The homeless issue and the ongoing practice of camping illegally in the Lower Reach of the Parkway—from Discovery Park to Cal Expo—continues to play a role in local politics, as evidenced by this quote from a recent article in the Sacramento Bee regarding mayoral strategy:
“For now, that means concentrating on a handful of projects launched by his office over the past 20 months, most notably a push to attract green technology jobs to the region and find more permanent housing options for the homeless.”
In an article published in City Journal in 1997—and tragically, a strategy still relevant in Sacramento—the corrosive aspects of the normative homeless advocacy ideas driving the homeless advocates in 1997 New York (and our local homeless shelter strategy currently) are examined.
“A sane homeless policy would acknowledge two basic realities. First, many people on the streets need treatment, not housing. For the sickest, legislators need to change rules against involuntary confinement, and states need to recommission mental hospitals emptied by deinstitutionalization. Second, for the rest of the homeless the best medicine is the expectation of responsible behavior—the expectation of work and of civil and lawful conduct in public spaces. (See “Who Says the Homeless Should Work?” Summer 1997.) Accordingly, opinion leaders, from politicians to ministers, should decry all types of no-strings-attached handouts, such as no-demand soup kitchens and indiscriminate alms-giving to beggars, which simply subsidize self-destructive behavior. They should oppose allowing the homeless to turn public spaces into hobo encampments. Effective charity asks for reciprocity from the recipient, building patterns of work and discipline; to exempt the homeless from the rules that everyone else lives by infantilizes them permanently.
“The advocates, clouded by ideology, may see the homeless as martyrs to American injustice or as free spirits marching to a different drummer, but by now most of the rest of us see them as disordered or confused souls who, for more than a decade, thanks to advocate-designed policies, have been marching to disaster.”