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Wed, Jun

Housing the Homeless: How's It Going?

VOICES

LA’s UNHOUSED - We have makeshift shanties and tents, and people passed out in the right-of-way, "decorating" our streets, underpasses, and parks all over the valley. These unhoused are disrupting businesses, creating unsanitary conditions, displaying unconscionable behaviors, and using illegal, dangerous drugs in plain view of passersby, including impressionable youth. They are creating intractable problems in Los Angeles and just about every community in California. 

The problem is that no matter how many affordable or low-income apartments are built (which are not inexpensive) or how many hotels or motels are taken over, we will never house our way out of people living on the street. Because housing doesn't cure drug addiction, and housing doesn't cure mental illness or a bad economy. Throwing obscene amounts of money at it enables the behaviors we are trying to end. Talk to the people at Al-Anon, please!

Putting people into a house does not teach them a trade. Giving somebody something for free does not enhance self-worth. Building more homes or apartments that soon could be trashed does not provide a mentally ill person, a drug addict, or even a homeless family with a purpose and a stake in the mutual prosperity and well-being of society. 

The much anticipated and delayed results of a statewide audit show that the State has no idea about the effectiveness of the $24 billion it spent on programs to mitigate the Homeless in California during the last five years. However, I am sure you can tell our political leadership how their reckless spending is a continuing trainwreck of abject failure without an ill-conceived study. How much money was wasted doing the audit?

To avoid embarrassing Governor Newsom, the homeless audit that showed the squandering of $24 Billion was delayed until after the March elections because passing Proposition One was a priority for the Governor and his non-profit buddies as there's never enough money to throw at the non-governmental agencies (NGOs) that are helping themselves get fat and rich while supposedly helping the unhoused. Proposition One squeaked by with the thinnest of margins. The $6 billion bond issue will authorize more of the same old ineffective spending (insanity). It might not have passed if the results were known before the election!

Much of that $24 billion has been given to NGOs. Since the government does not have the workforce to spend billions of dollars annually, these funds are turned over to so-called NGOs. These organizations, at least many, have fancy offices, large staffs, perks, bonuses, generous retirement packages, and incentives to spend vast amounts of money lobbying various governmental agencies for additional grants and funding. Their very existence depends upon a large and growing population of homeless people.

Nobody wants to face the reality that the more money we spend on so-called homeless people, the more unsheltered people we have. This is cause and effect. The auditor found that a chronically homeless person can cost taxpayers as much as $50,000 per year. Is that $50,000 going directly to a person without shelter through medical care, food, clean syringes, case workers, or temporary lodging? How much goes to administration? Nobody knows.

In early April, the Santa Monica Council, a wholly owned subsidiary of the homeless industrial cartel, approved tearing down parking structure 3 near the world-famous 3rd Street promenade, one of Santa Monica's key tourist attractions. They are replacing the parking lot with 72 affordable housing units, and 50 units will be permanent supportive housing. 

The new building to replace the parking structure could be a Four Seasons Hotel.  It has a cost of $123 million, assuming no cost overruns. That's over $1,000,000 per apartment. Santa Monica should be castigated widely for being the first to break the $1,000,000 construction barrier for an affordable housing "solution." Affordable housing at a million-plus a pop is cognitive dissidents run amok. Why should a homeless person get a million-dollar apartment when you work hard for a $1,000,000 starter-fixer-upper? If this isn't peak housing insanity, I don't know what it is. It's great to have the government as your benefactor. If you are using other people's money, money is no object for our political class, as they plan to tax us into oblivion. 

If you were losing your apartment and you're a responsible adult and perhaps a minimum wage earner or slightly above, why would you want to stay in an expensive coastal city? Is it wise for you to move to a cheaper area? According to bestplaces.com, Bakersfield is 38.3% less expensive than Los Angeles. The median price of a house in Los Angeles is over $900,000, while the median price in Bakersfield is under $350,000. Or take Blythe, where the average cost of a home is $211,000. 

We should all be thankful that U.S. District Judge David O. Carter has ordered a comprehensive independent audit of all homeless programs run by the city of Los Angeles. The audit will cover 31 subjects, including how effectively city funds reduce homelessness.

I eagerly await the final report, which is expected to be completed around Labor Day. The timing is good news because there will surely be additional propositions and measures on the November ballot for funding (new taxes) even more useless homeless initiatives. The city will only have a chance to review the independent audit after publication. Will all be shocked by the level of corruption, political patronage, and money squandered on the numerous programs the city has used to "mitigate" homelessness in Los Angeles? Whether voters reject the current path to funding and helping the homeless and addicted based on new information remains to be seen. One can hope, though.

(Eliot Cohen has been on the Neighborhood Council, serves on the Van Nuys Airport Citizens Advisory Council, and is President of Homeowners of Encino. Eliot retired after a 35-year career on Wall Street. Eliot is a critic of the stinking thinking of the bureaucrats and politicians that run the State, County, and City. Eliot and his wife divide their time between L.A. and Baja Norte, Mexico.  Eliot is a regular contributor to CityWatchLA.com – [email protected])