The homelessness crisis is about to get real.

Up until now, the crisis that has been termed “homelessness” has been made up of a significant, if disputed, percentage of problems that can’t be fixed with housing alone. Billions of dollars have been thrown at non-solutions such as “supportive housing” that costs up to $700,000 per unit to construct and the secretive Project Roomkey that turns hotels into “temporary” homeless housing, soon to be made permanent in many places, even over the objections of city governments.

If the problem called homelessness had been described and addressed in alignment with reality, billions of dollars could have spent on restoring the state’s in-patient mental health treatment facilities, building residential facilities for the treatment of substance abuse and developing useful support programs for formerly incarcerated individuals. Money could have been spent to construct long-term and short-term shelters, and on grants to nonprofit shelters that are already operating but hurting for funds.

Instead, we’ve seen vast amounts of taxpayer dollars routed to developers and bureaucracies, and all we have to show for it is higher taxes and a worsening crisis.

Now, a new development. The government’s response to the coronavirus threat has robbed millions of people of their income and left them months behind on rent or mortgage payments. Five months into the state of emergency declared by Gov. Gavin Newsom on March 4, the state is teetering on the edge of an eviction crisis.

Nationwide, as many as 23 million Americans are currently at risk of being evicted, according to one study. In what could be a repeat of the migration during the Great Depression, we could see millions of people moving to California, where the weather is better and state officials are touting their intention to provide housing for all.

Gov. Gavin Newsom’s budget provided $600 million for the purchase of hotels to house the homeless. If you were evicted in another state, would you think about moving west?

California will have its own eviction crisis as the inevitable end of eviction moratoriums arrives. A study by the consulting firm Stout says more than 40 percent of California’s renters are at risk of eviction because they are unable to pay their full rent.

California’s Judicial Council is expected to reopen eviction proceedings on Aug. 14. That will allow landlords to have their cases heard, and it starts the clock ticking for troubled tenants.

The people who may be on the streets as a result of the COVID-related loss of income will accurately be described as “homeless.” They are people who can be helped with jobs and apartments. They’re only in financial trouble because they can’t work during this COVID crisis, not because of addiction, mental illness or a criminal record.

So the good news is that the billions of dollars we’re spending on homelessness programs really may help people who have lost their homes to find temporary housing until the governor sees fit to let them work at their jobs.

The bad news is that homeless shelters have brought problems to some neighborhoods as shelter residents seek out nearby tents for illicit activity. But advocates have invented a new metric to try to shame neighborhoods into accepting homeless shelters regardless of any such concerns.

The Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority released “community-level” figures for neighborhoods that list the number of sheltered and unsheltered people experiencing homelessness. The implication is that in, for example, Canoga Park, where LAHSA said only 28 of an estimated 198 people experiencing homelessness had shelter, the housed residents of Canoga Park are responsible for housing the 170 people who were counted on the streets.

LAHSA counted heads in every community, including Studio City, Chatsworth, Sherman Oaks and Granada Hills.

But this is a move-the-goalposts strategy by activists. Where it is written that everyone has the right to housing in whatever location they choose? Taxpayers don’t have that right. It’s more unreality from the people who cash in on failed “housing first” programs.

One solution to the crisis of homelessness is to open the state and let people work again. That’s reality.


Originally published in the Los Angeles Daily News