The Ongoing Criminalization of Homelessness

By Conor Gallagher

As Washington shovels billions to Ukraine for war, the homeless population in the US continues to swell. In just about every way imaginable, the news is getting worse.

The number of older Americans who find themselves facing homelessness after a job loss, divorce, family death or health crisis is growing rapidly. The number of Americans dying while homeless has surged dramatically in the past five years.

Not surprisingly, the US doesn’t have a great way to collect data on the crisis, but it’s believed that upwards of 580,000 Americans are homeless, and that might be vastly undercounted.

The numbers are tallied by volunteers, and a count hasn’t been done since 2020 due to the pandemic. Regardless, the number is expected to be much higher when the 2022 report is released. From the AP:

Fueled by a long-running housing shortage, rising rent prices and the economic hangover from the pandemic, the overall number of homeless in a federal government report to be released in coming months is expected to be higher than the 580,000 unhoused before the coronavirus outbreak, the National Alliance to End Homelessness said.

If one doesn’t live in an area hosting modern-day Hoovervilles, they can peruse the news and read stories of homeless students and veterans, how up to 60 percent of the homeless are employed but are without shelter due to low wages and the high cost of living, homelessness caused by a car that broke down, domestic violence, medical bills, declines in public assistance, and on and on.

According to the Department of Housing and Urban Development, it would cost $20 billion to end homelessness in the US – in other words, a fraction of what the US has sent to fund its proxy war against Russia in Ukraine.

But it would be unfair to say that the US is doing nothing. States and localities across the country continue to pass laws criminalizing “public camping.” Because the problem isn’t really that millions of people are suffering and sleeping on the streets; it’s that the rest of society is forced to see them on a daily basis. From NPR:

Public pressure to do something about the increasing number of highly visible homeless encampments has pushed even many traditionally liberal cities to clear them.

To be fair, in some places the laws are rarely enforced, but  in others they’re used on a near-daily basis.

More from the NPR piece, which is typical of the genre:

Miranda Atnip lost her home during the coronavirus pandemic after her boyfriend moved out and she fell behind on bills. Living in a car, the 34-year-old worries every day about getting money for food, finding somewhere to shower, and saving up enough money for an apartment where her three children can live with her again.

Now she has a new worry: Tennessee is about to become the first U.S. state to make it a felony to camp on local public property such as parks….

“It seems like once one thing goes wrong, it kind of snowballs,” Atnip said. “We were making money with DoorDash. Our bills were paid. We were saving. Then the car goes kaput and everything goes bad.”

Tennessee certainly isn’t the only state passing draconian laws to remove the homeless from sight. A wave of legislation has swept across the country recently. Many of the laws are modeled after legislation published online by the Cicero Institute, a Texas-based think tank that wants to find “entrepreneurial solutions to public problems.”

It’s unclear if Cicero’s entrepreneurial solution refers to adding more people to the $74-billion-per-year industry that is the American prison system. One would be forgiven for thinking so because studies have shown it is far more expensive to criminalize homelessness than it is to simply provide shelter.  One recent study in Florida found:

It costs taxpayers $31,065 a year to criminalize a single person suffering from homelessness — through enforcement of unconstitutional anti-panhandling laws, hostile architecture, police raids of homeless encampments, and just general harassment. The cost of providing them supportive housing — $10,051 per year.

The Cicero Institute was started by Joe Lonsdale, the billionaire co-founder of the software company Palantir, a company that benefits from criminalization and whose technology has been used for projects like migrant surveillance and predictive policing.

In response to the COVID pandemic, the Trump Administration earmarked billions for states and localities across the country to help reduce homelessness. But most areas have been slow to get the money to those in need, primarily because the state and local agencies simply didn‘t have the capacity (and urgency) to deal with the influx of funds. From the Pew Charitable Trusts:

California, which has the country’s largest homeless population, illustrates the difficulties.

A report by the state auditor found that California’s Department of Housing and Community Development did not give its partners access to the first round of federal Emergency Solutions Grants until December 2020, seven months after the federal government announced the funding. That’s mostly because the department lacked the capacity to manage the grants and failed for a full year to hire a contractor to run the program, the report said.

That $315 million was 25 times the department’s typical yearly allocation, noted Geoffrey Ross, its deputy director of federal financial assistance. The department’s private partners struggled to expand housing capacity while meeting pandemic safety guidelines, he said.

The will and the capacity to meet the crisis have been shrinking for the past 40 years – from Reagan’s cuts to local government aid and housing subsidies to Clinton’s 1996 welfare reform law to Rudy Giuliani’s “sweeps” of the homeless away from tourist areas of New York City. But we shouldn’t forget that there once were models that worked to effectively combat homelessness in the US. From the National Alliance to End Homelessness:

  • Permanent supportive housing: Permanent supportive housing pairs long-term rental assistance with supportive services. It is targeted to individuals and families with chronic illnesses, disabilities, mental health issues, or substance use disorders who have experienced long-term or repeated homelessness.
  • Rapid re-housing: Rapid re-housing provides short-term rental assistance and services. The goals are to help people obtain housing quickly, increase self-sufficiency, and stay housed.

Instead of these tried and true remedies, the new solution is criminalization. Here’s a non-exhaustive list of recent news involving bans on public camping and other punitive legislative actions against the homeless:


Scottsdale camping ban may target homeless people Scottsdale Progress May 9, 2021


Gov. Newsom OKs mental health courts for homeless – September 14, 2022 “The law Newsom signed on Wednesday would let a court order a treatment plan for up to one year, which could be extended for a second year. The plan could include medication, housing and therapy.”

California won’t forgive parking tickets for homeless after Newsom veto – LA Times September 29, 2022

Homeless camps banned near Sacramento school campuses – October 19, 2022

LA City Council Passes Ban On Homeless Encampments Near Schools And Daycares – LAist August 10, 2022

Riverside bans camping in Santa Ana River bed, other fire-prone areas Press Enterprise Aug. 3, 2022

New camping ban in Milpitas: ‘Reminds me of Nazis’ says one councilmember The Mercury News Sept. 7, 2022


Aurora camping ban: What to know as city approves enforcement plan Colorado Public Radio News May 10, 2022

Aurora camping ban estimated to cost $2 million a year Colorado Newsline May 3, 2022

Car camping ban advances in Boulder County as homelessness advocates protest Colorado Newsline May 19, 2022

City council extends urban camping ban The Daily Sentinel (Grand Junction) May 20, 2022


Homeless encampments on public land banned in East Baton Rouge Parish by Metro Council The Advocate Aug. 24, 2022


Missouri governor signs law aimed at cracking down on homeless camps St. Louis Post-Dispatch June 30, 2022

North Carolina

Charlotte officials vote to make camping on city property a crime WCNC April 5, 2022

Fayetteville ordinance imposes $500 fine for some homeless camps on city property CBS17 Aug. 9, 2022


New bill requires homeless camps to get permits KFOR March 3, 2022

Proposed local law would allow police to remove homeless people from sidewalks, other public rights of way Tulsa World June 29, 2022

New OK bill would make giving porn to homeless illegal KFOR May 13, 2022


Oregon mayor to ban homeless camps on Portland streets – The Columbian October 21, 2022

Astoria bans daytime camping on public property KGW8 June 28, 2022


Statewide ban on homeless encampments approved by Texas Senate – Texas Tribune May 20, 2021

And a response:

Central Texas man welcomes homeless encampments on his property KXAN June 30, 2021

Austin voters banned homeless people from camping in public spaces. The city is creating housing for them but not fast enough – Texas Tribune August 31, 2022 “Police have had to eject hundreds of people from encampments. They still struggle to tell many of them where to go.”


Following public camping ban, Bristol man shares his experience with homelessness WJHL Aug. 10, 2022

Roanoke City Council passes ordinance banning people from camping on downtown sidewalks WSLS Dec. 7, 2021


Tacoma council passes a homeless camping ban. Here’s what it means and when it starts The News Tribune October 12, 2022

Vancouver City Council approves camping ban in wildfire-prone areas The Columbian July 13, 2022

Spokane City Council votes to ban camping along river, under viaducts and near homeless shelters The Spokesman Review Sept. 19, 2022

Edmonds City Council approves ban on homeless camping KOMO News May 17, 2022


The Best-Selling, Billion-Dollar Pills Tested on Homeless People Carl Elliot, Medium From 2014 but still germane.



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  1. David in Santa Cruz

    Tennessee wants to make camping in the park a felony??? Are they insane? I live in a community that has long been a magnet for urban outdoorsmen due to it being a hub for agricultural workers impoverished by NAFTA muling drugs to unemployed persons impoverished by NAFTA. Lambert’s Laws of Neoliberalism in action: 1) Because Markets! 2) Go die.

    However in the past several years the problem has intensified and we have seen a series of bidonvilles consisting of hundreds of tents in various public spaces from which a corpse is dragged on a weekly basis. One can’t live rough without eventually resorting to pharmaceutical assistance to sleep on the ground and to get moving in the morning. I have a friend who was a city garbage collector and he vouched that the volume of trash, human excrement, and used needles is shocking and a public health menace. Rats, coyotes, and other vermin are an ongoing problem.

    But criminalizing the poor is not the solution! When I interact with these folks, many of those whose minds haven’t succumbed to the drugs are actually decent people who simply can’t survive in a globalized economy based on driving-down wages. Rebuilding a just and equitable society would be the best solution but we’d have to cut-back on the billionaires.

    1. Miltiades

      David, you are right that some of these people are lacking money and just need work that pays enough. However some of the other people need to be incarcerated (criminalized) until they get better. The homeless should NOT be allowed to panhandle, live on sidewalks, under bridges, or in the woods where they sometimes start fires.

      Everyone would like to live near the ocean but it’s not reasonable for cities like Santa Cruz to bear those costs alone. Every county should have areas reserved for the homeless and the homeless should be required to live there. For some of the really sick and crazy people you need guards. Mandatory treatment is a must for the drug addicted.

      1. howseth

        I also live in Santa Cruz in a neighborhood near the largest homeless shelter – there is a daily parade about our building of homeless – new faces all the time arriving, most don’t bother us – but not all – many are male and young – look physically healthy (Well, they are young). Setting up camps mere feet from our building in the strip of woods by our river – and just across the river: this has been a re-occurring issue. The city has been reluctant and slow to intervene. Now the tents are not here (They about 400 yards away behind a bus depot). I assume they will return.
        I personally have only been threatened with physical harm a couple of times by transients here (for no apparent reason). We have been warned not to walk along the levee path behind our building recently, and a machete wielding woman strolled by the other day.

        Meanwhile, Santa Cruz is such a beautiful place.

        The lack of national action to fund housing and treatment is a disgrace. I also agree, (am I heartless?) “The homeless should NOT be allowed to panhandle, live on sidewalks, under bridges, or in the woods where they sometimes start fires.” Oh yeah, the fires in our drought area from the homeless camps is a real thing. We have had to call the fire dept. about exploding propane tanks in tent areas.

        1. David in Santa Cruz

          Hi neighbor! I’ve lived in Santa Cruz for 46 years. It’s still a beautiful setting but it’s no longer a beautiful place. It’s been loved to death and has become a magnet for dysfunction. I’ve already sold my house and I’ll soon be leaving for kinder surroundings.

          BTW, my concern is about making a nuisance offense a felony punishable by long-term incarceration in a far-off state prison, not suggesting that creating a danger to public health and safety should be decriminalized. Also using arrest and incarceration without addressing the causes of hundreds of thousands of vagrant addicts polluting and destroying our public commons is tantamount to putting a BandAid on a bullet wound.

          1. howseth

            We considered moving as well, but we rent at the Tannery Artspace Lofts – and for Santa Cruz – get a bargain rent ($1142 per month). Where else in Santa Cruz could we afford? Santa Cruz is just about the most expensive city in the USA (based on average wages) Yet it is a magnet for transients.

            The city set up a managed camp down HWY 9 about 1/2 mile from us (seems a better idea than the sprawling unsanitary mess at the ‘Bench-lands’ camp that is now, inevitably, being broken up.) The managed camp near us has some services, but is expensive to run – and to secure, and there are rules it’s residents have to follow – I suppose it will run out of funds fairly soon, and be closed – too bad. It’s also small compared to the entire homeless population here. More money is needed – more services are needed. More managed camps, or other housing is needed. Where is that help going to come from?

          2. San Pedro Road


            “kinder surroundings”, unless you’re willing to endure arctic winters, or hot summers, you might consider Marin County. It’s the best educated, healthiest, safest, county, more than on par with Santa Cruz as to natural beauty. Yes, it is expensive.

            It’s an internal and burgeoning conservative refuge for people fleeing the leftist insanity in the Bay Area. i.e. 81,000 San Franciscans moved there from San Francisco during the last few years. “Diversity?” Forget it.

            County facts are nicely listed.

            1. David in Santa Cruz

              Not California. There are plenty of kind microclimates just as beautiful if you take the time to seek them out — more self-sufficient, no more costly, and much less densely populated. CalPERS and Medicare happily accepted.

              For most people California has never been more than a sales-pitch. Equating neoliberalism, corruption, globalization, over-population, and climate change with the “left” or the “right” is captive logic — as is the hopium that Our Billionaire Overlords are going to swoop-in and offer “help” and “services” to those who their gluttony and greed have cast off to “Go Die.”

              I’ll make sure to turn off my lights on the way out. If the PG&E’s still on…

      2. JBird4049

        The homeless should NOT be allowed to panhandle, live on sidewalks, under bridges, or in the woods where they sometimes start fires.

        Feel free to tell me just where the 150,000 homeless plus Californians should go??? If people do not have the money to pay for housing, they are still going to sleep somewhere. Saying no is just ignoring the crisis. And for much of the homeless, it is not their fault, but they do have to enjoy the difference between wages and the cost of housing.

        1. McCool

          How about returning to their home states and home countries to seek aid?

          The majority of “homeless” in California are from somewhere else. They have been attracted by good weather and benefits like cash aid, free needles, easy drug sales as in San Francisco.

          You must segregate drug addicts and mentally ill people from locals priced out of apartments, otherwise there is no solution to anything.

          Why are local taxpayers responsible for people who voluntarily travel to some new chosen location and then end up on the streets? Let the non profits and churches pay for them, not the taxpayers.

      3. kj1313

        I’m sorry that you don’t want homeless people in a capitalist dystopia but the only solution is to give people homes, jobs and those who are mentally ill a treatment facility. It’s a better deal than runaway costs for a carceral system that does nothing to fix the problem of why people are homeless.

        1. Sibiryak

          “give…those who are mentally ill a treatment facility.”

          Something like this? “The law Newsom signed on Wednesday would let a court order a treatment plan for up to one year, which could be extended for a second year. The plan could include medication, housing and therapy.

      4. Mark A Oglesby

        Miltiades, when you speak of fires (“or in the woods where they sometimes start fires”), please remember that PG&E pledge guilty to 80+ counts of involuntary manslaughter whereas the executive class was “fined” (the corporation) and we the consumers received rate increases to pay those fines. 80+ dead from fires caused by PG&Es willful neglect. Kind of hard to consider the “reality” of the “sick and crazy people you need guards. Mandatory treatment is a must for the drug addicted” to greed: What a waste!

    2. clarky90

      When I was 24yo, in 1974, I worked for $1 (NZ) per hour, on the RailRoads. I was able to save $7,000 (NZ) in 14 months. I was working >84 hour weeks and then walked home to my room, to save the bus fare. (I was a good saver!)

      In 1976, I bought an old two story house for $6,000, cash, in a “hippy” neighborhood. Last year, the same house sold (not by me), for $700,000. oh my

      I haven’t owned a house since my marriage failed in 2001. However, I have been renting a house, for the last 20 years, 3 doors down from my original house. My landlord (who bought this house in 1970), leaves the rent low.

      The point that must to be made, and never is……..

      Houses are now, criminally expensive! Any person should be able to work and save enough after a few years to buy a house, a place to live. Maybe a humble place, but belonging to them.

      Exactly, as a person should be able to work for an hour or so and be able to buy food for the day.

      I believe that the use of houses and homes as “investments” is evil. Having homes in one’s portfolio……. bad, bad, bad.

      Collect paintings, or old cars, or complicated wristwatches, but please, not “investment properties”. Maybe baseball cards, nfts, designer shoes, shiny rocks, old bottles, teaspoons……..

      I have lived in the same neighborhood for 45 years and it is a blessing to have “a place”.

      Many problems would be solved if it was cheap and easy, for any person, to own their own home.

  2. Jake

    “Central Texas man welcomes homeless encampments on his property KXAN June 30, 2021”
    This man’s offer was rejected by people living under the highways in Austin. Because we no longer enforce the law when homeless people are breaking it, sorry, people experiencing homelessness are breaking it, they would rather live under the highway and panhandle for meth and receive free food, clothing, and tents from activists rather than live somewhere that they can get help. When they repealed the camping ban in Austin in 2019, the shelters emptied out. This is why voters are approving laws to ban camping in specific areas. Because we see how cruel it is to use homeless people as pawns in the game of ‘let’s kill capitalism.’ Austin is a great example of how activists can turn a half decent city into a hellhole for housed and unhoused within just a few years. Meanwhile the surround areas just send their homeless people here and the problem compounds. Anytime I hear a politician say the phrase “criminalizing homelessness, I know that’s code from “We aren’t going to do anything ot house people, but we are going to let them camp on the sidewalks and under the highways and we don’t care about the public health, public safety, and environmental issues that will result.” We are talking about camps where people are so methed out they crap on the pillars under the highway, just a few feet from the bathrooms that were installed there. It’s not that we want to criminalize homelessness, it’s that letting gangs of meth addicts camp under the highway isn’t a solution at all. If you don’t live right next to an area that activists have decided to take over, you won’t know what is really going on. I’ve seen it up close for over a decade where I live. If people want to live on the street that sounds like it fine, but what happens is those people are victimized by the other people living on the street and it becomes a hellhole for everyone. People are waking up to this all over the country. It’s called trying to maintain a civilized society while still living with a completely dysfunctional national government. As I mentioned to one of my friends in Homes Not Handcuffs, sorry, Dangerous Camps Not Homes, I have voted for progressive candidates my whole life, but after seeing Dangerous Camps Not Homes send out mailers with straight up lies, and seeing city so damaged by the libertarian policies for homeless people, I will never vote for a DSA candidate ever again. The City of Austin isn’t going to be able to solve the nation’s homeless problem on its own, but the ongoing failed attempt has had a devastating impact on the community.

    1. martell

      Thanks. That’s very well said. The situation in Portland is very similar, but on a larger scale. The mayor (still Ted Wheeler) recently proposed restricting camping to a few designated areas at which basic services would be provided, like sanitation and security. He seems to have been prompted to act by two factors. Recently, a lawsuit was filed against the city for ADA violations. Many camps completely block sidewalks, so that anyone who’s in a wheelchair has to go into the street to pass. People using walkers have to do likewise. The blind just run right into the camps. All of the aforementioned tend to get harassed by campers in the process. Another factor is the governor’s race, where the Democrat is in serious danger of losing. She’s perceived to be partly responsible for the lawlessness into which Portland is descending, and the camps represent a significant part of the chaos. As you note, they’re filthy, since campers often defecate onsite, despite the fact that multiple porta potties are nearby. And the camps are dangerous to those in them and around them. A significant portion of campers regularly use a new, cheap, plentiful, and powerful form of meth. Possession of this substance was decriminalized by Oregon voters. It also seems to be a significant causal factor in mental illness. Many of Portland’s homeless are mentally ill, and some of these people, because of their illness, are clearly dangerous to themselves and others. A significant number of camping homeless people also engage in criminal activity directed towards other campers and housed persons living nearby. Most of the latter amounts to petty theft, but there are also assaults and home invasions. Homeless on homeless crime includes homicides, about fifteen of them this year. So, Wheeler’s proposal strikes me as reasonable. We all require sanitary and safe living conditions. If we don’t have that, we don’t have much of anything good. Unrestricted camping is clearly incompatible with that requirement. Of course, there is a very loud minority in Portland who will immediately cry “Auschwitz!”, but I suspect most city residents are past the point of bothering to argue with them.

      1. Miltiades

        I lived as a homeless person many years ago. It wasn’t drugs, it was a lack of a full time job that paid enough for housing and absolutely no support network. It is difficult for normal people to get out of. For someone with mental issues it is nearly impossible. My opinion is that homeless people should be funded by the federal government, have designated housing (tents or vacant buildings) and divided into groups. All cities (beyond a certain size) should be required to take their share. The homeless should be divided into those who can work (federal gov employer as last resort) and those who have mental or drug issues (to be treated with movement restricted). What we have now is something out of a Charles Dickens book and a disgrace.

        1. Rip Van Winkle

          Daily vouchers for motels and hotels. Convert empty floors and office buildings into same. Start with the Willis Tower in Chicago. United Airlines has extra space. All of the office suites / floors have many more kitchen and bathrooms set-ups over the past few years rehab well beyond when the place was built.

      2. Soredemos

        I’m from Oregon, and work with the homeless on a nearly daily basis.

        I’ll refrain from saying what I think of people like you and Jake and your style of approach because our hosts want to keep their site from being an utter sewer.

    2. The S

      You’re right in that DSA is too tepid to solve homelessness, because it requires going after the real cause of the homeless/eviction tsunami currently underway: the housing scaplers, or people and companies that own too many properties. For example, here in rural CO, half the people I work with live in their cars, so we started a squatter support network. There’s a jerk of a lawyer in Denver who has bought up over 20 properties in my little town, and he’s enough of a menace as a landlord that most of his properties are empty as he runs off tenants on the regular. We have taken over a couple of those houses, turned on the utilities, and moved in as many people as can comfortably live there. We always have at least one person at each squat on watch and we have a network of 30 or so people we can call in a pinch if we have to scare off the jerk lawyer or, god forbid, we have to move everybody out in a hurry. So far jerk lawyer hasn’t even shown himself or seems to have any clue what’s going on, and we stocked the house with shotguns and high-powered hunting rifles just in case so any encroachments by the lawyer or cops will be polite and respectful. It’s not our fault some jerk is so rich he can buy up properties and afford to keep them empty in a town where many people are homeless and the housed live 6 people to a single-wide mobile home, but it is important to take back those properties for those who really need them.

      If you got a problem with the Hoovervilles in Austin, try stealing some houses for people. Or do what the Black Panthers and Young Lords did in Oakland: take over an abandoned hospital wing and use it as a community drug rehab center. Nobody ever kicked a drug addiction without community and a sense of belonging, which is the opposite of how the homeless are treated in this society. I bet if your whiny butt were homeless and had no resources or support system and had scorn heaped on you everywhere you went, you’d be shooting smack and crapping your pants in a week. Nobody treated as a second-class citizen should show respect to the society that is okay with their disenfranchisement.

      1. Fiery Hunt

        Ah, yes…steal what you want…

        Absolutely best way to the moral high ground.

        Ever wonder why your cause never gets off the ground?

        1. GramSci

          The fact The S’ “jerk lawyer’s” empire of empty homes was built according to someone’s “law” does not make it any less a theft.

        2. Soredemos

          The law isn’t justice, though in good times it may very roughly approximate it.

          Property is theft, inherently. If there are no other options, by all means, steal property back if it gives people who need it housing. Some of us couldn’t care less whether you consider this moral or not. I don’t consider treating people like trash and prioritizing some rando’s ‘right’ to own multiple overpriced rental properties moral.

      2. Alex Morfesis

        And cut…great work…the folks at the Marshall Manhattan federalist mises paul institute will cut your check next Tuesday…man we could never scare folks into giving up their freedoms without people like you…reminds me of the stuff the weathered overground trust fund babies did back in the late 60’s early 70’s when no one decided to move to the suburbs after the national highway system was finished and their farm and timber holdings were sitting their with their sunk costs…but man…a few boxes of firecrackers and staged radicalism did the trick…I am sure the head of commonwealth Edison was very proud of his son William (bill) for bailing out the company by scaring folks to move to where the utility had spent all that money wiring suburban roads for homes no one was willing to move into…but man…and with the help of the national association of Karen’s rambling on about block busting…ha…worked like a….

    3. Miltiades

      re:.”…….rather than live somewhere that they can get help…” It’s easy to wave a magic wand and *poof* there is that “somewhere” but if you really looked into it you’d find it’s not so easy to get help as a homeless person. Having lived as a homeless person many years ago I can say many of your other observations are correct. The homeless are mostly two categories, those without the necessary money for housing and other necessities but can work and those others that are mentally messed up. These groups should be housed separately. The people that can work should be given jobs (if necessary by the federal government) and the mental cases should be treated (if possible) but definitely incarcerated to some degree until they get better. The current pretend system is a joke.

  3. The Rev Kev

    Been thinking about this problem and by using historic examples, I think that I have an idea. They should get all the homeless in a city and put them all in their very own section of the city somewhere. Of course you would have to build a very tall wall around this section of the city so that they did not escape, errr, wander away. You would need to have guards patrolling those walls and you would need watchtowers too. Also guards at the few gates that you have to control who goes in and who goes out (nobody). They would probably be happy there as they would be with ‘their own kind.’ And if any diseases broke out among these people packed in, you could always claim that it is because they are dirty. But sooner or later you could get rid of these places as some sort of a final solution is worked out for all these homeless people.

      1. The Rev Kev

        Would you believer that when I started to type my comment, I was actually thinking of that episode of DS9?

    1. hk

      South Korea implemented various versions in 1970s and 80s, in which homeless, beggars, and such were shipped off to hard labor camps. While no one seems to willing to admit it these days, the measure was immensely popular at the time. Let’s face it: a lot of the homeless are latent criminals, often of violent kind–assaults and robberies by the homeless are, as far as I’m aware, quite common. The catch, though, was that there were all sorts of abuses in how those roundups were implemented in South Korea that have been getting very harsh review for some years now.

      It’s easy to dismiss that as a byproduct of a military-run authoritarian regime. But, the truth is that there is nothing fundamentally different about a presumed “democracy,” other than willingness among many to make excuses for the regime for much longer.

      1. hk

        I guess this gets at something that came up in an exchange with OIFVet some time ago: about authoritarians znd democracies “doing” things. I think what I came to believe is that both forms of government, at least in their modern forms, do what people want in general (there will always be servicing of special interests, but that’s a separate question), but while authoritarians are not constrained by public shame, “democracies” are. This, in turn, accounts for the influence of “political correctness” of all forms, which is really a set of organized attempts at enumerating things that people should be ashamed to admit that they want. So modern democracies are beset by public shame about doing practically anything, at least on the part of some significant part of the public, preventing nearly everything big from being done without great difficulty.

      2. Soredemos

        Let’s face it: a lot of the homeless are latent criminals


        Putting aside the fact that most homeless don’t commit crimes, to the extent that some do, chicken or egg is something a huge number of people seem to get wrong with homelessness. Gee, people with nothing might be inclined to rob to get something? Whatever could be the reason? Truly, it is a great mystery. Surely it must be because they’re ‘latent criminals’. No possible other explanation could be conceived of.

        And since they’re all ̶s̶u̶b̶h̶u̶m̶a̶n̶s̶ criminals, the only solution is to send them to concentration camps.

        It’s amazing the degree of mask off liberalism this topic has brought forth among commenters.

      3. Yves Smith

        This is complete nonsense in the US context. Homelessness is the result of unaffordable housing. Cities used to have cheap flophouses or rooming houses, called “single room occupancy” in New York City. They even had them in coastal Maine cities for fishermen who were single (not yet married or lost their wives; it not married, trying to live cheaply. Fishing is a hard way to make a living).

  4. Eclair

    Here in western New York state, in Jamestown, a once vibrant furniture manufacturing city filled with working class housing, I have been boosting that we do not see people living on the streets. Mostly, this has been due to the low cost of housing here. And, the conversion of downtown hotels, once hosting furniture conventions and sales people, to single occupancy housing.

    This summer though, the homeless ‘crisis’ hit. The city council and the county are concerned. Even more to the point, our almost 90-year-old friend, who drives to a waterside park on Chautauqua Lake to walk, has been warned by her children to ‘cease and desist.’ The reason: homeless people are camping there and they are dangerous criminals.

    The residents of the downtown SRO’s take chairs outside and sit on the sidewalk in the warm weather. They are mostly old, addicted to something, disabled, or all of the above. And, of course, poor. They enjoy sitting in the sun and talking to passers-by. The other day, our neighbor, whom I love dearly, complained that they should be banned from this activity, as they are causing distress to tourists who come to the city to view the Lucy (Ball) Museum and The National Comedy Center. (The placement of a comedy center in a city that has been left to rot is either a masterpiece of denial or a fist raised in defiance against uncaring politicians and capitalists.)

  5. Wukchumni

    California won’t forgive parking tickets for homeless after Newsom veto – LA Times September 29, 2022

    Car camping ban advances in Boulder County as homelessness advocates protest Colorado Newsline May 19, 2022

    I’d guess there’s nearly as many homeless living in their cars as there are in Coleman tents, but they aren’t as visible so nobody really notices them all that much.

    There’s lots of homeowners living cheek by jowl who aren’t all that sympathetic and how we treat the homeless will be a good Baedeker for our humanity.

  6. Boomheist

    Here is what I think – the Overton window (if I am using the phrase properly) is rapidly shifting to a solution that will be nearly exactly what Rev Kev suggests above, only instead of building a ghetto in a city there will be enormous tent cities build out on open land just beyond the suburbs. Get ’em outta sight. That will be the new solution, of course cloaked in high flying rhetoric. If it is true, as many arguem that most of the homeless are either addicted, alcoholic or mentally ill, then these tent cities will be called healing centers. If it is true as others argue that a big proportion of these homeless people are working a job and just out of luck (here in Washington working people live in their cars because rising rents have evicted them) then maybe a combined solution will come – build housing for those working, under a fair assumption that working homeless will live in a tiny home or shelter if given the chance, but send all the others to huge tent cities or camps in the fields. Out of sight, out of mind, What I think is happening every day now is that more and more people, especially in the cities facing the problem on the streets, regardless of their political views, are coming to a view that will be summarized like this – they are mentally ill or addicts or drunks and thus either ill or beyond reason, and to protect them and everyone else they need to be corralled and isolated until they sort their stuff out. And this view will be accepted, even encouraged.

    Just one more in the long list of what happens when societal norms and behaviors come apart….

    1. Soredemos

      This is 100% the Portland, Oregon approach.

      It should go without saying that the homeless have no political power, as a group, to agitate for themselves. So what’s good for them does not remotely enter into the process of deciding homeless policy.

      Portland is moving towards rounding them up and concentrating them in homeless ghettos for the purposes of concentrating them in no-go zones that can be ignored by the majority of the city. That’s it. The entirety of ‘progressive’ Portland’s policy boils down to ‘send them away’. No one actually cares about them or about solving any underlying problem; Wheeler is just under pressure from businesses that are mad about lost revenue and residents who don’t like having to interact with, or even to just see, human wreckage. The ghetto plan comes after years of attempting to gradually push the problem outside of Portland into other areas and counties, mostly to the south (which they’ll also continue to do, by the way).

      You might try and make the argument that ‘well, whatever the motivation, isn’t it still better to concentrate them to make providing services easier’. No, because 1. you ignore what the homeless themselves might want or need; eg, maybe just cramming a bunch of people together isn’t the best of plans, and 2. it ignores, and is designed to ignore, the one ‘service’ that the homeless actually need: freaking housing.

      Give. Them. Housing. This isn’t fething complicated. Housing policy in the US is still dominated by the nonsense protestant moralizing garbage where in order to get any kind of assistance you first have to prove your moral worth as a human being by completing a checklist of requirements, and then you might get put on a list, and get something, maybe, eventually. And by ‘eventually’ this could very well mean five, ten, or more, years. People are required to first piece their lives back together, then maybe they’ll qualify for something to get them off the street. The actual non-stupid model is to just get them off the street first, full stop. After that you’ll find that most people have a much better chance of getting clean, getting a job, etc, when they have things a simple as access to a shower. Will everyone get their act together? No, some will fail, but at least they’ll be shooting up in doors, out of sight, which is what most liberals are actually upset by: the aesthetics of it all.

  7. Mark Gisleson

    Elected officials are by default “winners.” And the winners have decided that life’s losers haven’t lost nearly hard enough yet and will be criminalized for having lost the wherewithal to obtain shelter.

    Govt has failed you, now govt will punish you for the govt’s failures.

    1. tegnost

      We need a “meaningful recession” (h/t larry summers)…pay no attention to those record corporate earnings
      I have a friend living in a shelter and rapid rehousing failed her spectacularly.

  8. Amfortas the hippie

    i spent 5 or so years living in a vw van, between el paso and the florida panhandle.
    then i moved to austin, and my last paycheck from the previous place bounced…and got evicted.
    so in the car in austin for a good six months.
    including living in a giant rock overhang on upper barton creek greenbelt, with about 40 “professional” homeless folks.
    so when austin did their first “camping ban”…early to mid 90’s///my time is hazy…i joined the fight against it, and have been an advocate for the “unhoused” ever since.
    until you’ve been there, talk all you want about the drugs and criminality…but know also that you really do not know what the hell you’re talking about.
    i suppose the majority will give a damn when the precarity finally reaches the lower edges of the upper crust/PMC.
    and, btw, the entire time in the van…as well as the 6 moths in the car…and i was employed full time…at a little above minwage.
    it was nowhere near enough, what with extortionist deposits for housing and utilities..let alone extortionist insurance for the car.
    i din’t have a credit score(200,iirc), either.
    its “bootstraps, man!”…except that all the bootstraps are in a warehouse behind razor wire, somewhere.

    1. bassmule

      Thanks. A little dose of reality is always helpful. I never got to your level of pain, but I did live in a closet for a while in NIles, Ohio, back when Youngstown Sheet & Tube was going down the toilet. A friend’s mom used to give me loaves of bread and jars of peanut butter. I had a safe place to sleep, but many dqys I did not know where my next meal was coming from. Most of the time, I just felt stunted.

      1. Keith Howard

        My thanks, as well. A study in Denver that I took part in found that ~65% of people lacking homes were only financially embarrassed: a bread-winner fell ill, the car broke down, etc. Give them the $ or a voucher for one of the many vacant apartments in the city. Of the remaining 35%, the majority have problems that result from national/federal policies: our endless wars, the stupid drug war, miserable health care for the majority, the carceral state, etc. Public and/or supportive housing is the answer, and it should be built by the city/state/fed. Tax the windfall profit on the sale of land; that will raise sufficient money. How to get from where we are, in the wasteland of US politics, to a practical and effective policy response, is the issue.

  9. Marco

    (NW Alphabet) Portland Oregon resident here with strictly anecdotal perspective. I’ve been physically attacked 3 times times by the unhoused. One incident involved an attempt to stab me in the throat during a mental health crisis (MHC). My view: Group 1 “The Normal 25%” They sit outside churches for free meals and have very ordered survival accoutrements. It’s obvious they are capable of navigating the city shelter system and are off the streets by dark. Group 2 “The Crazy 25%” Obviously mentally ill, perhaps dangerous but generally living inside their own world and easy to detect and avoid. Group 3 “The Druggie 50%”. May display some characteristics of Groups 1-2 but much more dangerous and unpredictable. Their sane enough to put up a tent but then get busy with a day job trolling passerbys and landing their next fix. The 3 groups overlap a bit and there is most-likely transition from one bucket to the next. I don’t feel safe after dark.

    1. Soredemos

      Your numbers are nonsense. It’s more like 90% normal, and that number includes addicts and people who are ‘off’.

      I work with these people frequently. As in I know hundreds of homeless. Most are not insane. This is not a mental health crisis, at all. The idea that it is something people with houses tell themselves as a cope to avoid facing the idea that there’s a deeper social and economic problem. “It’s mostly crazy people, who maybe should be pitied, but since I’m not crazy, I’ll never be one of them.” No, you’re about three missed mortgage payments away from being one of them.

      Most people don’t get, or don’t want to get, the order of cause and effect on this issue right. Homeless mostly aren’t insane. Many have developed quirks as a result of living on the street, but if you’d actually talk to these people, you’ll quickly find they mostly aren’t crazy. To the extent that most of them have anything off about them, which ranges from quirks to much more serious problems, it’s a response to living under constant stress. Apparently this is some impossible leap for people to make, despite the fact that we accept the notion of PTSD in plenty of other contexts.

      As for addicts, again, cause and effect. Plenty of people on the street are using something or other. With many you wouldn’t even know it, because they seem normal. And for both them and the obvious addicts, which came first? Did they end up on the street because their drug addiction ruined their life, or did they turn to some substance for comfort after their life fell apart? And not just psychological comfort either, for instance one of the things meth does is make you think you’re warm. It’s a cheap, plentiful way to get through fall and winter.

      You don’t feel safe? Yeah, okay, guy with a house. Obviously we need to round the trash up into ghettos so that normal worthy people like you can take back your streets.

  10. Miltiades

    I’ve been homeless and years ago lived in a car or campgrounds for months. There was nothing out there for a single male to get help. Today’s homeless should not be allowed to camp on the sidewalk or in the woods (where fires start). The federal government should have a plan for them and spend some money. Probably tent cities or abandoned industrial buildings somewhere with medical care, food, and toilet facilities. Also there should be a way to earn money by working. If the Feds can afford billions for Ukrainian weapons they can afford to pay people to work. The current system is “fend for yourselves” and the current politicians should be voted out.

    1. JBird4049

      >>> If the Feds can afford billions for Ukrainian weapons they can afford to pay people to work.

      Military Keynesianism for Ukraine and the Military-Industrial-Congressional Complex is good, but is apparently the evil socialism if spent on unemployed or homeless Americans.

    2. Anthony G Stegman

      The federal government needs to fund the building of permanent housing ala Singapore. This is the best solution. The US is exceptional in that it does nearly everything the wrong way and the hard way. Imbeciles have way too much power and influence in this country.

    3. Soredemos

      Probably tent cities or abandoned industrial buildings somewhere with medical care, food, and toilet facilities.

      It’s amazing how even when suggesting the direct Federal funding of a housing program, it’s still not actually housing. Can’t just give people a real apartment, no, we have to give them a campground or maybe a rundown former factory with a porta potty. Can’t have anything ‘too nice’.

  11. Anthony G Stegman

    Because of misplaced ideology this nation refuses to build public housing. So many unhoused people is a travesty. We all ought to be ashamed of ourselves.

    1. Carla

      Many of us are thoroughly ashamed. This does not seem to bring about change.

      OK, so. Giving money to the homeless does not bring about change. Giving bigger money to nonprofits helping the homeless does not bring about change. Voting sure as HELL don’t bring about change. What’ve we got then? Really, not a rhetorical question.

      Shame just ain’t cutting it.

      Frankly, I’m profoundly grateful to be old, and getting older every minute!

      1. JBird4049

        Corruption, corruption, and more corruption.

        Unfortunately, it is going to take something like the old Progressive Movement of a 120 years ago combined with a New New Deal. A massive undertaking. Both were partially successful. The Progressives in fighting corruption and President FDR in ameliorating free market capitalism. Of course, the Progressive Party was subverted and then subsumed by the Democratic Party (or shot dead in the South) and FDR died before the end goals were reached.

        If you think you are likely to live another 10-20 years, hold onto your hat. I predict that there will be another massive movement. Let’s just hope that the security state does not kill its leaders too quickly. (Cynical, I know, but just look at American history; it has a decent body count with reforms happening despite this.)

    2. Grateful Dude

      You may see it as “misplaced ideology”, but it’s a plain and simple class war, with echoes back into the European empires of the 20th C, Marx, Mao, and Fidel, now brought to this painful crescendo by our very own grand repudiation of Democracy here in the US of A, which now stands for the global triumph of private wealth, extreme financial inequality, utterly corrupted pay-to-play elections, and the social media matrix. China may be our only hope for a model of economic sanity where the life of an individual has intrinsic merit and value to the rest of us.

      Meanwhile I’m getting out, I hope before the nukes start dropping. There are places on the planet where the American Empire doesn’t rule, where people don’t depend much on international trade and, are just happy and free.

  12. JBird4049

    Can we all agree that the rent is just too damn high? We all know that the cost of housing and wages have been diverging for at least two generations and it at least partially arise from the corruption and rigging of the system to profit the few. And I think we can all agree that this is an extremely stressful situation for most people.

    I think blaming people for failing to function in, and to successfully navigate, our imploding society with its Neoliberal Hellscape is at best obtuse and at worse willfully sadistic; unless we match the cost of housing with the wages being paid, it will just remain, and with inflation being what it is, it will just keep getting worse.

    And then what? Criminalize the likely millions of homeless? And what will you do when it happens to you? It will. Just give it more some time

    1. Mike

      I’ve been very fortunate, such that my wage matches my cost of housing in an okay way, as you say. I think of my Grandfather who was by no means exceptional with his bread winning, but his wage matched his cost of housing, but in a very different way…. He built his own house…. Took years.

      Not easy at all but I hope that could come back in fashion some day. As a contractor I can think of many ways why our system does not allow for that anymore, even in very rural areas. No magic bullet for our problems just thinking of one small element in this.

      1. The Historian

        It is already in fashion, albeit in a different way. Just search for tiny houses, ambulance campers, schoolies, van living, etc. on You Tube. There are thousands of videos of people trying to find alternate ways to live. And yep, unfortunately, there are some cities are now passing laws trying to stop them.

        Years ago, the people across the street built a basement and lived in it for 10 years while saving money to build the rest of the house. But they could do that then. It is difficult to find land near a city where the building and housing codes will let you do that these days.

    2. Soredemos

      I know more than a few homeless who have income, either from social security, jobs, or even both in several cases. The reason they are homeless has literally nothing to with any factor other than that there is no where available that they can afford.

  13. Gregorio

    Times are also hard for people struggling to pay mortgages and property taxes in places like Portland, they shouldn’t be forced to subsidize the homeless population by having their property values destroyed by the chaos and filth of drug addicts, criminals, and the mentally ill camping on the streets and sidewalks of their neighborhoods. Having designated camping areas for homeless people where they can at least be provided with basic sanitation, is really the only answer to the issue.

    1. tegnost

      Your property value was given to you in the bankster bailouts and zero interest rate policy. I for one hope the value of your property craters. Sounds like you have no problem subsidising yourself, and the banksters, who were the actual target of the bailout you benefited from, through no effort on your part. It’s not only “drug addicts, criminals, and the mentally ill” that are homeless
      Designated camping areas is the only answer? No. cratering your property value would work just as well. Vote democrat. They’ll crash it faster.
      Take the value of your house in 2010 and subtract it from your 2022 value. if your house post crash was 400,000, and now it’s a million, you got 600,000 dollars of free money. Socialism for the rich with a nice dollop of moral outrage on top…

      1. Gregorio

        Have you ever been to Portland? I have plenty of friends and family there, struggling to pay mortgages and rents on over valued real estate, while keeping food on the table. Meanwhile they endure stepping over excrement and used needles just to use the sidewalks, and having their vehicles stripped of catalytic converters, if not stolen outright. Fortunately, I don’t live there, or own property, having fled the shores of the bankster oligarchy over 30 years ago.

        1. Soredemos

          Unlike you, I actually live in Oregon, and can tell you you’re full of it.

          You’re literally acknowledging the inflated market and people struggling to pay mortgages and loans, and yet can’t make the connection between that and the homeless population. You section off the homeless as subhuman filth, and never consider the possibility many are people who failed in the struggle to make payments.

    2. Carla

      @Gregorio — Housing First is a much better answer to the issue than yours. And of course, there’s plenty of money to pay for it — only right now it’s going into war in Ukraine and corporate pockets right here at home.

    3. Soredemos

      If you’d actually ever talk to the homeless, you’d be shocked to discover how many were once just people with mortgages or rent that they struggled to pay, until one day they couldn’t.

  14. Bugs

    Doesn’t a legal minimum living wage, federal job guarantee and a personal right to a decent home solve this problem? Isn’t that just common sense? What is going on that people here of all places are suggesting tent cities and locking up the homeless? Weird.

    1. JBird4049

      >>>What is going on that people here of all places are suggesting tent cities and locking up the homeless?

      Honest fear, I think, although many might not be aware of theirs.

      For Americans, being homeless is being a bad person whatever the circumstances. Shiftless, lazy, and irresponsible. A failure as a human being.

      Also, the country has truly, radically changed just during my time as an adult. Two generations, maybe. Their true extent is often unnoticed. Most people can see and agree on some unfortunate changes, but the the country now being mostly sticky mud and quicksand is harder to see.

      So, people deny the true causes and extent of the crisis and the very expensive and perhaps vast changes that will have to be done to solve it, but that is uncomfortable to see, accept, and do. Much easier to pretend that it would never happen to you, or at worse, you would quickly get out of it as you did as a young adult, and to blame the roughly one million homeless while ignoring the corruption that created it.

  15. Heraclitus

    I remember first hearing about a homeless person in town in the mid-’80s. It was a novelty. At that time, in South Carolina, there were still plenty of boarding houses for people on the edge. I think the state may have paid some rents occasionally. Many people in the boarding houses had social workers.

    In addition, there were still tenant houses, mostly without running water, on the farms. People raised their families there. Water was usually available nearby, and people did just fine using outhouses.

    But expanding government did away with any of these options. It’s like we woke up one day and said, ‘You can only live the life of a middle class person. If you can’t, welcome to the outdoors.’ They criminalized poverty.

    1. JBird4049

      The SROs (single resident occupancy) hotels in California pretty much disappeared in the 1980s. I vaguely remember the fight over the demolition of the International in San Francisco. Like with the destruction of the City’s port and light industries, I think that it was a money grab by the elites especially the land “developers.” A process I could see in the entire state, but most clearly in the Bay Area.

      It was part, I believe, of the process of destroying the various organizations able to resist the neoliberalization of the economy, which included the unions and the middle and working classes centered around manufacturing. It might not have been some grand, overarching, plan, but that all these various strands benefited the elites certainly helped.

  16. Olde mayte

    There is a homeless crisis in Aus, with many priced out of affordable rentals and living in cars etc. So I thought I had a sense of the issue…

    But NOTHING prepares you for your first trip to the USA! Flew in to LA and wow. “Homeless” probably isn’t even the right term to be using in a US context, I’d suggest “destitute” instead. Masses of people who have nothing, expect nothing, and so are seemingly fearless and in some cases clearly dangerous. Honestly I can’t blame them – if I was immiserated like that in a very wealthy country I wouldn’t play nice either

    Even in Washington DC there are homeless! (altho interestingly not in the fancy area with the monument and the air and space museum etc)

    I know a few people who have said variations of the same thing after trips to the US- as non American it’s obscene, you can’t get used to it. You can’t have fun when there are people slowly dying of exposure and preventable illness all around you. It makes everything brutal, it’s uncivilized, you never think about the US the same way again. Fuck that

    1. JBird4049

      Well, it is like the frog in the slowly boiling pot. It just sorta happened. Just very slowly.

      Honestly, having a memory of the before times and comparing it to today is mentally disturbing.

      This is why there is this tremendous anger by both the deniers and guilt trippers, and the victims of homelessness, as it is not too massive to be ignored, but it is too massive not to hurt at least subconsciously. But victim blaming helps to ease the pain for some.

      Of course, this is also true of much else in our society.

    2. Paleobotanist

      I grew up in the US and left. I’ve always stayed in touch with friends and gone back and forth to work as a scientist. The growing misery that I have seen over my lifetime is obscene. If you live there, you don’t see it, but it you return after being away, it punches you in the gut. I’m avoiding conferences and collaborations in the US that I should go to. I don’t want to return. It sounds like it’s much worse.

      It seems that meth is very bad and eats you alive.

      I took an Indian student to the AGU about 10 years ago. We wandered around skid row together. He turned to me and said that this was worse than India. I had lived in India. I agreed with him.

      How much worse can it get? I fear much worse. This is just over my lifespan and I’m not old.

      1. Olde mayte

        I didn’t want to say “worse than X” without knowing especially much, but yeah that is my impression too. Even in extremely poor countries the underclass still generally has pride and gets by, but the homeless in the US often seemed totally broken, even kids. It was so depressing

    3. witters

      Absolutely olde mayte. Had the same experience with extra shock, because after flying from Aus to USA I got to lecture and look around China…

    4. Wukchumni

      But NOTHING prepares you for your first trip to the USA! Flew in to LA and wow. “Homeless” probably isn’t even the right term to be using in a US context, I’d suggest “destitute” instead. Masses of people who have nothing, expect nothing, and so are seemingly fearless and in some cases clearly dangerous. Honestly I can’t blame them – if I was immiserated like that in a very wealthy country I wouldn’t play nice either

      I slipped under the wire and made good my escape from LA about 20 years ago and only see the City of Angles in snippets, and my shock while not as profound as yours as i’m there 2-3x a year, but it amazes me nonetheless to witness so many ‘untouchables’, castaways if you will.

      30 years ago the only place to glimpse homeless in LA was Santa Monica-home of the homeless, dutifully fed @ in front of the Rand building.

      They were almost celebrities in their own rite, Lipstick Mary earned her sobriquet by applying copious amounts in the general area of her lips, sometimes extending halfway to her nose, and her schtick was walking 17 shopping carts all chock full of nothing much up anybody would want, up and down Wilshire Blvd. tI might take her half an hour to go a block.

      1. Olde mayte

        It’s funny you say that cause the difference between LA in popular media and actually existing LA was so bigly huge… Makes sense it wasn’t always like that

        1. Wukchumni

          Every home in LA is worth a million bucks, with neighbors sometimes within eyesight whose net worth currently is $7.45

          Nadir hanging out with zenith.

    5. Paula

      Reminds me of Turkey, where my sister just visited. No homeless, no garbage on the streets, dogs running around but none looked starved. I told her she needs to be careful about how she judges what she sees. Urdogan is a dictator, after all. She also noted how different the interior compare to border towns.

  17. LawnDart

    A lot of people simply do not have social supports that they can turn to when “life happens”– what’s the percentage of nuclear-family meltdown? 50%? How toxic is whatever remains? Add to it the shuffle and moves parents make in an effort to keep up with economic costs– a lot of kids don’t have hometowns or childhood friends once they reach the age of emancipation: roots are cut in the service of capitalism.

    When I worked parole, a number of guys would deliberately violate in order to get back to prison (especially in Winter months), because as shitty as that is, it’s often better than the streets. Incarceration is our safety-net in USA.

  18. Joe Renter

    A national moral tragedy anyway you look at it. I saw what happened in Seattle after 2007 -8. That was only gotten worse by factor x. When out of work, out of a home, and drugs are cheap, guess what happens? A vicious cycle. It can be fixed by the powers that be, but it doesn’t since the entities don’t want to spend the money. And like it was pointed out there is money in the private prison system to be made.
    I had a taste of homelessness for only a bit and it is not fun.
    This article inspired me to do for volunteering this coming week. I need to serve, we all do in the capacity that we can.

  19. Tom Stone

    It’s a matter of priorities, spending $30 Billion to house the homeless and treat the addicts would be an extravagance the USA simply can not afford.
    Spending $100 Billion on “Slava Ukraini” so far this year is vastly more important in the Big Picture, because markets, go die.
    I haven’t landed on the streets but i did live in a trailer with no water most of the summer, with access to a full bathroom in a friends shop.
    I qualified for Section 8 four and a half months ago and am now in a 1 bedroom that is walkable to shopping, in a decent neighborhood.
    That will be increasingly important as my cervical spine continues to deteriorate and driving becomes unsafe .

    1. Joe Renter

      I am glad you were able to get housing.Yep, we can always find funds for war. Not so much for the social services that are needed.

    2. JBird4049

      Sheesh. The county that I am in has had the section 8 waitlist closed for two decades. Of course, once you do get on that list, you have to wait even more. Further, most of the landlords around here don’t want to rent to the wretches that qualify. Maybe in the next decade or two, when I am in my sixties/seventies I will be able to get onto and then off the list.

      1. Earthling

        That’s an important comment.

        The private sector is not handling the problem of housing poor folks, because it’s not only not lucrative, it can be a colossal nightmare if the landlord is dealing with substance abusers, etc.

        Funny, the private sector caused this problem, way back when we just had to cut back on mental and rehab hospitals “big government” and switch to cheap outpatient bullshit that doesn’t work, because all the people in the nice suburbs wanted lower taxes. And now those same people are upset because they have to look at homeless people sometimes.

        So it seems like we’re not going to solve the housing crisis til we solve the treatment shortages.

        1. Boshko

          According to Matthew Desmond’s very excellent, Evicted, the private sector find renting to poor people to be very lucrative. It’s just dirty work, carrying a giant wrench around to fix and threaten and then throw tenants out on the street, all before giving them a ride to eviction court.

          I found it amazing that the price difference between horrendous, delipidated and unsafe housing (in Milwaukee, where his book is focused and which was the basis of his dissertation research) and clean, safe, reasonable housing was maybe 15% even though property values might be 2-3x higher. The cheap cost but high rents of the crappy inner city housing made for great cash flows. “The ‘hood is good” as one landlord put it to Desmond.

          Another scheme for landlords is the Fair Market Rent applied for housing vouchers of the lucky few who win the lottery wait. The voucher is a percent of income but the landlord is paid the difference between that amount and the FMR. The FMR maximum is calculated for geographic areas that span rich and poor, biasing the max upwards.

          Other depressing stats from Evicted: 1 in 8 renters in Milwaukee were evicted annually, with much increased odds for women and those with children. From one survey of evictees, $935 was the median monthly income and amount of past-rent due, perhaps 2 months on average. That’s a knife-edge that most of this country is on, including many ready to throw the book at the homeless and their crimes. The stress, trauma and horror of eviction and separation from one’s children, in addition to homelessness, are certainly more than enough to seek comfort in substances.

          (Milwaukee’s stats from the book (2008-2009) are pretty standard for mid-American rust-belt cities.)

          1. JBird4049

            >>>I found it amazing that the price difference between horrendous, delipidated and unsafe housing (in Milwaukee, where his book is focused and which was the basis of his dissertation research) and clean, safe, reasonable housing was maybe 15% even though property values might be 2-3x higher.

            Only 15% difference between a dump and something decent? That’s not nothing, but it still looks like a scam.

  20. Eureka Springs

    National health care is a must as both not making things worse and part of the solution. Including all the things neolibs like to consider bling options like teeth, eyes, mental health and RX.

    I think the now much higher price of lower end used autos will also increase homelessness a great deal as well as make living in one semi incognito much less likely an option.

    1. Heraclitus

      Thanks for reminding us about the used autos. ‘Cash for Clunkers’ was a disaster for poor people, but the current situation is even worse.

  21. Dave in Austin

    Let me see, add 100 million people to the US population since 1970 when we were approaching zero population growth and act surprised that there is a shortage of housing… Any questions?

    1. Cal

      E-Verfy screening if an employer wants to deduct the wages of employees from income.
      Deportations en mass.
      There would be plenty of jobs and housing available. You cannot add 5.5 million immigrants in a two year period to a fixed housing and job stock without problems.

  22. Jake

    I just want to wrap back around because I seeing a lot of the standard talking points about nazis and building walls, etc. I see the camping situation in Austin as a cop out by the city council. Rather than provide housing, they repealed the camping ban. And it has been a disaster for the housed and unhoused. The entire community is crumbling and the city council still refuses to even admit that they created this huge problem. The didn’t make the people homeless, but they created a place where people who choose to live on the street and smoke meth can come and do their thing without police getting involved. I could post links to pictures of the reality at these camps, but I find that those get taken down immediately because the people who are so invested in the idea of “criminalizing homelessness” can’t look at the result and immediately cry that it’s insensitive to people experiencing homelessness to show the reality of what the PMC is doing to the people forced to live in these camps. I’ve talked to a lot of people who live in these camps over the years and they often understand exactly what is going on. It’s just that the subject can’t be talked about because we have so many activists in Austin that won’t allow any discussion around the impact to everyone that these camps have created. The main impact being violent attacks by people having various types of episodes. I was nearly killed by someone with a golf club at an intersection where people were camped, and we have had numerous machete attacks in Austin. It’s not a situation where we just don’t want to look at homeless people, although the activists would love for everyone to believe that. It’s that we clearly have a public safety, public health, and environmental issue that has killed the city because nothing has been done for so many years. Just dumping people in camps under the highway is IMHO not compassionate and does not serve the unhoused well. One interesting thing I have noticed is that it does seem to benefit the real estate industry with gentrification. But that’s something for a whole other comment.

    1. Earthling

      Apologies about the ‘don’t want to look at homeless’ phrase, that was wrong, when there are citizens being assaulted in violent ways. Although there is a group of folks who are not affected and just want to overreact when their tidy world is the slightest bit untidy.

      Seems like a homeless person deserves the same (or better) level of police protection from assault, theft, etc. that the rest of us do. What a disaster if the PMC prevents that, yet does not have to suffer the consequences themselves!

      Here we are. Red folks who want to lock ‘them’ up, Blue folks who want to let ‘them’ run free in traffic. And normal people with no control over their city.

  23. Cesar Jeopardy

    The government of the small city where I live looked for a while as if they were going to deal with the city’s homeless problem. As one person said, he felt they’d made progress by talking about the problem. Then the city board voted unanimously to purchase a quarter million $ SWAT vehicle using American Rescue Plan funds. I’ve pretty much lost hope for these people doing the right things.

    1. JBird4049

      An armored vehicle, which they don’t need, instead of housing for their residents? Sounds like the police union made some noise.

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