Who could have predicted?
A colleague on the Dane County Board, the late Judith Wilcox, said this about homelessness: “if you spend it, they will come.” Judy was a standard-issue liberal with expertise in the social services — it was her day job at the WI Dept. Health and Social Services (as it was known then).
That would seem to be an obvious truism but it seems to surprise our liberal-progressive-socialist acquaintances, as it did to the Clinton News Network and the liberal principality of Los Angeles, California.
“The economy is booming and the city has spent hundreds of millions of dollars to combat homelessness. It still went up 16%.”
Beyond the well-being of the city’s homeless population, the encampments have raised a broad array of public heath and safety concerns. Los Angeles Fire Department officials determined, for example, that the massive Skirball blaze that burned homes in Bel-Air and torched the hillsides along the 405 freeway in December 2017 was sparked by a cooking fire at a homeless encampment nearby.
Los Angeles is, of course, a bastion of progressive politics. But the issue plays out in other Left-coast cities.
New York mayor Bill de Blasio told a radio interviewer recently: “I own it,” referring to the city’s metastasizing homelessness problem.
The Manhattan Institute reported two years ago that “More New Yorkers live in city shelters now than ever before. This is a sharp rebuke to de Blasio’s progressive agenda. … The city will spend an estimated $1 billion on shelter alone during the current fiscal year, and much more than that if one includes the full range of municipally funded services for the homeless.”
Homelessness burgeoned under Koch and Dinkins because they defined the phenomenon as an entitlement to be funded rather than a program to be managed. It contracted during the Giuliani years because city hall insisted on attaching work and similar obligations to benefits, thus discouraging participation, but with no evidence of deprivation. Rolls began to swell again under Bloomberg as reciprocity rules were relaxed. The current administration has essentially dropped all pretenses of work rules or other quid pro quos for benefits.
Seattle declared a state of emergency over its homelessness. Since 2014, homelessness in Amazon’s headquarter city increased annually by 14.1%, 20.8%, 19.4%, 21.8% and 15.2%.
Meanwhile in the Emerald City
In Madison, Isthmus reported earlier this year:
In the six months since Tree Lane started taking homeless families directly off the streets, reports of drug dealing, loud parties and fighting at the 45-unit housing facility have been commonplace. On two separate occasions, brawls involving more than 30 people broke out on the property. Rethke Terrace — a 60-unit apartment building for homeless individuals — has been similarly plagued by violent incidents since opening in June 2016, including two high-profile stabbings in July that prompted a temporary ban on guests.
Perhaps the troubles contributed to Mayor Soglin’s defeat in April (although it is more likely Madison became too liberal even for Paul Soglin).
Every negative headline about Rethke and Tree Lane casts doubt on the city’s long-term strategy to address chronic homelessness — Housing First. As Soglin told reporters, “We’re talking about the viability of this program and our commitment to it.”
Blaska’s Bottom Line: It would not be Madison if the city were not committed to its liberal-progressive-socialist programs, no matter how failed. That goes double after the April 2 elections.