Homeless normativity is not a known term as it is something I made up, meaning that politicians and local authorities have allowed for a normalizing of homelessness through telling the cops to no longer enforce laws like illegal camping, littering, panhandling, or public defecation. This has gone on in coastal state big cities for the last several years and has allowed for the initial shock of homelessness, that “I need to do something” mindset of volunteering to hand out food or donate the clothes you never wear, to an acceptance that clothing and food will not help and that the sympathetic hobo-like bums of yore are now a more zombified set and not to be approached. It’s as if homelessness has become mainstream, no longer an outlier underground element of society. In this acceptance by local government--but not necessarily you--there is the phenomenon that if you speak ill of these folks that you are a bigot and discriminating against a group that needs your unlimited patience and big hearted compassion. There is an added narrative of urban camping and a nostalgia for bucking the trend of 9 to 5 and being off the grid, resulting in a romanticized bent to it regardless of the apocalyptic conditions.
The mystery of this apathy can be explained in an invisible threat to America’s democracy, the Homeless Industrial Complex. The term, co-opted from Eisenhower’s Military Industrial Complex, may prove to be more difficult to unravel than its military version.
The HIC (Homeless Industrial Complex) has proven to perpetuate homelessness through an alliance of special interest groups, local bureaucracies, advocacy groups, even construction developers. The most formidable and largest of scale example of this is when politicians use public money to build, via private developer, some form of housing, like apartment complexes or renovating an inner-city building into SRO (single room occupancy). Local agencies collect development fees, and a non-profit is contracted to run the property for the undetermined remaining life of the property. The problem, of course, is the exorbitant costs for this process. The product ends up being well over the price of any private, competitive construction endeavor. Then the people hired to run the properties operate under an extensive system of bureaucratic costs of high salaries, outreach campaigns, catered lunch meetings, and, yes, corruption.
A narrative is pushed in these affected coastal states that the homeless crisis is a housing crisis, not a mental health or drug addiction crisis. That places like California have become too expensive for regular people to afford housing. The marked absence of any mention of mental illness or unhinged opioid addiction, should negate this HIC narrative. Furthermore the majority of money does not go to addressing homelessness, but to payrolls, mismanagement and waste. In places like San Francisco and Seattle there is a trendy debate about these high wealth areas correlating a striking inequality. This is perfect fodder for virtue signaling and calls for socialism. Other elements of identity politics and the New Woke Order can then be brought into the fold, through blaming the root cause of homelessness on things like institutional racism, even climate change. None of this talk will ever solve the problem, only lead to more baseless talking points that create confusion and a smokescreen for the HIC which employs many of these same people.
The official number of how many homeless people exist is important because of federal funding. Currently in California there are over 150,000. But the counts can be flawed, with a system of literally counting only those seen out in public. This is called the “point-in-time” count and is the official method conducted every two years by HUD. Of course those tasked with counting will miss out on individuals who are hiding from the elements, those out of sight for their own safety, or those who are living in forests or on river banks. Furthermore, the count is flawed by the definition of homeless. Are homeless families living in vehicles counted? How many people are in that large tent? The counters are volunteers and cannot be expected to knock on every makeshift abode.
Homelessness in California has become a crisis. State legislators, the governor, and most mayors have suggested the problem has been overblown. Some officials have even suggested that the number of homeless has decreased. They site HUD data from 2017 that claims a 3.4 percent drop in the California homeless population. Of course, any visit to the urban core of any major California city will dispute this claim with your own eyeballs. Regardless of numbers, the crisis is very real and exploding in its urgency. California’s response to the crisis is textbook of how to allow negligence and apathy to further expand the problem.
Policy failure has allowed for the money allotted to the state to be funneled into bureaucratic channels of corruption and not directly to assist and aid those who are most vulnerable in society. This big bureaucracy consists of lawsuits, ballot measures, development proposals and NIMBY (not in my backyard) responses from tax-paying residents. There is a subtle campaign by local media to vilify those who do not want a homeless “shelter” or other bridge housing built in their neighborhood, or near their schools. Finally, homeless housing costs on average $150,000 per person per unit to build (one project in East Hollywood had a price tag of $440,000 per unit). For this price a new 3-bedroom home could be built, multiple times. One must ask, where is all of this money going? These costs are unsustainable yet any voiced concern is squashed by homeless advocates who will shout down any opposition.
In Sacramento, the mayor has a stand down order in place over the local police. He has told his police force to not detain or run out of town any of the homeless, instead to move them around town if they are a nuisance. Of course this is not in writing but has been relayed by police officers when pressed why they cannot do more. Camping on sidewalks is allowed as long as one third of the sidewalk is clear for people to pass. Often this is not enough space for wheelchairs or strollers to pass. Open fires are permitted as long as the purpose of the fire is for “warmth” or for “heating food.” No enforcement of public indecency when urinating or defecating in public. Also in Sacramento, there has been a recent court ruling which reinstates legalized panhandling, which had been considered a crime for years. The result of these lax policies is a gaslighting of the public, leaving normal citizens to begin to accept strange and dangerous new settings within what was once much safer neighborhoods.
The biggest impediment for law enforcement to be able to do their job is the 2006 case of Jones vs the City of Los Angeles. This ruling made it illegal to enforce the ban on sleeping on a sidewalk, camping or simply lying spread out in public, if there are not alternatives in housing, meaning a shelter bed somewhere available for them. If you can connect the dots to this point--all conspiracies aside--this is an essential legal ruling in tasking local government with a mandate to build housing.
Most of the homeless population have mental illnesses that are going untreated. Because of the Lanterman-Petris-Short Act of 1967, signed by then-governor Ronald Reagan, it was no longer legal to institutionalize individuals indefinitely, including those with developmental disabilities and mental illness. This is when, regardless of political affiliation, one must ask where is the compassion for these folks? Surely if they were ever in a clear state of mind they would ask why government failed them so badly.
New threats from the homeless crisis now involve medieval disease epidemics. While billions are being spent on housing that will only accommodate a small percentage of the population, rats, fleas and humans are spreading typhus and tuberculosis. There is a California state ban on rodenticide, which does not allow for the use of rat poisons that contain anticoagulants. This has led to an explosion in the California rat population. Uncollected trash piles are the breeding ground for rats that have somehow garnered more importance than the safety of our human population. Outbreaks of lice and Shigella (a contagious diarrhea) are rampant.
Something that does not fit the narrative of the mainstream media is the violent side to the homeless crisis. That dark element when insanity’s proximity to normalcy brings about a violent end. In Long Beach, an elderly woman was bludgeoned to death by a homeless person who used an electric scooter as a weapon. Months after this occurred another elderly person, this time a man aged 75, was bludgeoned to death in Los Angeles by another homeless man. Even the Governor’s Mansion in Sacramento was broken into by a homeless man. Yes, at 2am with the First Lady home, guarded by several of her CHP security detail, a homeless guy went unnoticed and got into the residence’s kitchen where he spent some time. He had cut himself so badly that he left. It wasn’t until the morning that anyone knew he had been there. CHP were able to locate him at a local hospital because he had cut himself so badly breaking in. These are only a small sample of the stories of ultraviolence that the politicians and their mouthpiece media do not want you to know about.
Some solutions that may help, if even in the slightest:
Reunification programs. With the power of social media, launch an effort to find family members of the homeless to see if they can help or provide needed information. There might just be a daughter or a son in another state that would like to take in their long-lost estranged parent. San Diego has a reunification program that has re-connected 1,700 people since 2011.
Bussed out. Homeward Bound is a successful program in of all places, San Francisco. They provide a free one-way bus ticket to a destination of choice, up to a thousand dollars is added as an incentive. Often, homeless people do not want to be in the city that they are in but have no means for travel. This program, in San Francisco alone, helps 2,000 per year leave the City by the Bay.
Create small opportunities for employment. This may simply be getting them cleaned up enough to conduct local clean-up campaigns, attacking litter and graffiti, much of it driven by their counterparts.
Build mental institutions. This 40-year experiment has not worked now we need to bring the institutions back. This need is no different than many other nations that have mental institutions in place. Much of the money that is currently squandered in HIC can be just as easily squandered within these new mental institutions, much like the VA.
More law and order. Allow police to enforce the existing laws on the books, then begin the process of making more of this outlandish behavior illegal.
For many the current homeless crisis has been an abstract problem or nothing more than a nuisance when visiting a downtown area for work or recreation. If you are not within proximity of an encampment or haven’t been affected by a proposed housing development in your neighborhood, it may only be a matter of time. As we await the perfect storm of government apathy and corruption, the disease outbreak is a ticking time bomb that will affect every single Californian.