Can Lackadaisical California Fix Homelessness Without New Housing?

Across a residential street a half-finished bungalow is all chipboard panels and exposed timber studs
Construction 012807 photo by schnaars is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0
Another California home rises, proudly constructed by private industry. Too bad private enterprise by itself will never catch up with the state's need for housing.

Why is California’s lackadaisical approach to homelessness worth a worry to other jurisdictions as well as its own?

Many other cities in North American and elsewhere have bumbled into the same haphazard approach as California has, and can well examine that state’s particular problems with an eye to improving things locally. The article linked below takes a long look at how California has gradually stumbled into its nation-beating homeless crisis.

Homelessness can, not surprisingly, be dealt with by creating more homes. However, this is expensive. New York City, with a state court ruling giving all citizens a right to shelter, has taken the tack of providing more shelter in the cheapest possible way, by developing a shelter system.

This provides its neediest citizens with the kind of dormitory life where it’s now possible for a child to be born, grow up, go to school, reach adulthood and grow old in a shelter setting.

That’s the far-too-communal lifestyle that has over the years sent shivers up an down the spines of the millions who have explored the socialist dystopian future set out in the novel 1984. Our non-fiction reality has taken its time to catch up with that future, but with an elastic, ever-expanding shelter system, New York City is well on its way to doing so.

As for building individual homes for individual families, that’s unfortunately really expensive. Over the past few decades, in America as well as elsewhere, the challenge has been left to the private construction industry. That conglomeration of business corporations has, for its own perfectly sensible profit needs, failed to keep up with demand. And there are no signs that, all by itself, it ever will.

But really, why face up to the expensive reality of creating homes in such quantity that they become accessible (if not affordable) to all? Instead, it’s been far easier for governments to treat the problem, not as a housing crisis, but as a crisis of human frailty.

Too weak to survive in a dog-eat-dog world, it is conveniently judged to be a lack of moral fibre that creates a homeless person.

Pity them? Yes. Tolerate them? Only up to the point they are considered a nuisance. That smallish problem is easily to be solved by simply moving them along. Nuisance today, gone tomorrow.

But they aren’t really gone, are they? In America, California leads the way towards this profoundly obvious discovery. Read more in National Public Radio’s take on a crisis now identified by polls as the biggest single worry shared by citizens in that state. Read more at NPR: How California Homelessness Became A Crisis

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