The problem with the homeless is the problem with social welfare policies in general: we want to provide for the individual, legitimately needy, but we don't want to encourage dependence upon such help, to foster a "culture of dependence."
Santa Monica is a nice, upscale, generally liberal beach city just west of Los Angeles. It used to be "very liberal," as opposed to "generally liberal" until it was inundated with the homeless, who like all other organisms, are drawn to where the living is easiest: it's just gravity.
Not all homeless people have themselves to blame for their homelessness, especially in hard economic times, but many, if not most, do. Besides those legitimately down on their luck and temporarily unable to house themselves - for whom we must do all we can to keep them invested in society - the homeless also consist of alcoholics, drug addicts, the mentally ill (these three categories often blend together), general misfits (read the alternately heartbreaking and hopeful Homeless Guy blog), sluggards, and miscellany others. Please do not accuse me of lumping them all together because every homeless person has his/her own story to tell, but collectively, past a certain level of density and visibility, the homeless are a blight on a community for all of the obvious reasons: sanitation, petty crime, eyesore, annoyance, all of which lead to downward pressure on property values, and downward pressure on one's beachside property is the fastest way to turn a liberal into a conservative.
Over the last ten years or so, Santa Monica has been struggling with their homeless problem, trying to strike a balance between compassion and, frankly, property values. From the Santa Monica Staff Report on the Homeless:
- Additionally residents, members of the business community and visitors have expressed growing concerns and frustrations about the increased impact of homelessness on the community. These impacts result from various circumstances, including large groups gathering regularly in the parks for food distributions and thereby monopolizing park space, persons soiling and trashing doorways in the Downtown which they use as a campsite, aggressive panhandling and exhibiting anti-social or threatening behaviors. Residents complain that the parks are no longer a shared resource. Members of the business community complain of adverse economic impacts.
There are increasing adverse impacts on homeless people as well. The Police Department reports an increase in crimes committed by homeless people against other homeless people. For instance, during the last nine months,
there have been three assaults in this category which were extremely
The controversy about food distributions in the parks has been particularly
heated. Many complain that food distributions by private organizations are
attracting more and more homeless people to Santa Monica, that the City's
service system cannot bear this load, that the parks are being unfairly
monopolized, and that other park users are being driven from the parks. Others assert that the food distributions are charitable endeavors which should be supported, rather than restricted.
So in October Santa Monica cracked down:
- Santa Monica, a city known for its compassion toward homeless people but long troubled by the problems they bring, finally passed two controversial laws Tuesday night aimed at limiting their presence.