This great article from The California Policy Center is an in-depth appraisal of the homeless issue; a real keeper.
“In his final speech from the White House in January 1961, President Dwight Eisenhower warned the nation that the military had joined with the arms industry and had acquired unwarranted influence over American politics. His term for this alliance was the “military industrial complex.”
“Since that time, Eisenhower’s term has been co-opted by other critics of special interests pooling their resources to exercise dangerous influence on America’s democracy; one example would be the so-called “homeless industrial complex.”
“This label has been around awhile, and has bipartisan origins. In 2012 a guest editorial appeared in the liberal Washington Post entitled “Dismantling the social services industrial complex.” In it, the author explains “an odd mirror image of this huge complex has emerged in the very ‘industry’ that seeks to feed, clothe and otherwise meet the needs of the poor and vulnerable in our society. It’s a social services-industrial complex, if you will, one that could prove even more difficult to subdue than its military counterpart.”
“In 2013, writing for Poverty Insights, author John Roberts asked “Is There a Homeless Industrial Complex That Perpetuates Homelessness?” And in January 2017, a former homeless activist published in the ultra-liberal Huffington Post an article entitled “The Homeless Industrial Complex Problem.”
“The alliance of special interests that constitutes what has now become the Homeless Industrial Complex are government bureaucracies, homeless advocacy groups operating through nonprofit entities, and large government contractors, especially construction companies and land development firms.
“Here’s how the process works: Developers accept public money to build projects to house the homeless – either “bridge housing,” or “permanent supportive housing.” Cities and counties collect building fees and hire bureaucrats for oversight. The projects are then handed off to nonprofits with long term contracts to run them.
“That may not sound so bad, but the problem is the price tag. Developers don’t just build housing projects, they build ridiculously overpriced, overbuilt housing projects. Cities and counties create massive bureaucracies. The nonprofits don’t just run these projects – the actual people staffing these shelters aren’t overpaid – they operate huge bureaucratic empires with overhead, marketing budgets, and executive salaries that do nothing for the homeless.
“None of these dynamics are terribly unique. Government funded programs are rarely considered bargains. And despite prodigious waste, America’s military is nonetheless the most fearsome in the world. Similarly, despite mismanaging literally billions in proceeds from bonds and taxes collected to help the homeless, in absolute numbers America’s population of homeless may have actually declined over the past 10 years.
“How Many Homeless Are There in America?
“This surprises a lot of people, but there’s a lot more to that story. According to the U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), in 2007 there were 647,000 homeless people in the U.S., but by the time the most recent count was released in 2018, that number had declined to 543,000. Why, if so much money is being wasted, and the homeless crisis seems to be more acute than ever, are the absolute numbers of homeless actually falling? First of all, the numbers may be incorrect. These counts may be grossly understated.
“An illuminating critique of how HUD’s “point-in-time” homeless count may be understating the numbers was published by CityLab in March 2019. Author Alastair Boone participated in an official count, covering a section of Oakland, California, in the early hours of January 30, 2019. HUD requires cities and counties to complete the count, on this day, every two years, in order to receive federal funding for homeless programs. But canvassing the streets of any city during the pre-dawn hours during the coldest month of the year is bound to miss a lot of people. Quoting from the article, “The count is during the winter early in the morning, when it’s harder to actually find folks because they’re seeking some sort of refuge. They want to stay out of sight in general for their own safety.”
“Knowing just how many Americans are homeless is further complicated by competing definitions of homelessness. The National Center for Educational Statistics (NCES) claimed in a 2015 report that 1.3 million K-12 students were homeless in that year. But NCES defines the homeless as not only those who are unsheltered or in homeless shelters, but those sharing housing due to loss of their own home, or living in hotels or motels.
“Even in California, a state where homelessness is now a crisis célèbre for state legislators in Sacramento, and a cautionary horror story for conservative critics of California politics, at first glance, the overall numbers suggest the problem is overblown. On the map depicted below, using HUD data, the state by state homeless trend is shown for the ten years from 2007 to 2017, in which California’s total homeless population actually dropped by 3.4 percent.”
Retrieved October 18, 2021 from America’s Homeless Industrial Complex – Causes & Solutions (californiapolicycenter.org)