California will always have a problem with homelessness
Good climate, good services, and a chronic shortage of housing combine to create an intractable problem with homelessness in California.
What is the minimum level of housing quality people are entitled to? If you pose that question to Coastal California residents, many will cite their needs for a large single-family detached house with granite counter tops — and they believe they are entitled to it. For me, I’m just thankful I am not homeless.
If I were facing homelessness, I wouldn’t want to freeze, and I wouldn’t want to starve, so I would seek out a location with good climate and ample social services. The want for a good climate rules out the Northern US, the rain and humidity rules out the Southeast, and the good social services rules out Arizona, Nevada, and Texas. That leaves California as the first choice for homeless living.
Because of the good climate and strong social services, California will always be a magnet for homelessness, and the more services we provide to deal with this problem, the stronger the magnet attracts homeless people from around the country.
California has a second problem that creates homelessness: we don’t build enough housing units to accommodate our growing population. Without enough housing to go around, some people have to do without housing. Most of those people leave the state, but many of them end up homeless.
Don Thompson, Jan. 4, 2016
SACRAMENTO – California would spend more than $2 billion on permanent housing to help the nation’s largest homeless population, under a proposal outlined by state senators on Monday.
The housing bond would be enough to construct more than 10,000 housing units when it’s combined with other federal and local money, estimated Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon, D-Los Angeles.
The bond would be repaid with money from Proposition 63, the 2004 ballot measure that added a 1 percent tax on incomes over $1 million to pay for mental health treatment.
Homelessness has become a growing issue across the state.
Backers say about 114,000 people are homeless in California, more than a fifth of the nation’s homeless population.
This solution seems like pissing on a forest fire. Spending $2 billion to house less than 10% of our homeless solves nothing. Plus, providing this housing will likely attract more than 10,000 additional homeless to California leaving us no better off than before. I applaud his desire to help, but surely there is a more effective way to spend $2 billion.
Los Angeles’ homeless population increased more than 10 percent in the last two years, to more than 40,000.
If 4,000 homeless came to LA over the last two years, this isn’t a problem caused by economic upheaval. Homeless must be drawn to the area.
“It is despicable that in the richest state, that is the state of California, that just last night thousands of Californians laid their tired bodies on a sidewalk or on a cardboard,” Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens, said during a news conference broadcast from Los Angeles’ Skid Row.
Yes, it is despicable, but what is the answer?
If $2 billion solves 10% of the problem, would $20 billion make the problem go away? If we built enough housing to accommodate the needs of those who are currently homeless, wouldn’t we get another 114,000 homeless to take their place?
We have a problem with a chronic shortage of real estate in California. We need many, many more housing units to meet our needs. When supplies are limited, the substitution effect forces everyone to accept a lower quality house than they otherwise would. At the very bottom of the housing ladder, those buyers who can only afford the least expensive properties get priced out by higher wage earners substituting downward.
Once all the available housing units are taken, like a game of musical chairs, someone ends up without a place to live. This is one reason many of the poorest neighborhoods have two or three families living together in the same house.
And it’s also why many end up homeless.
The solution to California’s housing problems requires ignoring the NIMBYs. We need to allow more market-rate housing to be built-in locations where it’s needed. This would make housing affordable, both rental and resale, alleviating the pressures that forces multiple families to live together and forcing others onto the streets.
Proposition 63 was designed to aid the mentally ill, and the Senate proposal would target the housing money to chronically homeless persons with mental illness. … De Leon also called for increasing the Supplemental Security Income/State Supplementary Payment program that aids about 1.3 million poor elderly, blind, and disabled people who can’t work.
It’s hard to say no to such a request. We should provide services to those with a real need, but we must be mindful not to provide too much to those who don’t need because they end up becoming a non-productive underclass dependent upon the State.
The fear of homelessness is the basis of our economic system. American’s allow homelessness largely because as a society, we have been unwilling to provide individually controlled private shelter as an entitlement because the fear of homelessness is the essential motivation to get people to work to produce goods and services in our society. Take away this fear, and you create an underclass of dependency: the Welfare State.
If everyone in California who didn’t have a job were provided shelter, some percentage of that population would choose not to look for work and live off the assistance payments of the State. Most desire to improve their circumstances and seek employment to get out of the shelter system, but many do not. The more comfortable the State makes them, the greater the percentage that chooses the easy life.
The non-productive and able-bodied worker ensnared by the California entitlement system robs some other state a productive worker. If Nevada has paying jobs for casino workers, what benefit does California obtain by keeping them here on public assistance?
The proposal in the California Legislature to spend more money on permanent housing for homeless is laudable if it targets the aid to those demonstrating a real need. To the degree that it enables lazy entitlement, it should be opposed.