Understanding the homelessness that plagues West Coast cities
The West Coast’s big cities are awash in a sea of homeless people. This is not an accident. The cities are engaging in policies that are not only homeless magnets, but that kill the people they’re supposed to be helping. Christopher Rufo’s video from the Discovery Institute sets out the facts with compassion and clarity.
Before this year, I don’t believe I’d heard of Christopher Rufo. Within this year, I’ve come to have the highest admiration for him. If the name sounds familiar, it’s because his Twitter feed is a vehicle for exposing the plague of Critical Race Theory that is damaging America just as surely as the Wuhan virus (or, rather, the insane response to the Wuhan virus) has hurt our country.
In addition to his Twitter work and his writing for City Journal, Rufo is the Director of the Discovery Institute’s Wealth & Poverty Review. In this capacity, Rufo has created and narrates a 12-minute video that examines the homelessness crisis in West Coast cities such as Los Angeles, San Francisco, Portland, and Seattle. Rufo is intimately familiar with the problem, for he’s a Seattle resident.
The video resonated strongly with me. Having worked as a lawyer in San Francisco for two-and-half decades, I spent a lot of time in the downtown area. That meant constantly walking by the homeless. It was apparent that these people were not just down on their luck and stuck in a difficult phase. Instead, they were quite obviously either mentally ill or substance abusers – or both.
Additionally, I have a friend who chose a different life path from mine. While she has always worked and is someone of great personal integrity, several people in her social circle are homeless. Knowing their stories, I can tell you with certainty that what drives their homelessness is a combination of mental illness (often from fetal alcohol syndrome or terrific child abuse) and substance abuse.
My observations are consistent with the data, which show that most people on the street are indeed mentally ill or have substance abuse problems. And I do wonder if our increasingly permissive drug culture accounts for the escalating number of people suffering these plagues, for a lot of mentally ill people self-medicate. Additionally, for some, pot can be a gateway drug for extreme mental illness.
It’s always struck me as incredibly inhumane that, for decades, leftist cities felt virtuous because they left these terribly damaged people alone on the streets or even facilitated their substance abuse. Within the last few years, though, the focus shifted to providing all homeless people with housing – a Sisyphean effort that, despite billions of dollars in spending, cities will never achieve.
Also, under the aegis of leftist governance, especially leftist district attorneys such as Chesa Boudin in San Francisco or George Gascon in Los Angeles, the same cities have doubled down on letting the homeless live in their own filth. It’s as if the leftists want to degrade the homeless, along with destroying the quality of life for everyone else in their cities.
What I’ve just described are mostly impressions, personal observations, and common sense. Christopher Rufo’s video adds the data to my sense about homelessness. It’s also a clear-eyed look at the way that leftists because they’re driven by ideology are incapable of abandoning failed policies. Instead, they will constantly double down, while virtue signaling and demanding more taxpayer money.
To me, the most stunning data was that those homeless people who are able to get into the few housing units urban governments build despite regulations, inefficiency, and graft are five times more likely to die than the homeless still on the streets. I assume that these deaths are because, when they overdose, no one sees them, calls 911, and gets Narcan into them. In San Francisco in 2020, Narcan saved almost 3,000 people. These are just more lives leftists scatter in their wake.
Anyway, here’s the video. See what you think:
Hat tip: Instapundit
IMAGE: Mentally ill homeless man. YouTube screengrab.