The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Sunday, September 27, 2020


Back in the 1980s and early-1990s, homelessness was what "racism" is today. It was an on-going narrative in the media. Liberals (this was before the term "progressive" became popular) demanded action and funding, properly decrying the tragedy of people living on the street. But they also fought hard against vagrancy laws, "reformed" mental health institutions allowing mentally-ill people to walk free, and took a laissez faire attitude about drug addiction, thereby inadvertently created a street market for increasingly dangerous and destructive drugs (e.g., crystal meth).* 

Writer and columnist, Amy Alkon, is a long-time L.A. Resident. She is a self-described "bleeding heart libertarian" and seems to be a gentle soul.  In an in-depth article on homelessness in LA, she begins:

I never wanted a gun. In fact, I wanted to never own one—until around noon on Thursday, August 20th.

Since the late 1990s, I’ve lived in Venice, California, renting a one-bedroom Craftsman house a mile from the ocean that someone built out of a Sears-catalog kit 100 years ago. I’m a science-based syndicated columnist and author, currently working all hours to complete a book that keeps trying to kill me. Luckily, I’m writing it in this cute little old lady of a house on my sweet Venice block ...

On March 16th, in response to the COVID pandemic, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and his council relaxed parking enforcement codes “to help Angelenos comply with public-health recommendations to prevent the spread of the novel Coronavirus.” This included lifting prohibitions against both overnight parking on residential streets for vehicles over six feet high (such as Winnebagos), and the parking of any vehicle in any one place for over 72 hours.

Some considered such restrictions to be cruel to the vehicle-dwelling homeless, even before the pandemic. The reality is there’s a vast amount of non-residential streetage on which a homeless person can safely park a camper in Los Angeles County—including locations served by Safe Parking L.A., which provides restrooms, security guards, and social-service resources. And the neighborhood parking restrictions that keep a Winnebago from staying in place in perpetuity prevent residential blocks from becoming noisy and violent campgrounds-cum-public health crises (when the rose bushes are inevitably turned into open-air toilets).

Throughout Garcetti’s seven years as Mayor, Los Angeles has witnessed a shocking explosion of homelessness. When he took office in 2013, the city had about 23,000 residents classified as homeless, two thirds of whom were unsheltered, living on the streets. By mid-2019, the figure was about 36,000, and three-quarters of them were living on the streets. Currently, there are 41,000 homeless. Garcetti’s pet plan to alleviate the homelessness crisis was the construction of permanent supportive housing. In 2016, compassionate voters approved $1.2 billion in new spending to fund these units. Three years later, only 72 apartments had been built, at a cost of about $690,000 apiece. Meanwhile, an El Salvador-based company has come up with nifty $4,000 3D-printed houses that look like great places to live and can be put up in a single day.

Alkon goes on to describe an on-going incident in which a homeless woman, her boyfriend who was recently released from prison (for multiple violent felonies) because COVID-19 decided to live in an old Winnebago they parked in from of Alkon's small house. Until recently in LA, that was against the law. They were loud, threatening, and abusive. They may have been insane and had anger management issues. They defecated on her front walk. They effectively terrorized her small street, and yet, because LA Democratic city counsel had defunded part of the police budget and passed ordinances that "protected" the homeless, the police were powerless to act against the street squatters.

Looking at the broader picture of homelessness in L.A., Alkon writes:

The situation is especially tragic for those [homeless] who are so mentally ill that they cannot take care of themselves, and are often a danger to both themselves and others. And I sometimes wonder which movie star or other famous person needs to be stabbed or bludgeoned before politicians take meaningful action.

It’s fashionable in progressive circles to demonize law enforcement, but Rufo explains that in 2006, then-L.A. police chief Bill Bratton implemented a “Broken Windows” policing initiative on Skid Row. It led to a 42 percent reduction in felonies, a 50 percent reduction in deaths by overdose, and a 75 percent reduction in homicides. The overall homeless population was reduced from 1,876 people to 700—a huge success. Activists filed lawsuits and ran publicity campaigns, slowly killing Bratton’s program, on the grounds that it “criminalizes homelessness.” As a libertarian, I’m opposed to drug laws and forced behavior—but only to a point. It is not compassion to leave people to be victimized by criminals simply because they are unhoused, nor is leaving mentally and physically disabled people strewn across the streets amidst piles of garbage a form of freedom.

Mayor Garcetti, in lieu of admitting the real challenges—the first step to taking meaningful action to alleviate the homelessness crisis—has simply ignored the human results of his failed policy. As a result, whole sections of the city, including formerly livable streets in my beloved Venice, have been turned into Skid Row by the Sea ...

Typical of a liberal person who has been "mugged" by reality, Alkon has begun to ask questions about the "supposedly compassionate" treatment of the homeless:

The supposedly compassionate approach to the homeless endorsed by Garcetti and his “progressive” enablers has, in practice, been anything but: leaving mentally ill and addicted homeless people by the tens of thousands to suffer on L.A.’s streets. I support helping the homeless—but with meaningful measures that have been proven to work, as opposed to policy that’s heavy on virtue signaling and ultimately short on humanitarian substance.

She concludes with a rather sobering assessment that every voter should keep in mind in six weeks:

I’m writing this from California. I’m sure there are many Americans from outside this state—not to mention foreign readers—whose response to all of this is that we left-coast utopians are merely getting what we deserve. But remember, for better or worse, my state has a long history of exporting cultural and political trends to the rest of the world.

In fact, even as I write this, Politico is reporting that Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden is considering L.A. Mayor Garcetti for Housing Secretary. Yes, America’s municipal honcho of homelessness could be rewarded for his massive policy failures by being put in charge of housing policy for the nation: Skid Row, writ large. Like that camper outside my house, the thought fills me with dread.

3s hire 2s. Being very generous, Joe Biden is a 3. Based on what Alkon tells us, Eric Garcetti is a 2. Welcome to the Biden administration—2021.


* For those who believe that the majority of the homeless are simply down on their luck, some sobering statistics offered by Amy Alkon: " ... urban-policy researcher Christopher Rufo explains, only about 20 percent of the homeless population are people down on their luck, who just need housing and a few supportive services to get back on their feet. Approximately 75 percent of the unsheltered homeless have substance-abuse disorders and 78 percent have mental-health disorders. Many have both."