freaks out every time we have to move.” (Anna Maria Barry-Jester/KHN)

In November 2018, when he was camping by an Ikea in nearby Emeryville, the California Highway Patrol and Caltrans showed up unannounced. He was out buying a tent when they arrived, and the crew designated his belongings as garbage. His fellow campers protested and grabbed what they could. Ciha returned and asked for time to gather his things, but said they were thrown into a compactor.

Along with his bedding and clothes, he lost three weeks of an eight-week supply of the medication he was taking to treat hepatitis C. He’d gotten the drugs through Medi-Cal, California’s Medicaid program. Though the drugs were almost certainly purchased at a discount, his course of treatment retails for around $40,000.

In 2018, a federal court case involving a camping ban in Boise, Idaho, determined that cities can’t cite people for sleeping on public property when there’s nowhere else to go. It doesn’t, however, determine rules about possessions. That question has been argued for decades, with multiple courts determining that destroying or confiscating property without notice is a violation of the constitutional right to personal property. Unlike the Boise case, cities rarely, if ever, fight those decisions, which means that precedent has not been set by a higher court.

Ciha cleans up around the strip of public land where he has camped the past 14 months. (Anna Maria Barry-Jester/KHN)

Lawsuits in California have made the issue more visible in the state than in other places, even though this is a nationwide problem, said Eric Tars of the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty. Today, many California cities have policies that either prevent seizing belongings or require storage, but public health and safety exceptions often allow for things to be thrown away without notice. “If cities spent half the energy on trying to provide access to sanitation as they did on trying to find constitutional ways to take people’s belongings, they could address homelessness,” Tars said.

The city of San Francisco contends that it stores people’s belongings when they are seized, the result of a settlement from an earlier lawsuit. Homeless advocates say that isn’t always true.

Chris Herring, a doctoral student in sociology at the University of California-Berkeley, has embedded himself in San Francisco’s homeless community on and off for years, including spending nine months in 2014 and 2015 living on the street and a year studying the police, public health and sanitation workers tasked with cleaning encampments. He said he has witnessed people refusing medical help because they didn’t want to leave their things behind and knows others who lost jobs after missing shifts to salvage personal items. An elderly man, so ill he lay paralyzed on the sidewalk, once called Herring and asked him to look after his stuff before he called 911.

Los Angeles has limited the amount of personal property people can carry with them or store on public property, saying it must fit in a 60-gallon container, the equivalent of a medium-sized outdoor trash bin. Several homeless residents are suing over the rule.

In Oakland, up the hill from where Ciha camps, Caltrans posts advisories about scheduled cleanups, notifying people when they will come through. Caltrans policy requires the postings, but an ongoing class-action lawsuit against Caltrans claims that the policy isn’t always followed and that the sweeps are a violation of people’s constitutional right to private property.

Ciha has joined the suit. Another defendant said Caltrans took her walker, which she used because an infected wound made it difficult for her to get around. Others have lost ID cards and prescriptions, a setback for making appointments or receiving benefits, according to one of the lawyers on the case, Osha Neumann.

Caltrans workers say they hate doing the cleanups. “It’s like 100 times worse than it was just a few years ago,” said Steve Crouch, director of public employees for Local 39 of the International Union of Operating Engineers, which represents Caltrans workers. “One of the biggest gripes they have is having to clean up the homeless encampments. It’s a nasty job.”

The sweeps also cause psychological damage. Ciha and his neighbors talk about how horrible it is when people driving by throw garbage at them. Herring said the trauma of living on the streets is so intense he hasn’t yet figured out how to write about it in his academic work. “[The city will] say we’re just asking people to move, but if you’re being asked that over and over and you have nowhere to go, and people are acting like you’re worthless or they’re scared of you, that affects you fast,” he said.

Ciha got tested for hep C after a friend went from healthy to sick in a matter of months. When his doctor prescribed the treatment, he was told he shouldn’t miss a dose. After his things were discarded, he wandered around Oakland for a week, he said, sleeping in random places. He stumbled across the area he now calls home, which he likes because it has just a few people and, for the most part, everyone keeps their area clean and drama-free.

Ciha went back to the doctor after he moved in and was able to get a refill of his prescription. But he’d gone a week without treatment and hasn’t gone back to see if his hep C is cured.

He has since grown accustomed to the Caltrans Shuffle. In the hours before last month’s sweep, he first lugged his cot to the nearby lot. Then his camping mattress and a plastic bin with pots, pans and utensils. Shredder’s food bowl. A cart holding a suitcase filled with bright-white teddy bears that remind him of his mom, a badminton racket, a comforter and a small landscape painting. Things he’ll use when he gets a place, he said.

He’d moved his belongings and was standing on the sidewalk by the time the Caltrans crew arrived, with two police escorts and five trucks. One of Ciha’s neighbors threw garbage into the back of one of the trucks, while workers checked the property. As the cleanup crew packed up, Ciha stood in the lot next door eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. The sun was now above the horizon pushing out the morning cold. He would rest a few minutes, and then move back home.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

69 comments

  1. Wukchumni

    Was doing trash clean up yesterday on a stretch of Hwy 198 here, and came across a homeless camp set about 40 feet back from the highway, nobody home @ the time.

    Caltrans workers say they hate doing the cleanups. “It’s like 100 times worse than it was just a few years ago,” said Steve Crouch, director of public employees for Local 39 of the International Union of Operating Engineers, which represents Caltrans workers. “One of the biggest gripes they have is having to clean up the homeless encampments. It’s a nasty job.”

    The squalor one glimpses in a Trumpville (what they should be called in homage of) is something else. They look to be perfect vectors for disease. And by the way, yes these are our modern-day Hoovervilles, only they didn’t have cheap Chinese-made tents back then and had to make do with cardboard, castoff wood and whatever they could scrounge.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hooverville

    My mom’s Keurig died on her, so I went to a Wal*Mart in SoCal to pick up a new one, and in the section with Coleman tents, they were all behind locked glass, which doesn’t mean they think people that car camp and are typical users of said domiciles are the culprit, nope its homeless people making off with them.

    The thefts in the past must have been something, we’re talking about a folded tent that’s 2-3 feet long and 6-8 inches wide and weighs 10 pounds, not an item you hide on your person on your way to sneaking out the door without paying.

    Reply
    1. Karla

      In Clinton’s presidency, they were called Naftavilles. Specifically the unofficial rv park at Third Street where it crosses Fourth.

      “a federal court case involving a camping ban in Boise, Idaho, determined that cities can’t cite people for sleeping on public property when there’s nowhere else to go.” What about them going back where they moved from, via taxpayer provided Greyhound bus tickets?
      Many destitute and mentally ill have been sent to San Francisco via “Greyhound Therapy” from other states and municipalities. A return trip home is being offered–to the willing.

      Very few of San Francisco’s homeless are local. Some were undoubtedly attracted by the city’s homeless benefits, $300 million worth in 2018, non-profit services, lack of police enforcement, free drug syringes, (4.5 million handed out in one year), great weather and a tolerant political climate. Most of San Francisco’s native homeless grew up in housing project units and were pushed out by relatives or banned for felony convictions.
      https://www.city-journal.org/san-francisco-homelessness

      Homelessness is a national problem and deserves a federal remedy. It is unfair to expect local taxpayers to assume their financial, and the civic burden or to over develop never enough housing in the places to which they voluntarily travel.

      Reply
      1. The Historian

        HUH????

        “Very few of San Francisco’s homeless are local.” I call BS on that one. SF’s own survey showed that only about 8% of their homeless have lived in SF for less than a year.
        http://hsh.sfgov.org/wp-content/uploads/FINAL-DRAFT-PIT-Report-2019-San-Francisco.pdf

        I am also NOT impressed by your using Citi Journal as your “source”. Perhaps you should look up the Manhattan Institute that owns it.

        And your comment about Boise is disheartening to say the least. Most of the homeless in Boise ARE from Boise and the surrounding area. And what the Federal Court determined was HUMANE. Do you REALLY have a problem with that? I would also like to tell you that the people of Boise ARE working hard to find solutions to our homeless problem, most of which is caused by Boise’s rapidly increasing housing costs – just as SF’s homelessness is also a result of high housing costs – so don’t use Boise to justify your own prejudices. You obviously don’t live here.

        I would agree with you that homeless should be handled Federally because it is occurring all over this country but your comments about how the homeless “travel” is extremely prejudiced to say the least. IF some do travel, perhaps it is because they are looking for work?

        Reply
        1. Felix_47

          These are good points. In my area of southern California we have a huge number of homeless people living in tents. I know quite a few of them because I operate a licensed board and care facility for people on SSI. I agree some of the homeless such as couples with children don’t fit but the majority are unfit to work medically or mentally and on SSI for mental or physical issues. The test is easily met. One need only to be impaired enough to not be able to work at a job one is suited for. The reason these folks are on the street is because they want to control their own lives and money and they have the freedom to do it. If they go into a care facility they get medication administration (like for Hepatitis C), medical transportation, about 100 dollars per month spending money, maid service and laundry, four meals per day (limitless snacks), air conditioning, a double room, and twice monthly podiatry care on site, psychiatric care on site, unlimited showers and bathing. What they give up is about 600 dollars (the home care rate), they have a curfew at 10 PM, they cannot drink or do drugs on the premises, they cannot bring their friends onto the premises without authorization, they cannot invite people over for sex but among themselves they can have limitless sex and we provide the condoms, they cannot have piles of dirty possessions collected off the street for sanitary and health reasons. For this we get paid less than what one would pay for a dog kennel. We get about 1100 per month per person. The level of profit is minimal and each year it is less because of inflation. So when the weather is nice or when they find someone else they want to hang out with they leave and sometimes when they get mentally or physically sick they come back usually referred from the local hospital or police headquarters. So because we want freedom in the US we have the majority of the homeless. The majority have a choice. There are significant exceptions but the majority in our area are on SSI and have options for a clean, supervised, medically helpful facility. It is just that they then don’t get the cash to buy drugs, alcohol, or sex.

          And they mentioned the veterans. I am a veteran as well. The VA benefits are much higher and the test to get them is easier. We are always happy to get vets but many of them prefer the cash in their accounts. For the majority they would rather live in a tent in southern Ca and have the cash to do with what they want.

          Some of the younger homeless are so lost psychologically that they have not gotten SSI although they could. We help them apply. And being on SSI does not preclude them from working. We have a few that go to work every day at menial jobs. That is just extra cash in their pocket. Remarkably, quite a few have wealthy parents who have given up on them.

          So do we want freedom or do we want to forcibly institutionalize people on the street in California? The notion of giving them houses which would be trashed without constant maintenance and maid service seems outlandish. And there are many facilities with vacancies including ours. What the state could do is give us a raise. The pay rate is so low and the legal liability (if anything happens there is an attorney ready to sue) is so great that quite a few of us are getting out of the business. To illustrate we have two cases pending brought by the families both death cases, both from car vs. pedestrian, and both far from the facility since we cannot lock them up. We will win in the end but the expense is huge and the insurance premiums are huge and get bumped with every case. So a lot of the hot air about the homeless is not looking at root causes. There will always be a proportion of people that just can’t make it in society for whatever reason. As a nation we need to decide whether unlimited freedom outweighs the need for order and clean streets.

          Reply
      2. Justabirddog

        In response to the “villes” let’s take the elephant off the table … these are Obamavilles if there ever was a name for them in 2020!! He DID nothing to create jobs, economic recovery and/or programs that would assist these people…and many even if they have lived there longer than a year are not local and have flocked to that state and the San Francisco area especially due to their professed “sanctuary city” identity…. A recent documentary on homelessness in California cited that of the homeless population recorded in the state…. over 89% of them were on some type of assistance and of the 89% over 80% were undocumented immigrants!!! So let’s call a spade a spade and get the elephant out of the room ….

        Do these cities need affordable housing? .. yes and the likes of the tech behemoths should be called on by the state to assist in funding them …. every one of those companies has philanthropic causes and cleaning up their own backyard should be a priority. Across the nation in cities both large and small there are many programs initiated by groups of veterans, ministries etc that have created housing programs not merely shelters… the issue in California is the “have’s” aka, the Hollywood elite; all want the government to take care of the issue, when the state alone is the 9th largest economy in the world? …The “have-nots” are too trapped in their condition to see the way out… Perhaps some of those Hollywood elites who want a socialized and “kind” government could donate some of their millions and support 5 families a piece for 16 months (the average time it takes to assimilate back into society after being homeless)

        Many on the street are mentally ill, drug addicted and/or too paranoid from past traumas to allow anyone to help them… I read yesterday that they put these people on a “list” … even though the city paramedics have been called over 130 times for one man who is known on the streets of San Francisco …. do you have any idea how much money that costs the city? Those funds could be reallocated if anyone really cared about correcting the problem instead of giving lip service and making a list?

        Until the state government becomes a government of the people and not merely a cesspool of identity politicians and the local government recognizes they have a responsibility as well and the citizens refuse to tolerate such atrocity from all of them ….by cleaning out their old tired “status quo prevails” Washington representation… then this issue will only change when something so catastrophic occurs that the people finally get sick and angry over all the BS and lip service…like the spread of leprosy inside a tech company…. or the the city experiences an outbreak of cholera that grows deeper roots daily! San Francisco is a public health crisis ….What’s it going to take for some one in the state to wake up and smell the feces?

        Reply
    2. Pat

      Let’s be honest. That homage should be shared among a vast number of Presidents along with the governors of the area. Nor can we forget the lobbyists and donors. So many have contributed to the policies that create homelessness and even worse the ones that deny services to those without shelter especially the needed healthcare.

      One of the things I consider so telling about our false reverence for the military is how much homelessness there is among veterans, and how that doesn’t matter.

      We are largely a greedy, judgmental, mean and hostile society and the worst of us have been installing our leaders and determining our policies for most of the last four decades. Can’t let Trump take all the credit.

      Reply
      1. Wukchumni

        Trump has taken all the credit for the rise in the stock market and the great economy we’re experiencing, so why not honor him by calling something he’d recoil from, in his name?

        Gotta play a little dirty if you’re gonna get under his skin, thin as it is on his larger than life frame.

        Reply
  2. inode_buddha

    I remember when I was a kid in Illinois (during VietNam), being taught how this kind of thing only happened in Russia because of Communism.

    I think there will be no excuses for our political and business “leaders”. America was supposed to be better than this –for everyone.

    Reply
    1. notabanktoadie

      “If the American people ever allow private banks to control the issue of their currency, first by inflation, then by deflation, the banks and corporations that will grow up around them will deprive the people of all property until their children wake up homeless on the continent their Fathers conquered…. “

      Whether spurious or not, the above quote is accurate both logically* and historically.

      *except private banks don’t issue currency but instead, except for mere coins and paper Central Bank Notes, the population MUST use private bank deposits as money.

      Reply
      1. inode_buddha

        Yes. And some more, hopefully relevant historical quotes:

        Permit me to issue and control the money of a nation, and I care not who makes its laws! — Rothschild

        Money has no fatherland, financiers are without patriotism and without decency, their sole object is gain.” — Napoleon Bonaparte

        Just see these superfluous ones! Wealth they acquire and become poorer thereby. Power they seek for, and above all, the lever of power, much money—these impotent ones!

        See them clamber, these nimble apes! They clamber over one another, and thus scuffle into the mud of the abyss.

        Towards the throne they all strive: it is their madness—as if happiness sat on the throne! Ofttimes sitteth filth on the throne—and ofttimes also the throne on filth. — Friedrich Nietzsche

        Reply
      2. FluffytheObeseCat

        The neutering of credit unions and mutual insurance companies over the past 4 decades hasn’t helped. These legally and socially accepted alternatives to corporate control of all commerce have been either undone (de-mutualization) or partially co-opted to be more like corporate entities as they’ve grown in size (credit unions).

        One didn’t used to need to be an unusually money-savvy ole hippie freak to use non-corporate entities for major purchases (i.e. mortgage loans or life insurance). They were simply part of normal middle class life. I still gravitate towards them, but they seem to be less of a factor in our consumer economy than they were ~50 years ago. Corporate gigantism has decreased their reach and power.

        Reply
  3. JBird4049

    Oh? Make no mistake, but money determines our worth here, especially in places like the Golden State. And fear that arises from the refusal to face the possibility of their own homelessness drives people in their treatment of their fellow Americans. That and the fantastical lie that anyone can make the American Dream. What nonsense.

    Reply
    1. xkeyscored

      No doubt homeless camps are often filthy and full of disease, though a little assistance instead of harassment might remedy much of that.
      But when it comes to at least two of the great crises facing the world, climate change and environmental collapse, how much are the homeless to blame, compared to those who pursue the American Nightmare? The homeless produce relatively small amounts of filth and pollution, which offends through its visibility, but could probably be easily managed. The Nightmare chucks gargantuan and growing amounts of filth everywhere, but out of sight, out of mind. If justice were to prevail, cops might be hunting down cars, rather than tents, and shredding them.

      Reply
      1. JBird4049

        It is to avoid facing awful things like climate change or the reality that we already have all, or at least nearly, the housing units needed to end homelessness. But private equity, financial institutions, wealthy individuals, even overseas investors have bought up or are sitting on them for whatever reason. I do not fully understand it, but the screaming need for housing has not opened up the sequestered housing.

        Reply
        1. notabanktoadie

          Sounds like a screaming need for land reform.

          Btw, the Bible is firmly for land reform (Leviticus 25) and firmly against usury from one’s fellow countrymen (e.g. Deuteronomy 23:19-20) so there should be no opposition from purported Christians against a new Homestead Act or similar and de-privileging the banks.

          Reply
      2. Synoia

        The Romans solved this problem with public baths. The British solved the human wast problem with public toilets, where the use fee was 1d (Old, pre 1971, UK Penny).

        Reply
        1. JBird4049

          Somehow public toilets, forget about baths, are an insurmountable problem.

          First, funding their construction and afterwards their maintenance is somehow, in the poverty stricken state of California, too expensive. There are supposedly much more important stuff that needs doing. Exactly what is more important than public sanitation is never really explained.

          Secondly, these enclosed spaces could be used by “those people” to do terribly bad, no good, awful things that addicts and prostitutes (gasp!) do. These people might be attracted to using a restroom for their terribly bad, no good, awful things because don’t cha know that’s just how those people are?

          So if you visit Baghdad by the Bay be prepared for the deposits and stains, here and there, as well as people doing the depositing in the free air. I guess as God intended.

          But there are plenty of busy beavers creating the next wonder app. Or something. Using all that VC funding. Can’t find a public restroom to save your life and the public libraries are the daytime homes of the homeless. Complete sometimes with a child with tatty clothing. All throughout the Bay.

          Tumbrels and close shaves…

          Reply
            1. Harrold

              The Elites spend quite a bit of time worrying about who is having sex. They have spend countless hours researching and passing laws and ordinances and court cases to deal with this worry.

              Reply
    2. Bugs Bunny

      There is absolutely no reason for people to be homeless in the USA. It’s shameful and the fault of government and the system we talk so much about on this blog.

      Reply
  4. Eclair

    Walking to a doctor’s appointment yesterday afternoon, here in the Green Lake area of Seattle, we passed under the Interstate 5. Temperature in the 30’s, snowing fitfully, wet and muddy. My spouse pointed out a huddled sleeping bag just off the sidewalk, right by a shopping cart filled with plastic bags and clothing.

    I went over, bent down, fearful that a person had died or was unconscious. I whispered, brother, are you ok? (Stupid thing to ask … of course he was not ‘ok.’) Movement, then a face appeared, young, smooth skin, bearded. I slipped cash into his hand, enough for a meal and a hot drink. Or a bottle of whiskey …. which is what I would opt for if I were ‘living’ under the interstate with only a sleeping bag to keep me warm in the snow.

    That evening, Kshama Sawant, Seattle City Councilperson beginning her new term in spite of Jeff Bezos dumping $1.5 million to campaign against her and other uppity council members, kicked off the campaign to ‘Tax Amazon.’ And maybe to move on building social housing.

    Reply
  5. furies

    We all do better when we all do better.

    I fully expect to join them before my run ends.

    Much appreciation to eclair above for displaying some humanity…

    Reply
  6. neighbor7

    Not Trumpville–the long bottom end slide predates him. From my view in Los Angeles, the encampments are now permanent. We should thus stop using the word “homeless,” since they are now homes. Heard a mother talking to her daughter as I was passing by a tent in Westwood Park(!) The term “favelas” already exists.

    Reply
  7. epynonymous

    I was thinking, and if the law were applied for real, then every private prison would be immediately sued out of existence.

    Reply
  8. David in Santa Cruz

    A globalized labor market and 7.8 billion human beings. What could possibly go wrong?

    The staggering level of mental illness and drug use among this population should not be understated. Hep C isn’t only spread by having to toilet rough; it’s spread by the rampant use of IV drugs necessary to simply get through the day. Mental illness and intoxication contribute to a population resistant to “help” and make “helping” them both unappealing and frustrating, even to those who think it’s important to try.

    Chicken or egg? These indignities appear to flow directly from the feelings of “worthlessness” imparted at an early age by the Rand-ian commoditization of labor. Our social and institutional frameworks have not kept up with the global population explosion and the growing supply of “excess” human beings. We may be closing our borders to refugees, but they’re “open borders” as far as goods are concerned, both for products made by low-wage labor and for the heroin and methamphetamines that help our discarded workers get through the day.

    Reply
    1. notabanktoadie

      +100

      As for a globalized labor market, positive yields on inherently risk-free US sovereign debt contribute to dis-employing US workers by providing foreigners with welfare proportional to account balance in exchange for their goods.

      Reply
    2. Reify99

      Worked public health some years back and did phone interviews with anyone in my county who had contracted a “reportable” communicable disease during the prior month. (Doctors are required to report these.) Hep C was tricky because, unlike HIV which dies after a few seconds outsides the body, Hep C can live on a hard, dry surface for a week, can be transmitted sexually if the viral load is high enough in one partner. Some of the cases were stumpers. A 10yr old girl with no history of IV drug use, not sexually active. Someone had stayed with them. Shared a toothbrush, hairbrush?
      Were these accommodations to be “inside” such as the sewer systems of a few big cities, there would likely be more disease where the vector is airborne, such as TB. Gave a lot of TB skin tests to homeless people staying in shelters back in the day.

      Reply
      1. Yves Smith Post author

        I have a friend who got Hep C who never used IV drugs.

        He already had HIV and so was immuocompromised.

        He thinks it was from using a razor at a sex partner’s home who was infected (obviously not to his knowledge) and he didn’t clean it well enough.

        In Australia, tattooing is a major means of transmission.

        Reply
    3. howseth

      Howard in Santa Cruz here. I’m on River St. (Tannery Lofts) a block from – the homeless shelter, now called ‘Housing Matters’. We have affordable housing at $1000 a month – which is a bargain in this city. Right?

      There are a continuous flow of destitute people of all ages wondering through here every day. Where are they all from? though most past quietly – some seem dangerous, or disturbed, or high. We get frequent car windows smashed, bicycles stolen. Makes one wary. We have a tent encampment down the block as well – that one’s sort of supervised – and seems OK, but we have people just pitching tents on the rver next to us – that does not seem OK. Screaming at night. Needles and garbage… Not to mention the recently defunct Ross Camp 200 yards away. ‘Anarchists’ cheering it on. It was incredibly filthy.

      Boise decision to allow sleeping on public lands – does not address or deal with the homeless problem in California at all.
      I think $100+ billion should be spent if that is what is needed to house everyone. The situation here is ridiculous.

      Reply
  9. Rosario

    A while back my city did a homeless “roundup/cleanup/mass-arrest” around our festival time. During the news coverage of the whole affair I saw an old friend being interviewed by the local news. He was one of the camp residents.

    Put briefly, it stirred me up pretty bad. I had lost contact with him a few years back, and had no way to get a hold of him. Since then, whenever I pass a camp along the road I look for him amidst all the weathered faces. I’d always been angry in a principled way about homelessness, but nothing makes it more real than when it affects someone you know and were pretty close with.

    Reply
  10. Ken I Am.

    It’s sad.

    I knew a homeless person was living in an area behind a business I used to own.

    Didn’t bother me, until the person defecated right on our back stoop.

    Annoying, really annoying, but not a game changer.

    Then, I came in one morning and there was a kerosene fueled tiki lamp stuck in a gas pipe leading to the water heater that had smoked up the wall.

    I then took all the belongings I found and tossed them in a nearby dumpster. Called local law enforcement, asked them to patrol the rear area frequently.

    I do feel sorry for anyone in that position, however I can readily understand local safety being a problem.

    Reply
  11. smoker

    I would take issue with The state’s homeless population has ballooned in recent years, sounds too much like let’s blame Trump, who had nothing to do with the Blue State’s Immoral Homelessness Tragedy, as odious as Trump is. It’s been ballooning for decades now, certainly during all of Obama’s Reign.

    The piece brings to mind this particularly vicious 2014 San Jose encampment teardown. Dwellers were given notice on Monday, December 1st – four days after Thanksgiving – to clear out in three more days, by Thursday, December 4th. This, despite the fact that there was an already forecast three day storm expected during that clear-out period, which followed prior storms two days earlier.

    Silicon Valley homeless booted from large encampment called the Jungle – Police order people living in flimsy tents and plywood shelters to clear out of largest US homeless camp or face arrest; social workers seek shelter for evacuees

    “This feels terrible,” said Jenny Niklaus, the agency’s chief executive officer. “People are up to their calves in the mud dragging their stuff into the street”.

    Meanwhile, this is only going to get worse, particularly since many things which should have been done years ago, still aren’t being done to prevent homelessness. I.e. it’s not just lack of affordable housing, it’s Destruction of GOOD Jobs and historic Race, Disabled, Gender, Class and Age discrimination, along with uncapped Visas and inviting even more immigrants in who can’t vote on such things as fair housing and job policies (in Silicon Valley, which has an enormous unsheltered homeless population, the population of renters on visas who can’t vote is likely the highest in the country). It’s allowing Tech Oligarchies to become Quasi Governments onto themselves. It’s not addressing the fact that it’s not just those without Education™ who are becoming homeless. California’s Politicians haven’t done, and aren’t doing, a thing to address these issues, other than lip service tweets and Op Eds at appropriately timed moments.

    Reply
  12. TG

    The one thing we must never forget: is that this situation can only be improved by flooding the state with ever more people. Because more people are always better, and anyone saying different is a racist and a fascist and literally Hitler.

    In 1950 the population of California was about 10 million. Due almost entirely to post-1970 government immigration policy, the population of California has been increased to about 40 million. Obviously, this has not resulted in higher rents, or increased pollution, or worse traffic, or worse homelessness, or more poverty. The solution to homelessness in California is clearly to continue to open the border to the overpopulated third world, because The Statue of Liberty Diversity Growth Free Trade That’s Who We Are and If You Don’t Like It You’re Fired..

    After all, look what rapid population growth has done for places like Mexico and Syria and Pakistan and Indonesia and India and Guatemala etc.etc.etc. So much better than those stagnant hell-holes like Japan and Switzerland. More people is always the answer!

    Reply
  13. Eclair

    Phinney Ridge Evangelical Lutheran Church in Seattle, a few blocks from our apartment, is currently hosting Tent City 3, Seattle’s oldest permitted homeless camp. The camp must move to a new location every 90 days. Our neighborhood seems cool about this; people inquire on our local BuyNothing FB page about where to drop off donations of goods and cash. OTOH, the comments in SafeSeattle’s FB page are hateful, arrogant and unfeeling.

    Reply
    1. smoker

      Are you aware of any transcripts for that? Due to increasing affordable access problems and the fact that I’ve refused to visit anything that Google owns for years now, I haven’t visited, nor been able to view, without spending an hour or more (if even then), on videos which are only a few minutes long,or less. I increasingly feel cut off from information as a consequence.

      Reply
      1. xkeyscored

        Paste the link into this website, and it’ll extract the subs and let you download them as a .txt or .srt file. I just tried it for that video; it’s very quick and easy. I’d paste them in here, but they’d stretch for miles.
        https://downsub.com/

        Reply
        1. smoker

          Thanks for that resource. I checked it out and unfortunately I’d have to download the file to read the transcript (which I’m not comfortable doing in most cases), but at least I was able to see the title and will keep the link for any cases where I may be willing to do it because i really need the information.

          Reply
  14. Craig H.

    This is not a good look and it is very high on the list of my reasons to want to move a long ways away.

    And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. Mt 25:40

    and there also is Woody Guthrie

    California is a garden of Eden,
    It’s a paradise to live in or see.
    But believe it or not,
    You won’t find it so hot,
    If you ain’t got the do-re-mi.

    Reply
    1. notabanktoadie

      Also, from the Old Testament:

      “Is this not the fast which I choose,
      To loosen the bonds of wickedness,
      To undo the bands of the yoke,
      And to let the oppressed go free
      And break every yoke?”

      “Is it not to divide your bread with the hungry
      And bring the homeless poor into the house;
      When you see the naked, to cover him;
      And not to hide yourself from your own flesh?”
      Isaiah 58:6-7 [bold added]

      And obviously, since the need vastly exceeds the ability or willingness of individuals and churches to remedy, even in this largely Christian nation, then social injustice must be the root cause.

      Reply
    1. inode_buddha

      IMHO the answer is unwinding the last 40 years of economic/trade policy concurrently with closing the borders, full stop. Companies that insist on using third world labor to make products for the first world at inflated prices will be invited to re-incorporate in said third-world countries and don’t get any splinters in their ass from the door on the way out. Others will come up, domestically to take their place eventually.

      Reply
    2. Tyronius

      I don’t think it’s a radical suggestion here that perhaps we could spend less money destroying countries around the world and use the savings to repair our own country.

      Reply
    3. Offtrail

      Changes in zoning and building codes would help. When you 1) restrict available land and 2) limit what can be built there, costs inevitably go up. Some of those changes, such as opening more land up for development, will offend the sensibilities of myself and my fellow liberals.

      Reply
      1. jsn

        Tax second (or more) homes punitively.

        There is enough housing stock, it’s miss-priced because that’s how banks can get more of your money, by making loans for higher values with less down (see Michael Hudson).

        And once they have your money bankers buy up all the housing stock and sit on it to maintain the price of their assets. In the major markets it’s a cartel like DeBeers, but wherever living conditions are good, the rich keep prices high themselves with their multiple homes.

        Reply
    4. notabanktoadie

      De-privileging private depository institutions would be massively deflationary* by itself and thus allow a massive amount of new fiat to be distributed as an equal Citizen’s Dividend – at least during the de-privileging period.

      Of course we need land reform too (cf. Leviticus 25, etc.)

      *Since newly 100% private banks with 100% voluntary depositors would not be able to safely create new deposits/bank credit/liabilities for fiat at a rate sufficient to match existing bank credit as it is repaid.

      Reply
  15. Janie

    Salem, Oregon, is doing tbe shuffle also. The encampment under the bridge was cleared, and the people set up shelters by a nonprofit which offered services. City council declared it illegal a few days before Xmas, just prior to drenching rains. Some moved to the capitol garden area; that didn’t last long.

    Now, most are on sidewalks, no shelters allowed, temps in 30s with rain and snow, under wide overhangs of the now-vacant Nordstroms downtown. City pays for the area to be steam cleaned, as residents move to other store overhangs across the street, wait it out, go back.

    Whether one has sympathy or casts blame, nobody want them there. So, where to? Shrug. Maybe back to the riverside park. Oh, yeah, they were rousted from there last year, so that’s out. Shelters only open when it’s freezing; you get wet and can become hypothermic in the forties, and there are beds for about 10 percent only anyway.

    Solutions? I dunno, but we sure are wasting a lot of money on the shuffle, the clean-ups, ER visits, etc ad nauseum. City council elections are coming up.

    As for blaming the homeless for their predicament, there seem to be as many causes as there are people. I’ve always thought most people do the best they are capable of doing.

    Reply
  16. dcblogger

    According to Del Lee Carter there are 5 vacant units for every homeless person in Virginia. I suspect it is the same around the country. Our problem is capitalism.

    Reply
  17. freedomny

    This is so heartbreaking. I can’t comprehend why we even have people sleeping on the streets. How can we be so cruel? It’s just not that expensive to build shelters for people. This is why I absolutely loathe capitalists and the privileged wealthy.

    Reply
  18. chuck roast

    Back in the day I remember hearing a folk song about a “nickel rope.” Maybe it was Spider John Koerner or the Holy Modal Rounders or somebody like that. The tune was about shelters where the homeless went at night to get out of the elements. They paid a nickel and got a rope to loop around their wrists at night. That’s the way they slept. It’s a great country.

    Reply
  19. Anthony G Stegman

    Back in the day when the “settlers” were busy stealing land from the native peoples one of the justifications for doing so was that, according to the settlers, the land wasn’t being used properly and so it was righteous to seize the land for higher use – timber, ranching, farming, mining, homesteads, etc…Fast forward to today where we have tens of thousands of vacant housing units owned by various people and entities. These assets aren’t being put to a higher use (housing the un-housed, for example), so it is righteous that they be seized and put to a higher use. Some may call it squatting. I call it fair play.

    Reply
  20. Paul Johnson

    I’ve been doing a lot of work lately with a homeless encampment that has sprung up in a city park in Vancouver BC. Ditto many of the observations other posters have made about other cities. I see two powerful forces intersecting here that prolong and exacerbate this tragedy: 1 – the angry and judgemental “get a job” crowd. Some of this is outright meanness but much is a toal misread of the people who find themselves homeless. Spend any time at all with them and you realize the vast majority suffer profound addiction and mental illness issues simultaneously. Most are not going to be holding down a “job” and getting their own place any time soon, if ever. The sooner we accept this reality the better positioned we are to help both them and everyone else.
    2 – the lefty, progressive local political cultures that dominate the big west coast cities that have the worst homeless problems. These types generally shrink from any kind of decisive action that could be seen as “forcing” marginalized people to do something they don’t want to do. The homeless people I’ve spoken to have any number of reasons – many totally crazy – for why they won’t go to city provided shelter when it’s available. With the city afraid to force the issue they end up where they are, in a dangerous slum. It is correct to say many are not capable of making good decisions about their own welfare.

    My conclusion after watching this for some time is the best thing for everyone would be for local jurisdictions to buid UN style refugee infrastructure to house, feed and treat people, and then have the city’s bylaw and police follow up and humanely enforce no camping laws in the city and move people to these facilities, against their “wishes” if necessary. Yes, the “get a job crowd” will scream ” not with my tax dollars” but the current disaster no doubt costs more.

    FDR’s New Deal had a lot of programs like this. Lefties will be afraid of the stigma of “institutionalizaion,” but what we actually need here is strong institutions. We can do this.

    Reply
    1. howseth

      From what we are experiencing here in Santa Cruz, California Paul. I concur with most of your observations – and been thinking along your lines for proposed action.
      And, yes, there are a variety of what you call ‘Lefties’ or self styled anarchists here – some even on the city council – that just seem to get in the way with working out reasonable practical solutions – they often appear to cheer lead and egg on ‘homeless rights’ in these slummy unhealthy makeshift encampments – rather than actually help figure out sustainable plans for the homeless – and the stream of transients that keep arriving here daily. Setting up needle exchanges rather than housing, overnight parking spots/streets for people living in their cars or vans. These are very temporary band-aids… and the temporary camp set up and managed by the city down our block is costing the city a ridiculous amount between the landowner fee and police protection.

      So, we can use a new deal for the homeless – seems evident. It’s going to cost a lot more money – but more efficiently spent. Needs to be a National, as well as California, priority. Governor Newsom made some noise about it recently – his funding plan… not nearly enough.

      I hear they don’t know what in the world to do with all that cash flooding into the Pentagon… Right?

      Reply
    2. xkeyscored

      A couple of generations from now, if that, the climate crisis will probably have many of those ‘get a job’ types begging for UN-style refugee camps – for themselves.

      Reply
    3. Bugs Bunny

      Thanks for bringing up FDR. I grew up in one of the cities built to house displaced people during the Depression. The village center was and still is, a beautiful place, surrounded by a parkway that also still survives.

      Unfortunately it’s now surrounded by subdivisions and strip malls but back in the day, you could get lost out in the woods or bike for miles seeing only farmland and trees.

      The US needs this: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Resettlement_Administration

      Reply
    4. smoker

      Not being able to work as a cause of homelessness would be news to thousands who are homeless and working. It would also likely horrify and traumatize them at the suggestion they’re likely mentally ill and addicted. Silicon Valley is loaded with such people, and it seems stunningly cruel to just tag them in such a manner. I’m not doubting that some ended up with ill health due to becoming homeless, but to presume many can never heal enough to work again is also cruel beyond belief.

      The homeless are the ones who should first be asked about their capacity to work, not those who were lucky enough, or something to be pontificating about the cause of their misery from ‘above.’

      The blockades against affordable rent, available housing and gainful HUMANE employment need to be torn down first. AI social scoring needs to be OUTLAWED, it’s increasingly destroying lives. Affordable healthcare needs to be institute, right along with other safety nets. with . Nationally, Apartments should be considered homes – with far, far more stringent rules on booting people from their homes out into the street. This country is sovereign in its own currency and able to do all of that, and then some, instead of spending trillions destroying other countries for the profit of the elites.

      Reply
  21. Bill Carson

    Comrades, this problem is only going to get worse. The super rich, banks, and hedge funds have more money than they know what to do with and they are continually looking for places to invest. Well, what is the #1 scarce resource in the world? It is LAND. Investors are buying up single family housing, which raises prices and creates competition between them and potential homeowners. Vacant blocks and tracts of land are hogged by developers to build cookie-cutter houses.

    And it’s not just the big cities, it is everywhere. In the country, the wealthy buy large blocks of land for ranches, and Big Ag is squeezing out small farmers. Meanwhile, the 98% are competing for a place to lay their heads. So inevitably we will see higher and higher real estate prices, and we’ll pay larger and larger portions of our paycheck to housing. It is unsustainable. Come quickly, Lord Jesus.

    Reply
  22. Ed Herman

    I propose that the blame for the rampant homelessness problem is a by product of Central Bank policies of inflating asset prices and lying about inflation. The political class over the last 30 years has supported these policies except for a few outliers with no power. It seems like an obvious fact that income inequality is the consequence of Federal Reserve policies. https://youtu.be/d-ifzjfGTkM

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *