Los Angeles Is Squandering $1.2 Billion While Homeless Face a 'Spiral of Death'

Federal Judge David O. Carter says Los Angeles' “inaction" is "so egregious, and the state so nonfunctional" that it's likely "in violation of the Equal Protection Clause."


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Five years after Los Angeles voters approved a $1.2 billion bond measure and a countywide sales tax hike to raise another estimated $355 million annually to solve its homelessness problem, there are more people living and dying on the streets than ever before.

Many of these men and women are both frequent targets and perpetrators of violence.

Mayor Eric Garcetti (D), who did not respond to our interview request, has partially blamed this failure on the pandemic, which slowed new housing construction and limited shelter capacity. It's true that COVID caused a surge in homelessness, but the city's plan was already failing.

In 2019, homelessness spiked 13 percent in L.A. County.

"This [was] happening way before the pandemic," says Deisy Suarez, the proprietor of Desuar Day Spa in downtown L.A. "There [are] tents popping up in places that we didn't see [them] before. It's just getting worse and worse."

The centerpiece of L.A.'s plan was to spend the $1.2 billion raised through Proposition HHH to build 10,000 supportive housing units over a decade. Even if the government were able to pull that off, it would merely put a dent in the problem in a city where more than 30,000 people are living on the streets and sidewalks according to the 2020 homelessness count.

Five years into the 10-year plan, just 14 projects are in service. Of the promised 10,000 supportive housing units, the city has completed fewer than 700.

It would take more than 30 years to house all of the people currently homeless in L.A. county at that pace, according to a federal court order.

As the homeless population exploded, some shelter providers implored the mayor to spend more of the money on immediate shelter, mental health services, and substance abuse treatment, but Garcetti went all-in on his ambitious 10-year plan.

Los Angeles's approach to the homelessness crisis is a series of colossal failures. The city has proven itself to be incapable of "solving homelessness," but it could take more modest steps to help alleviate suffering and restore peace and safety to the streets. It could also bring an end to many longstanding policies that caused these men and women to end up homeless in the first place.

"A Deadly Status Quo"

In a scathing court order issued in April, U.S. District Judge David Carter said that the city's "inaction" is "so egregious, and the state so nonfunctional" that it's "likely in violation of the [14th Amendment's] Equal Protection Clause."

L.A. has the largest unsheltered homeless population in America, and ground zero is a 50-square-block district known as Skid Row—officially turned into a containment zone by the city in 1976—where the problem has escalated into a full-blown humanitarian crisis. It's a problem that's rooted in misguided government policies decades in the making, but Carter's order places blame for the city's failure to address the immediate crisis squarely at the feet of Garcetti.

Carter criticized Garcetti for failing to declare a state of emergency, which he says could've eliminated bureaucratic hurdles to building new housing, and for his failure to spend a significant portion of the $1.2 billion that the city has borrowed on constructing temporary shelters, tiny houses, or even 3D-printed homes.

The judge ordered the city to put $1 billion in escrow so that he can monitor how that money is spent. He's also ordering the city to provide shelter for the more than 4,600 people living on the streets of Skid Row before the end of 2021.

But the mayor has said Carter's order will derail the city's plan.

"Stay out of our way," Garcetti said during an April press conference in response to the judge's order. "Roadblocks masquerading as progress are the last thing we need."

And his city attorney has appealed the ruling. L.A. County is asking to be dropped from the suit altogether.

"We Can't Tell People It's OK To Die on the Streets"

"I wish I could say I was shocked at the pushback from L.A. County and L.A. City," says Andy Bales, who runs the Skid Row–based Union Rescue Mission, which runs entirely on private donations. The organization shelters more than 900 people a night and moves more than 900 people into permanent housing a year, according to its most recent annual report. Bales has been a fierce critic of the city's approach, which he says has been slow, expensive, and capable of serving only a fraction of the homeless population.

"This is a deadly status quo and people don't just die. They die a horrific death of assaults and beatings and rapes…heat and cold and wet. It is a brutal, brutal spiral to death that we're leaving people in," says Bales, who's long called for the city to redirect the funds raised through Proposition HHH to temporary, faster solutions.

But other homeless service providers and activists, and the editorial board of the Los Angeles Times, have expressed concern that Carter's order will derail the plan to put homeless people into permanent housing by prioritizing substandard temporary shelters.

"You can't look at a place like Skid Row and think, 'Oh, we don't need an immediate response.' We need that," says Amy Turk, CEO of the Downtown Women's Center, another Skid Row-based service provider that helps homeless women find food, services, and housing.

"But we can't [fund emergency shelter] at the expense of perhaps clawing back money that we've designated for permanent housing or not having enough for the permanent housing side," says Turk.

Turk's group has backed the city's approach and owns two buildings offering permanent supportive housing in Skid Row. Downtown Women's Center found housing for 79 women and 124 children in 2019, according to its annual report.

Turk says the goal should be to move people experiencing homelessness into permanent supportive housing, which is what Suzette Shaw had done with the help of the Downtown Women's Center.

"People living in Skid Row are living in less than third-world living conditions. You're always in a state of survival mode," says Shaw, a homeless rights activist who has lived on Skid Row for more than eight years.

Shaw never slept on the streets—she lived in single-occupancy hotel rooms and shelters. And then the Downtown Women's Center helped her find the permanent supportive housing where she now lives.

"Having my own home now and space that I can create and make my own home and having my own kitchen and slowly working to a sense of normalcy…I close that door and it's my sanctuary," Shaw tells Reason.

But while Shaw is a notable success story, and the Garcetti administration has claimed to have moved more than 30,000 people into permanent housing using existing stock, the growth of L.A.'s unsheltered homeless population is far outpacing new housing construction.

"It was working with Judge Carter and hearing about tiny homes [that made them] seem like a good option to add to the mix," says Bob Blumenfield, a city council member whose district in the San Fernando Valley has a relatively small homeless population compared to the rest of L.A.

After consulting with Carter, he was able to secure funding—but not HHH money—to build 52 "Pallet shelters" with 100 beds in the parking lot behind his council office, administered by a nonprofit that will provide meals, amenities like laundry, internet access, storage, drug and mental health counseling, and 24/7 security.

Amy Turk points out that while temporary sites are cheap to build, they can be expensive to run, with one parking lot campground the city administers costing more than $2,600 a month per person.

"You can't just set up a shelter without knowing how you're going to get people into permanent housing," says Turk. "People will just stay in your interim shelter for a very long time. It is more costly to run a shelter with 24-hour staffing and security." 

Temporary shelter is costly—but far cheaper and quicker to construct than permanent supportive housing, which is averaging about $566,000 per unit in L.A. The total cost of Blumenfield's cabin community was $3.1 million, or $31,000 per bed.

"The perfect is often the enemy of the good," says Blumenfield. "We can't tell people that until we have all the permanent supportive housing that it's OK to die on the streets or to live on the streets in horrible, horrible conditions."

Blumenfield's cabin community model is based on a similar idea launched in Riverside County last year at about a third of the construction cost per bed.

"When I spoke to people as they come in, the ability to have sort of a door to shut, four walls that surround you and really being in your own space…I think that was important to people: being in your own space because your mind can finally rest and it can start thinking on what it needs," says Tyler Ahtonen, the program manager with City Net, the nonprofit that Riverside contracted with to run the site, which sits adjacent to a parking lot less than two miles from downtown Riverside.

Since launching in March 2020, the site with 30 units has served 160 people, moving 43 into permanent housing.

"You don't know what's going to happen on the street, but coming in here, I had my own space, which was a lot bigger than my tent," says Lisa Care, who was living on the streets for two years before a City Net outreach worker offered her a Pallet shelter and eventually found her an apartment. She says the privacy and security offered was enough to bring her off the street when the offer of a group living shelter wouldn't.

"This place is like living in a one-bedroom mansion or something as opposed to the shelter," says Care. "I'd take my chances on the street before I'd go back to the shelter."

Riverside's homeless solutions officer, Hafsa Keika, says that while she believes more permanent supportive housing is what will ultimately end homelessness, transitional options like Pallet shelters actually help achieve that goal.

"We saw that more than 80 percent [of homeless people] indicated that if they had an opportunity to have their own space, they would accept shelter," says Keika. "Some of the individuals who maybe struggled with getting into permanent housing were able to find this as a pathway. They're able to learn the life skills, sit with our case managers, really learn the necessary communication to be able to get into permanent housing and have that warm handoff…and so by having the shelter and the shelter case management, they're able to get ready for that step."

There are even lower-cost options used in cities like Austin and Mexico City, where there are 3D-printed homes for homeless people that were produced by a startup for $4,000 in 24 hours.

And in 2016, Reason profiled a local artist constructing tiny homes for the homeless for only $1,200 apiece. Instead of partnering with him and offering land for the homes, the city seized and impounded them.

The more than a billion dollars that Los Angeles has borrowed could be used to build shelters like this, but the city government has failed to allocate much of the money to faster, temporary solutions.

And local public radio affiliate KCRW has documented instances of corruption surrounding the city's current homelessness housing plan, with developers receiving taxpayer money to build homeless housing reselling the properties to themselves for millions in profit.

Carter notes that "the improper relationship between City Hall and real estate developers is neither isolated nor new."

"The FBI has been investigating possible corruption in City Hall since 2017," continues Carter, "a probe that has led to the prosecution of real estate consultants, political fundraisers, and even, most notably, former Councilmember Jose Huizar, whose council district included Skid Row. In June 2020, Huizar was arrested by federal agents for using his position to cover up illegal activities…"

"[The city has] said, 'Let's keep the status quo and allow the developers to continue because they are carrying it out in good faith, and they're doing it well," says Andy Bales. "Well, no, there's evidence that it's not being done well… and it's not being done in good faith."

"You Don't Have a Right to Every Park Bench"

"I'm a believer in the right to housing, but at the same time, you don't have a right to every park bench," says Blumenfield. "The city has an obligation to protect its public right-of-ways. If someone is homeless, that is a tragedy, and we need to work on that and get them into some form of transitional housing." 

But even if the city quickly were to build more emergency shelters, not all the men and women living on the streets of Skid Row would necessarily abandon their sidewalk encampments to go live in them.

"I don't want to go live in [a] shelter," says Willie "Bishop" Smith, a Skid Row resident. "I might as well just go back to jail."

In 2006, a year after a homeless woman was beaten to death on the streets of Skid Row, Los Angeles Police Department Chief Bill Bratton launched the "Safer Cities Initiative" and sent 50 police officers to patrol the neighborhood and issue citations for minor infractions.

Proponents pointed out that in just a few months the number of people sleeping on the streets was cut almost in half. "We've broken the back of the problem," said Bratton.

But homeless activists said that many of those people just dispersed to other parts of the city and that the city was criminalizing homelessness. The Garcetti administration ended the program in 2015 when an LAPD officer fatally shot a homeless man.

"I don't think the criminalization side is reasonable at all," says Turk. "Once we start incarcerating people for quality of life issues, then we've just increased our costs with the carceral system. We've re-traumatized people. And I don't think there's a moral reason to do that." 

But Elizabeth Mitchell, an attorney representing the group of downtown business owners, residents, and homeless people who sued Los Angeles, known as the LA Alliance for Human Rights, disagrees with Turk's characterization.

"The idea that this is criminalizing homelessness is an absolute red herring. It's a total myth that you can't both be compassionate and regulate public spaces at the same time," says Mitchell.

She points out that when Carter issued an order in Orange County allowing city governments to clear encampments, they did so without arrests by sending social workers to offer shelter and mental health and drug treatment services and inform those living there that they had two weeks to move their belongings from the area.

"If you look at this approach that we are advocating for, we have sheltered over 4,000 people without a single citation or arrest. So I don't see how that could possibly be criminalization," says Mitchell. "Everybody agrees that law enforcement should be an absolute last resort, but regulation of public spaces needs to occur again for everyone." 

And there's a danger that law enforcement could take a more aggressive approach if the city fails to act.

L.A. County Sheriff Alex Villanueva sent a team of deputies out to Venice Beach in mid-June without consulting the city council and vowed to start clearing encampments in the coming weeks with or without city approval.

Several weeks later, on July 2, city council approved new prohibitions on camping near shelters, parks, elementary schools, and entrances to homes and businesses.

"Literally the only goal is to get people sheltered and off of the street as fast as possible throughout Los Angeles," says Mitchell. "What we can't accept is people dying on the streets while the city bureaucracies turn out overpriced housing that helps too few."

The suit argues that the damage done to downtown residents and entrepreneurs by the city's incompetence constitutes a taking of property. Deisy Suarez, the proprietor of Desuar Day Spa in downtown L.A., agrees.

"We have customers that refuse to come inside because they just completely don't feel safe," says Suarez. "It's just so hard because now we have appointments that were booked and now they're empty."

Suarez is named in the suit, as is her brother Leandro, a Navy veteran in a wheelchair who has often been unable to navigate around encampments blocking sidewalks, which partially forms the basis for an Americans with Disabilities Act claim in the lawsuit.

"He had a lot of encounters with people that were aggressive. People wouldn't move, wouldn't give him the path. A person took out a stick and threatened to hit him." 

She also says her two young children witnessed an attack on her husband walking around the area, causing her to move the family 30 minutes outside of the city.

"That's when I had lost it, and I had a meltdown," says Suarez. "I was like, 'I gotta get my kids to a safer place. This is not the environment that I want my kids to grow.'"

Between 2018 and 2019, violent crimes perpetrated by homeless suspects increased 22.5 percent, with a 48 percent increase in Skid Row and downtown L.A. Violent crimes against homeless people increased 19 percent citywide in the same period.

"I've seen people get beat up, run over, tents being put on fire. I just can't believe what I see. It's just unfathomable. It's really difficult to watch," says Harry Tashdjian, co-owner of an upholstery supply business in Skid Row where he says he's seen conditions deteriorate on the block outside his building.

"We have vendors that fly in from all over the world…and they just can't believe what they see when they come to Los Angeles," says Tashdjian. "I've never heard once a customer walk in and say, 'Yeah, this time it got better.' It's constantly getting worse and worse and worse."

Both Tashdjian and Suarez trace the decline that began in 2016 to a federal court injunction prohibiting police from seizing property people are storing on the sidewalk or street.

"Over the last 20 years…through these series of decisions and settlements, it's had a complete chilling effect on city and county officials," says Mitchell.

Federal court rulings and settlements have shaped homeless policy not only in Los Angeles but nationwide, with the February 2021 Boise v. Martin settlement making clear that cities couldn't clear encampments without offering "adequate shelter," a term that's never been precisely defined.

"So the question was…is there a way that we can use the courts to do the opposite, to unhandcuff the city of Los Angeles, to unhandcuff the county of Los Angeles and the officials to really do what they say they want to do, which is solve this comprehensively," says Mitchell. 

She says Carter's order gives the city an opportunity to bypass the morass of settlements and begin to move people off the sidewalks and streets and into shelters. But instead of embracing that opportunity, Garcetti has appealed the decision.

"The mayor is just kind of gaslighting us," says Suarez. "I absolutely think that he is a disgrace. He is a mayor that has failed us. His usage of the funds from [Proposition] HHH is just unbelievably ridiculous." 

Bales says that the appeal will only lead to more suffering and death.

"Our city, our county, [the] L.A. Times…have all pushed back and fought the judge and made disingenuous claims that we can't put a roof over everybody's heads in three months. Well, I can guarantee you if you appeal and take it to the 9th Circuit Court and to the Supreme Court, yeah, you can't get it done."

A Supply and Demand Problem

A high percentage of L.A.'s homeless population has mental illness and substance abuse problems, and L.A. County has concluded it has fewer than half the available mental health beds necessary to serve its population.

The judge's order directs the city and county to spend more of the funds to expand mental health and substance abuse services within 90 days.

"[The county's] substance abuse and mental health services are atrocious. So by requiring the county to actually treat people who need treatment…it's life-changing," says Mitchell. 

But there's also a significant percentage of people who aren't severely mentally ill or addicted to drugs at the time they become homeless, and living on the streets likely exacerbates mental health issues.

Some people who are living at the margin are pushed out of housing by a combination of high rents and inability to navigate the housing assistance bureaucracy.

The city exacerbated this problem on Skid Row in the 1950s and 1960s by condemning and demolishing half of the existing single-room occupancy hotels that housed many of the neighborhood's extremely low-income residents.

UCLA Economist William Yu is the latest researcher to find a strong correlation between high housing prices and homelessness in a survey of American cities.

California is home to some of the least affordable urban housing markets in the country, including the L.A. metro area, according to the U.S. Census Department's American Community Survey. A county survey found that 60 percent of newly homeless people cite economic hardship as the leading factor in their lack of housing and that two-thirds became homeless while living in L.A. County.

The approach of local and state officials has largely been to promote measures like rent control and mandating low-cost housing in new construction.

But market urbanists have long said that housing is simply too expensive to build because of zoning, permitting, and onerous overregulation.

City leaders maintain that their involvement in real estate development remains essential to tackling housing affordability.

"It's not simply a supply and demand issue in the sense that we're seeing supply go up, but it tends to often be this luxury housing," says Blumenfield. 

But a Journal of Urban Economics study of the Bay Area found that "local land use regulations are closely linked to the value of houses sold." A Brookings Institution study of California found "cities with less restrictive zoning and large populations issued more multifamily permits," and a Federal Reserve study found that in metros where demand for housing is high, more regulations correlated to "almost double the increase in housing prices."

Even regulation meant to directly address the problem by mandating affordable housing caused prices to rise 2 to 3 percent faster, according to a 2009 HUD study.

Since the housing market's structural problems won't be fixed anytime soon, the homeless population is likely to keep growing.

And Mayor Garcetti may be headed out the door after reportedly being offered an ambassadorship to India from the Biden administration. But his successor will have to decide whether to continue on the course he's set by fighting a legal battle, while spending taxpayer money on six-figure permanent housing units, or to shift course in favor of cheaper, faster emergency shelters to more immediately address the deteriorating conditions in the city's public spaces.

Los Angeles appears to be incapable of delivering adequate housing on its current path, which is why Judge Carter ordered the city to offer some form of shelter for everyone on Skid Row by October. The 9th Circuit overrode that order on June 10 pending an appeal to be heard on July 7.

"Humans weren't meant to live without a roof over their heads," says Bales. "It becomes very survival of the fittest and very violent…It's beyond a disaster. And yet the officials seem to be allowing it to get worse rather than intervening." 

Carter sees the current situation as not only a failure of current city leadership but a result of decades of government neglect and abuse, starting with the city creating and sustaining the squalor of Skid Row by making it a containment zone in 1976, using eminent domain to seize homes in poor communities for highway construction, and driving up housing prices through exclusionary zoning, blighting old properties and excessive permitting.

These are all policies that he says were "designed to segregate and disenfranchise," the costs of which have fallen disproportionately on black Americans who make up 42 percent of the homeless population despite being only 7 percent of the city population.

"People want instant solution to homelessness, but you're talking about 400 years of racism that has contributed to homelessness. So how do we undo that overnight is the big moral question of our time," says Turk.  

Bales says that the city only continues to perpetuate these harms by dragging its feet when offered a path forward.

"All of the housing that we could possibly do would be the correct response," says Bales. "How can you say a judge is slowing me down when we've developed 641 very expensive, slow-to-develop units? All that the city and county are doing is building the case against themselves for not wanting to address homelessness on Skid Row."

Produced and edited by Zach Weissmueller; camera by Benjamin Gaskell, Paul Detrick, and Weissmueller; additional graphics by Calvin Tran and Isaac Reese. 

Photos: David Crane/ZUMA Press/Newscom; Sarah Reingewirtz/ZUMAPRESS/Newscom; Image of Sport/Newscom; Image of Sport/Newscom; Dylan Stewart/Image of Sport/Newscom; Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call/Newscom; Armando Arorizo/ZUMA Press/Newscom; Sarah Reingewirtz/ZUMAPRESS/Newscom; KYLE GRILLOT/REUTERS/Newscom.

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  1. Proposition HHH should have the pedigree to solve this problem.

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    1. What? Hire the homeless to rassle?

      1. Wrestling porn, but not on X-Tube

  2. than permanent supportive housing, which is averaging about $566,000 per unit in L.A.

    Let’s hear it for all the chumps buying their own homes, and paying taxes in flyover country.

    1. Seriously, for $566k per unit they would be better off just buying existing houses in other places and paying the utilities forever on them. That’s 2.75x what the last house I bought cost.

      I don’t know what the ethics of building an entire city in rural Alabama (or wherever) for a bunch of homeless people and shipping them there are, but it’d be a hell of a lot cheaper.

      1. But the homeless people don’t WANT to live in bumfuck, Alabama. They want to live in LA, and apparently we have some moral obligation to give them what they want instead of what they need.

        1. the only “moral obligation” is to give the money to the cronies and donors of the democrat/socialists. I have heard that they built some 50 or so apartments for the homeless and charge them only $15.00 a month. I couldn’t verify that but have seen the buildings and the denizens that live there.

      2. I have to agree. You don’t even have to go out into the country where it’s really cheap. You can get a McMansion in Houston for what they are paying on apartments for the homeless. I have a very nice home on a decent space of land, and I didn’t pay anywhere near that amount.

      3. They could just give away $550K (rounded down for ease), first come first serve. Then ask Mommy in DC for more. Or, drive to Skid Row, and throw cash out of the back of a armored car.

  3. Spending more taxpayer dollars to reduce homelessness (by people who don’t want to work, live with family members, or pay taxes, rent, utilities, etc., and who often spend what little money they have for alcohol, cigarettes, weed, heroin and/or other drugs) is just wasting taxpayer dollars.

    The primary needs for most homeless folks is a family and a job, things government cannot accomplish.

    1. While my personal experience with working with the homeless tends to view your first paragraph as rather, well, overstated, it certainly is true in many cases.

      Your second paragraph, however: “The primary needs for most homeless folks is a family and a job, things government cannot accomplish,” however, is spot-on.

    2. Years ago in a small city there was this homeless guy that I would occasionally give some change to. One day I did not give him change and he attacked me. Cops were right there and intervened. But it turned out this guy wasn’t really homeless. He had a son in the same city with a house. There was literally no reason for this guy to be homeless, except he chose to be and his son didn’t care.

      1. If the guy was so entitled that he attacked you for not ponying up, the issue might be that the son *did* care, and in the direction of keeping the asshole away from him.

        1. If the son had a family, I can see the wisdom of protecting his children from the violent and unstable grandfather. If dad isn’t bad enough to go into a mental institution (or the son doesn’t have enough money or effort to get legal custody), then sometimes keeping the worst of your family out is all you can do.

          1. Odds are SUPER high that this lout preferred to be his own harsh god, and wanted no part of living with his son and family. Some folk are SO dysfuynctional they are not fit to live with anyone who has any expectations resembling normality.

    3. A lot of these people have mental health issues which can be dealt with.

      As far as addictions there are far more people with those who have houses and jobs.

      It is possible to greatly reduce this problem with some common sense assistance.

      1. LA has probably about 300,000 illegal immigrants, mostly from Mexico. They arrive in the US with little money, an average of six years education, no fluency in English and, of course, no documents that would allow them legal employment.
        Look at the street people. They are not Latino. If cost of housing were the primary or even secondary cause of homelessness, the street people would be speaking Spanish.

        1. Latinos in general have a strong work ethic and strong family and community ties. The immigrants find ways. The same is true of other immigrants who have come here over the years.

        2. True. I’m in LA and 99% of the vagrants I see are white and black. On the other hand, housing would be cheaper if we didn’t have 2 million illegals in Southern California.

      2. Common sense assistance

        But that doesn’t assist the unions.

        1. nor any of the myriad NGO’s that suck off the public teat in VERY hungry fashion. Many of those NGO’s are shills for corruptocrates sucking the public coffers as hard and lof and often as they can. The billions handed these outfits to “fix the problem” are mostly wasted. The figures I”ve seen are shocking… some 85 to 90% of all moneys handed them never get to anyone needing “help
          to get “off the streets”. Many of their programmes are built to fail or to make things worse.

      3. A lot of these people have mental health issues which can be dealt with.

        Are you talking about the homeless or the politicians?

        1. The mental health issues of the politicians are untreatable.

        2. The politicians don’t have mental illnesses. They have personality disorders. Those aren’t treatable.

      4. jeeeze Echo let’s bring back Bedlam and institute them all.

  4. “People want instant solution to homelessness, but you’re talking about 400 years of racism that has contributed to homelessness.”

    “And don’t even get me started on the 100,000 years of other stuff that has also contributed.”

    “All of the housing that we could possibly do would be the correct response,” says Bales.

    “And, of course, enforced bathing.”

  5. “I don’t want to live in a shelter”.

    And I don’t want to pay for your private home, but for some reason what I want doesn’t seem to be as important. Whatever happened to “beggars can’t be choosers”?

    1. Democrats.

    2. Every article I read on vagrancy has the same quote. I guess they are choosers.

      1. and every answer is what Earth Skeptic stated “”DEMOCRATS””

  6. Equal Protection Clause”? How does that even apply its not the states job to protect people from themselves. this would be an activist rulling by declaring something that is not addressed by law into law

    1. Yeah, I wanted more explanation about the background to that ruling. (And yes, the 110-page opinion is linked, but it seems like it would be good journalism to include a little bit of a summary in the article itself.)

  7. Lets bring back work camps, oh wait thats what China is doing never mind.

    1. which is part of why China is prospering better than we are. They refuse to feed people who will not work. Almost seems as if some Chinese gumit wonks have actually read the scritpures and found that part.
      If a man will not work, do not feed him”.

  8. Meanwhile, we got Reason’s fake libertarian shitbags like Jacob “Lord of Strazele” Sullum coming on here and claiming that California is the best run state in the country!

    1. Hey, don’t diss Strudel Lady!

  9. “L.A. has the largest unsheltered homeless population in America, and ground zero is a 50-square-block district known as Skid Row—officially turned into a containment zone by the city in 1976”

    20 years ahead of John Carpenter.

  10. Los Angeles, and many other cities across the state and the nation, have policies NOT to do anything about homeless encampments. My friend has a tent city on the sidewalk outside his home in the middle of a middle class residential neighborhood of single family homes. The shops on the corner are walled with tents. The only action ever taken was to move one encampment out of of a freeway cloverleaf and into a city owned undeveloped wooded lot.

    It’s well known in Los Angeles that the police were ordered NOT to do anything about homeless encampments or panhandling.

    Then comes the pandemic. The government then orders non-essential marginal workers to not work. Their employers closed. No jobs available. The working poor banned from working. So of course homelessness spiked! I mean DUH!

    I’ve got a minor homeless encampment down from me now, next to a small ditch.

    The solution to the problem is hard, but there are a LOT of things can be done. First off, legalize housing. Legalize tiny houses, legalize multi-unit housing, legalize high occupancy housing. The idea that everyone must have a full house with big yards out front and back is just stupid. That doesn’t work in cities. Next, get the existing homeless shelters in order. Get them clean and get them used. Third, get the government out of the way of the economy. Stop outlawing gig jobs. Cut spending. Cut taxes while you’re at it. A rising tide lifts all boats, so stop blocking off the bay. Then dump the minimum wage rather than doubling it all the time. The government is literally pricing marginal people out of the job market.

    So much other stuff can be done too. Stop outlawing helping the homeless. Stop outlawing giving food to the homeless. Stop with the stupid job licensing. If it’s dangerous require bonding and insurance, but stop with the stupid licensing. Stop outlawing payday loans. Stop with the stupid war on drugs that criminalizes people so they can never get a job again.

    In short, government can help by getting out of they way of people trying to get back up on their feet.

    1. All excellent ideas, with one addendum I can think of that would make so much difference to the poor:

      Teach the poor how to calculate compound interest and they won’t need or want “payday loan services.” They’ll just bite the bullet until payday comes and save paying the interest. Then, the presence of more money in their wallets will encourage them to save even more!

      Also, people taught how to calculate compound interest will only use pawn shops for second-hand stores, not as sources of finance.

      And people who can calculate compound interest will buy furniture and appliances second-hand or build it themselves instead of renting-to-own. (The only outfits where rent-to-own might make sense are playhouses and motion-picture makers who need temporary props but don’t want to pay to store them.)

      And finally, when people learn to calculate compound interest, “What’s In Your Wallet?” will be answered with Washingtons, Lincolns, Hamiltons, Jacksons, Grants, and Benjamins, not CapitalOne!

      Knowing how to calculate compound interest would empower the poor so well, they would no longer be poor and would never want to go back into poverty! They would be dangerous in a very good way to a whole lot of institutions that need a do-over…including ravenous, tyrannical governments!

      1. Great stuff and true every word.. EXCEPT for this one small detail:
        the mindset of the average homeless dood is NOT one to look more than ten minutes beyond the present perfect tense. A check in the mail for ten times what they are wanting to sell their present whatever it is, when that whatever it is is worth twenty times what they’re selling it for to buy a fill in the blank.. tha’ts how so many of them operate. Delayed gratification is not in their vocabularym orlife experience.
        But after a generation of kids getting their trophies just for showing up half the time in the classroom have led to a people who have no solid connexion to reality. THAT is never going to be changed by merey understanding compound interest.
        I don’t care a fig, I want that pack of smokes from the ripoff seller NOW.

        1. “”generation of kids getting their trophies just for showing up half the time in the classroom have led to a people who have no solid connexion to reality””
          this is to true. the leaders?? have determined that the little darlings are to precious to not promote them before the instructors learn their names.

      2. You are correct that high time preference behavior, and not anything external like systemic racism, is the principle cause of poverty and homelessness. Your solution however is not realistic since it assumes these people would change their behavior if they were only taught. The truth is they are largely incapable of being taught due to innately lower intelligence. The inability to acknowledge this reality about innate human differences will doom every proposed solution regardless of ideology.

        Once we recognize that people are not born equal we can start to have a productive discussion. Not before.

    2. Easier to ship them to the desert.

  11. I’ve long considered the left coast not even part of the US as they simply act deranged. I am glad for that vast desert that separates us.

    1. Have you taken a good look at the east coast lately?

        1. Not only do people live on the East Coast, but we, too, have problems with homeless encampments.

          Two encampments flank the side and rear of the small-town store where I work and we get visits from the Salvation Army shelter up the road from us and probably visits from untold illegal halfway houses in the vicinity.

          And what’s happened to cities all over the U.S. for the past year has happened to us on a smaller scale every day for years: Our store is the target of a slow-motion looting that costs around $1.5 Million a year!

          Also, the homeless encampments prolly explains our present bedbug infestation in the clothing and in every seating area! (Damnit! Bedbugs should be part of some Mideaval mythical bestiary with Dragons, Unicorns, and Were-Beasts, not an exterminator problem!)

          We really don’t need new laws or programs to deal with this problem; we need to repeal the laws, taxes, and regulations that stifle economic growth and we need to enforce existing laws protecting Life, Liberty, and Property, including laws against trespassing, looting, loitering, disorderly conduct, littering, and attractive nuisance.

          Between these two practices, homelessness wouldn’t totally end, but would be much more manageable.

          1. you left making shoplifting a criminal act again off your list of law changes. WHY are hundreds of retail shops closing in San Francisco? Simple… anyone can walk into any establishment and walk out with just under a thousand dollars’ worth of stuff, and no one can do a thing to stop them, as it is a slap on the wrist non-arrectable minor traffic ticket level “crime”.
            no, the crime is the cities like SF making this the new “normal”.

            That’s fine… they’ll get the “city” they want. And their local DA mister Cheesey Pudding, will just keep laughing about the hell he is turning SF into daily.

            1. Sheriff Joe Arpaio had it right. Large open air tents, cots and green bologna sandwiches and brooms to sweep the dirt floors to keep the area neat.

  12. I can’t believe Reason fails Econ so badly: When you subsidize something, you get more of it. Having government throw money at the homeless (problem) won’t reduce the demand for funds. It’ll increase it, as more homeless are helped, and the infrastructure struggles to stay ‘needed’.

    1. There probably isn’t a libertarian solution to this homelessness problem CA has. Any one who lives here knows that:
      1. Vagrancy laws are being ignored in the cities.
      2. Public intoxication laws are being ignored also.
      I’m sure there’s a strong philosophical argument against these types of laws. But at this point in the crisis, there’s no possibility of solving the problem without getting tough, hurting feelings, possibly physical confrontation. And naturally, there’s no problem that CA won’t pretend to try to solve by throwing stacks of money at, which I agree is only going to make it worse, as per usual.

      There used to be a “de-motivator” poster that showed the Titanic upside down with the following: Perhaps your purpose in life is to serve as a warning to others. It suits CA perfectly. Pay attention to what is happening here, and deal with the issue decisively when it comes to your state, if it’s not on your sidewalk already.

      1. There probably isn’t a libertarian solution to this homelessness problem CA has.

        Sure there is: privatize the roads and allow private owners free reign in who to exclude from their property.

    2. I can’t believe Reason fails Econ so badly

      After the a decade of increasingly crappy and ignorant Reason reporting, this still surprises you?

    3. Right in the TenRing, there. The NGO’s cannot end homelessness because then they will have to go out and find a REAL and USEFUL job. Its not like serving in a restaurant, where some customers keep coming back week after week. Serve them they come back for the good food and service. But with the ‘homeless” they MUST keep coming back and neeeding more and more else the “servers” have no job, cause they fixed the problem they claim to want to solve. Reminds me of that oldtime song abut the “Wreck of the Tennessee Gravy Train”. Hilarious.. the writers saw things as they are.

      1. for those who won’t look it up
        Song: Wreck of the Tennessee Gravy Train(1)
        Lyrics: Uncle Dave Macon(2)

        Music: Uncle Dave Macon
        Year: 1930(3)
        Genre: Folk
        Country: USA

        The people of Tennessee want to know who wrecked our gravy train
        The one we thought was run so well and now who can we blame
        They want to know who greased the track and started it down the road
        This same ol’ train contained our money to build our highway roads

        But now we’re up against it and no use to raise a row
        But of all the times I’ve ever seen, we’re sure up against it now
        The only thing that we can do is to do the best we can
        Follow me, good people, I’m bound for the promised land

        Now, I could be a banker without the least excuse
        But look at the treasurer of Tennessee and tell me what’s the use
        We lately bonded Tennessee for just five million bucks
        The bonds were issued and the money tied up and now we’re in tough luck


        Some lay it all on parties, some lay it on others you see
        But now that you can plainly see what happened to Tennessee
        For the engineer pulled the throttle, conductor rang the bell
        The brakeman hollered ‘all aboard’ and the banks all went to Hell



        1 – This is an account of the 1930 situation with Tennessee Governor Henry Horton awarding contracts without bids, the embezzlement of highway funds and the Caldwell Company Bank declaring bankruptcy leaving the state six million dollars in debt.

        2 – Two short biographies on Uncle Dave Macon, this first one from PBS’s American Roots Music and this second from the Encyclopedia Britannica.

        3 – Released on Okeh records 45507, Dec. 17, 1930.

        1. cont’d__ this so epitomizes California at the present day thanks to the democrats. Just think as of today 7-14-21 there are 3 active recalls of elected doofi goin forward. The governor and 2 district attorneys who refuse to prosecute criminals and are releasing felons to add to the crime and homeless problems. the real shame is that we can’t recall those who elected these dimwits.

  13. Another $1 billion wasted by inept, incompetent bureaucrats and politicians, funded by stupid voters who don’t even bother to do a little research. It’s a merry-go-round that civic abusers like Garcetti rely on to stay employed.

  14. Five years after Los Angeles voters approved a $1.2 billion bond measure and a countywide sales tax hike to raise another estimated $355 million annually to solve its homelessness problem, there are more people living and dying on the streets than ever before.

    Fox Butterfield is that you?

    1. Why do they need the money annually if it’s going to solve the homelessness problem?

  15. Thank you Reason for a well researched and factual article. You’re doing the hard journalism work that the MSM no longer cares about and has traded for biased opinion pieces and editorials.

  16. Here’s a stunning idea; how about we revisit the idea of institutionalizing the mentally ill homeless? The notion that they had the ‘right’ to leave institutions that made sure they took their meds, bathed, and didn’t attack folks may have sounded very swell and forward thinking back when it was the rage…but it hasn’t flipping worked.

  17. Homeless Face a ‘Spiral of Death’

    Sounds like a self-correcting problem.

  18. Wait just a cotton pickin minute, how exactly did the pandemic create a “surge in homelessness”, when no one could get evicted or foreclosed on during the pandemic?

      1. tragic magic at that……

        What I wonder about is the “logic” they used..
        Here we have the homeless living cheek by jowl in VERY dense encampments, NO sanitary facilitie,s bating, hardly any wearing masks or “distancing” packed in like sardines in a can… living that way months on end.. and THEN they somehow “reason” that these people, once removed from the tent zones they have created, MUST live in sparsely occupied structures, where they can (and SURELY will. cough cough cough) abide by all the stupid restrictins, mandates, limits, rules, phoney regulations, the ones that have the rest of us going crazy trying to keep because we mostly can’t, but they expect the rebel no-visioin homeless to NEED to be in places where all the rules can be upheld and obeyed… by the very ones presently breaking al manner of laws about public campin, g pooping on the streets, shoooting up drigs and tossing the contaminated needles,
        SOMEONE has their brain stuck into the top end of the waste-drain system’s roof vent, and the combination of the methane, acidic fractions, and bacterial/viral contamination floating in the vapourous exhaust has affected what used to pass for brains within their crania.
        Reminds me of the well known line in one of Mr. Zimmmerna’s classic songs…. “he went off sniffing drainpipes and reciting the alphabet”. and no no don’t send me no letters, no, not unless you mail them from Desolation Row.

        These city fobbers have been sniffing too may drainpipes for far too long. On OUR nickel.

        1. >SOMEONE has their brain stuck into the top end of the waste-drain system’s roof vent, and the combination of the methane, acidic fractions, and bacterial/viral contamination floating in the vapourous exhaust has affected what used to pass for brains within their crania.

          Smart people, drugs and the internet folks.

  19. The problem is the 9th circuit forbids the cities in its area from moving the homeless off of public property. The cops used to harass them and keep them spread out and moving.

  20. Five years after Los Angeles voters approved a $1.2 billion bond measure and a countywide sales tax hike to raise another estimated $355 million annually to solve its homelessness problem, there are more people living and dying on the streets than ever before.

    Because more money makes the problem worse. Prove it doesn’t.

    1. Seems the cities with the largest bum-budgets have the largest collection of bums.
      You’d think that correlation might cause some of the bureaucrats to wonder if there was some causation, but none seem to.

    2. one of the most basic and bestproven laws of economics is this:

      Subsidise anything, you WILL get more of it.

  21. Homeless citizens — mostly due to housing shortage crises — unjustly cannot afford an official residence and therefor are, by extension, too poor to be permitted to practice what’s frequently platitudinously described as all citizens’ right to vote.
    Progressive voters need to start electorally acting like the fiscal conservative voters, who — in most cases that I’ve witnessed in the last three decades of voting municipally, provincially and federally — will manage to unite as a block to avoid splitting their money-first-minded vote.

    1. Homeless citizens — mostly due to housing shortage crises

      Hahahahahahaha! Do you really believe this?

  22. But market urbanists have long said that housing is simply too expensive to build because of zoning, permitting, and onerous overregulation.

    haha. No fucking surprise here. Once again avoid at all costs mentioning property tax sysytem as the main reason for high land prices.

    Fucking useless as always

    1. “Once again avoid at all costs mentioning property tax sysytem as the main reason for high land prices.”

      Bullshit as always.

  23. “This is a deadly status quo and people don’t just die. They die a horrific death of assaults and beatings and rapes….”

    Of course they do. Democrat policies coddle repeat violent offenders and criminalize self defense. It’s the democrat way.

  24. “[The county’s] substance abuse and mental health services are atrocious. So by requiring the county to actually treat people who need treatment…it’s life-changing,” says Mitchell.
    Weren’t mental health services supposed to pick up the slack once the police were defunded? Ideas don’t easily lead to results without proper leadership. I might have even voted for a liberal if they were effective, but time after time I’m disappointed. They can’t blame the conservatives for this one.

  25. The government must prioritize the interests of the small people, especially housing and education.


    1. but that would violte the “equal protection clause” which prohibits playing any favourites. WHY subsidise the lazy louts eho refuse to work preferring to live off the government teat at the expense of those who DO work, when the government prefers to favour the layabouts and soak the hard working average Joe.

  26. I hear in India the homeless their have tent right up to rich peoples homes, it’s so bad. So Mayor Eric Garcetti should be right at home in India.

  27. They should use some of the money to buy each homeless person a gun to protect themselves.

  28. My observation working with and around local, state and federal government, non-profits and NGOs in and out of the States: Spiral of Death combined with bloat/mission creep often exemplifies the mindset of the those involved. Alternately: there is no effort or ideal on the planet that cannot be fucked into a hole in the ground when the decision-making process is by unaccountable committee. Although, I am quite biased against career bureaucrats and career politicians, so, I may be wrong.

  29. Anything you subsidize you get more of and $2 billion is a heck of a subsidy. Giving a house to a drug addict just gives him one more thing to destroy. Most of the homeless are there because of repeated bad decision making – drugs, alcohol abuse, criminal activity. Why do we act like these people were all school teachers, nurses, and accountants last week? They were not. If they really wanted to start a good life, they would ask for a bus ticket to someplace they could get a job and survive on the wages. Subsidizing their stay in a very, very expensive area makes about as much sense as giving a monkey a machine gun.

  30. Are you telling me that voters living in 2 million dollar starter homes, which they had to mortgage their entire lives to afford, are unwilling to vote for policies that would lower the value of housing generally (including their own, thus putting them underwater)? I’m shocked. Shocked!

  31. The homeless problem is significantly reduced if the counties and cities simply enforce their laws for pooh and pee in public, public camping, panhandling, loitering, and petty theft. This means these people cannot be there causing problems without getting into trouble and having their lives interrupted. Most of the homeless people are mentally ill. The next largest group are addicts who commit crimes to feed their addictions. The 3rd largest group are petty criminals. After that are those who are down and out having lost most of what ever they had starting with their job. This last group will climb out of homelessness if they get a hand up, not out just up. The rest will leave when the laws are enforced. Then there are those who live in their vehicles and earn something of a living, who are mobile, not really homeless so much as moving around, and parking on the streets, or at Walmart.

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