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Wednesday, November 10, 2021

Video: Homelessness

The uncomfortable truth? 

Transcript and citations HERE.

Do you agree with Rufo's proposed solution?  And what are the specifics thereof?

Or maybe you believe that there is no solution?

Please weigh in after watching the entire video above or examining the transcript.


  1. There are a handful of small problems with the essay, but I think the most pervasive one is this idea that homes first is a dominant narrative. From an outsider's perspective, in America, the dominant narrative is that capitalism works. It's baked into your mythology, and is reinforced constantly. It seems as though any challenge to that major, identity-building narrative is on the whole viscerally rejected and resisted; and that would explain why proponents of Homes First policies, even in cities where they are relatively fashionable, are defensive of it: they have to be.

    But obviously homelessness is closely linked to addiction and mental health. *Obviously*. Even under ideal circumstances, either of those problems is complex and hard to overcome, but it strikes me that being homeless in itself stacks the deck against a person in that position. Can you think of anything we could do to help a mentally ill person which wouldn't be thwarted by their chaotic housing situation?

    1. Jez,
      I disagree with you that capitalism is the root problem of homelessness.

      That said, the cost of a home or even the lease for an apartment in most metropolitan areas is outrageous, then real-estate taxes every year on top of the cost of the home. In fact, those are the most significant reasons that I fled my ancestral home in Fairfax County. I was basically forced to flee -- never mind that my home there had been in the family for almost 75 years. And I had an exceedingly modest home: only 1300 square feet of living space. I did, on the other hand, own a sizeable lot of land, and the taxes thereon were unbearable.

      My real estate tax bill in 2001 = $200/month. My real estate tax bill in 2021 = $570/month. Unsustainable!

      Can you think of anything we could do to help a mentally ill person which wouldn't be thwarted by their chaotic housing situation?

      Actually, many metropolitan areas are offering the homeless apartments at little to no cost. But the reality is that mentally ill persons and addicts aren't ready to "normalize." Addicts haven't yet "hit bottom," whereas the mentally ill cannot adjust without medications, which they quit taking because them make them feel muted or bored.

      Little personal anecdote....

      Back in 2016, I offered a former student room and board in exchange for helping Mr. AOW and me during my kidney crisis. I knew that he'd had an addiction problem for years, but he finally said, "I'm done, and I'm working the program." Everything went along just fine for several weeks -- until the day came that he was cooking stuff in a spoon and shooting up. I caught him and had no choice but to evict him: he was stealing from me and even falling asleep with a hot pipe in his hand, causing the bedcovers to catch on fire. My heart was broken.

      My point: we cannot help someone who doesn't want to be helped (or isn't ready to be helped).

    2. "I disagree with you that capitalism is the root problem of homelessness."

      I don't think I said that.

      (aside: $200 -> $570 over 20 years => 5.4% annual inflation, which I admit is higher than "official" inflation rates over that period, but not completely unrealistic.)

      "...the mentally ill cannot adjust without medications, which they quit taking because them make them feel muted or bored."

      Anti-psychotics come with a wide range of side-effects, some of them extremely serious. Getting the medication right can be a very fiddly task for the most motivated of patients.

      Your former student's relapse story is heart-breaking even over this distance. Of course he couldn't live with you like that, and the sad truth is that every former addict has to live a life of constant vigilence, and every one who lets a former addict into their life has to live with that possibility too. It's easy to underestimate how difficult it is. I hope he's doing better now.

      Are those metropolitan programs you mention different to housing first?

    3. Most of us have no experience working within hospital emergency rooms, but thanks to the work of Michael Creighton (and others), we did get a flavor of it through his television series of that name. Fictional, sure ... realistic, I think so.

      In any number of scenarios presented in ER, a homeless person receives treatment for one thing or another. It may be chronic alcohol poisoning, or drugs, or a combination of the two, adding in mental instability. After life-saving treatment (which too often involves abusing the healthcare staff), the patient is released back to the streets ... to repeat the scenario until he or she no longer responds to medical treatment, or dies while laying on a sidewalk or under a bridge.

      Why released back to the streets? Because some numb nut in Washington decided that mentally ill people have a right to die on our streets, have a right to diminish the healthfulness of our urban environments by urinating and defecating wherever they choose, or pose a danger to our citizens by assaulting them, or get into bloody fights with other mentally ill people, or masturbate in public ... the list goes on.

      Money is a limited resource. If we must spend money to address this problem, the question we must answer is, “How should we spend it?” Offering everyone a free apartment makes as much sense as dozens of slum neighborhoods that already exist in every major US city ... all of which are government subsidized housing projects .... where, in many places, first responders refuse to go. Dumping mentally ill and/or drug induced people into such facilities is ludicrous. As the piece suggests, we may remove these people from our streets, but we haven’t addressed the problem.

      I favor bringing back mental health hospitals and other facilities. When an indigenous person receives treated at an emergency treatment center, when medical experts determine that that a patient is mentally incapable of taking care of himself, or poses a danger to himself and others, then they should not release them back into the streets. Rather, I think they should turn that individual over to a mental hospital where (a) the ER physician’s diagnosis can be validated, (b) where a magistrate evaluates each case for possible involuntary commitment to a mental health facility, predicated on the necessity for intervention based on medical, mental, and the public’s safety, and (c) where the patient will receive quality care and attendance until determined that they are rehabilitated. If we must spend money on the homeless, this is how we should do it. Not easy, not cheap, but doable ... and far more in line with the “values” we say we embrace.

      Anyway, my two cents.

    4. Short of running your wards as "re-education camps", I'd prefer the homeless camping on my lawn so that I can turn my "charming" sprinklers on them.

    5. Jez,
      Perhaps I misinterpreted your statement: From an outsider's perspective, in America, the dominant narrative is that capitalism works. I thought that you were implying that capitalism doesn't actually work.

      Now, about my former student...He did hard time in a Virginia prison for a few years, then was released. I think that he served out his sentence because I see nothing on his FB page that indicates that his mobility from state to state is restricted.

      He's been out of prison for a little over a year. In the first few months of his release, he "slipped" twice, but they were not complete blow outs.

      Now he has his own fence building company -- he's a master carpenter and actually built the front porch on my Virginia home back when he was a teenage -- and is living with his recently-widowed father, who may well piss test his own son. Dad is savvy! He will no longer allow himself to be an enabler! He and his wife did so many years of that -- with the best of intentions but with a disastrous outcome every time.

      As you can tell, I'm still in touch with my former student. We had a strong bond as he was my student both in the classroom and at the piano bench. Such a talented pianist!

    6. Mustang,
      In any number of scenarios presented in ER, a homeless person receives treatment for one thing or another....Why released back to the streets? Because some numb nut in Washington decided that mentally ill people have a right to die on our streets...

      The times that I've been in the ER, either as a patient or as Mr. AOW's advocate, I've seen so may "Seekers"! When released, many were literally passed out in front of the ER, on the sidewalks or in the gutter.

      I strongly agree with you: bring back mental health hospitals and other facilities.

    7. As someone who once voluntarily admitted himself into a mental health facility, I agree that they are needed. But what I cannot fathom is your wish to give medical health professionals the capacity to "involuntarily confine" certain individuals to them. One should NOT EVER lose their right to life and liberty without DUE PROCESS, and given the state of the American Justice System (ie Kyle Rittenhouse trial) I wouldn't even trust THAT.

    8. I was making a point about how dominant that narrative is in America, not addressing the question of how truthful it is at all (if we were to do so, of course a lot would hinge on what we mean by "works").

      That's good to hear about your former student, hope he stays clean and looks after his dad.

  2. Homelessness isn't pretty, but freedom/ liberty don't have to be pretty.

  3. It's the "tragedy of American Compassion"... a failure to "say the charm" whilst dispensing the "leaf" (money/ housing vouchers).

    from the Jowett summary of Plato's "Charmides":

    Very well, he said; then I will call him; and turning to the attendant, he said, Call Charmides, and tell him that I want him to come and see a physician about the illness of which he spoke to me the day before yesterday. Then again addressing me, he added: He has been complaining lately of having a headache when he rises in the morning: now why should you not make him believe that you know a cure for the headache?

    Why not, I said; but will he come?

    He will be sure to come, he replied.

    He came as he was bidden, and sat down between Critias and me. Great amusement was occasioned by every one pushing with might and main at his neighbour in order to make a place for him next to themselves, until at the two ends of the row one had to get up and the other was rolled over sideways. Now I, my friend, was beginning to feel awkward; my former bold belief in my powers of conversing with him had vanished. And when Critias told him that I was the person who had the cure, he looked at me in such an indescribable manner, and was just going to ask a question. And at that moment all the people in the palaestra crowded about us, and, O rare! I caught a sight of the inwards of his garment, and took the flame. Then I could no longer contain myself. I thought how well Cydias understood the nature of love, when, in speaking of a fair youth, he warns some one 'not to bring the fawn in the sight of the lion to be devoured by him,' for I felt that I had been overcome by a sort of wild-beast appetite. But I controlled myself, and when he asked me if I knew the cure of the headache, I answered, but with an effort, that I did know.

    And what is it? he said.

    I replied that it was a kind of leaf, which required to be accompanied by a charm, and if a person would repeat the charm at the same time that he used the cure, he would be made whole; but that without the charm the leaf would be of no avail.

    Then I will write out the charm from your dictation, he said.

    With my consent? I said, or without my consent?

    With your consent, Socrates, he said, laughing.

    1. (cont.)
      Very good, I said; and are you quite sure that you know my name?

      I ought to know you, he replied, for there is a great deal said about you among my companions; and I remember when I was a child seeing you in company with my cousin Critias.

      I am glad to find that you remember me, I said; for I shall now be more at home with you and shall be better able to explain the nature of the charm, about which I felt a difficulty before. For the charm will do more, Charmides, than only cure the headache. I dare say that you have heard eminent physicians say to a patient who comes to them with bad eyes, that they cannot cure his eyes by themselves, but that if his eyes are to be cured, his head must be treated; and then again they say that to think of curing the head alone, and not the rest of the body also, is the height of folly. And arguing in this way they apply their methods to the whole body, and try to treat and heal the whole and the part together. Did you ever observe that this is what they say?

      Yes, he said.

      And they are right, and you would agree with them?

      Yes, he said, certainly I should.

      His approving answers reassured me, and I began by degrees to regain confidence, and the vital heat returned. Such, Charmides, I said, is the nature of the charm, which I learned when serving with the army from one of the physicians of the Thracian king Zamolxis, who are said to be so skilful that they can even give immortality. This Thracian told me that in these notions of theirs, which I was just now mentioning, the Greek physicians are quite right as far as they go; but Zamolxis, he added, our king, who is also a god, says further, 'that as you ought not to attempt to cure the eyes without the head, or the head without the body, so neither ought you to attempt to cure the body without the soul; and this,' he said, 'is the reason why the cure of many diseases is unknown to the physicians of Hellas, because they are ignorant of the whole, which ought to be studied also; for the part can never be well unless the whole is well.' For all good and evil, whether in the body or in human nature, originates, as he declared, in the soul, and overflows from thence, as if from the head into the eyes. And therefore if the head and body are to be well, you must begin by curing the soul; that is the first thing. And the cure, my dear youth, has to be effected by the use of certain charms, and these charms are fair words; and by them temperance is implanted in the soul, and where temperance is, there health is speedily imparted, not only to the head, but to the whole body. And he who taught me the cure and the charm at the same time added a special direction: 'Let no one,' he said, 'persuade you to cure the head, until he has first given you his soul to be cured by the charm. For this,' he said, 'is the great error of our day in the treatment of the human body, that physicians separate the soul from the body.' And he added with emphasis, at the same time making me swear to his words, 'Let no one, however rich, or noble, or fair, persuade you to give him the cure, without the charm.' Now I have sworn, and I must keep my oath, and therefore if you will allow me to apply the Thracian charm first to your soul, as the stranger directed, I will afterwards proceed to apply the cure to your head. But if not, I do not know what I am to do with you, my dear Charmides.

    2. The basic "freedom/ liberty" of the homeless prevents and protects them from those who would "institutionalize" and thereby hide them in violation of their supposedly "unalienable" rights.

    3. Our "society of control" needs new "controls" that preclude the older (pre-1960's) "discipline and punishment" method through institutionalization.

    4. ...and imposition of "positive liberties" by the well fed, well housed and at the cost of the liberty/freedom of those they look down upon. If Diogenes wants to masturbate in broad daylight in the agora, arrest him... but if he just wants to sunbath, let him be.

    5. A new "charm" is needed to convince Diogenes to either conform, or leave our society. Perhaps he can be enticed with "leafs" in a less publically visible local. That would be quite a "charm".

    6. ...but for some, like the Roma/gypsies, "homelessness" IS the charm.

    7. If I were Diogenes, I would "retire to Sherwood". I wonder if there's a meth lab there or a fentanyl storage facility...

  4. San Diego has periodic "Homeless Fairs." These are days where showers are set up and various professionals donate their time to provide haircuts, medical exams and treatments, even facials and manicures.

    It doesn't pretend to "cure the homeless problem," merely to make lives a little better, if only for a few days, and to tell the homeless that the community cares. If that's the best we can do, and it probably is, then it is a praiseworthy effort, and we need to do it.

    1. Sounds like a recipe for competing with San Francisco and Seattle for the Hobo Tourism trade.

    2. There's little "charm" in it for the homeless and appears like more "leaf" for the virtue signaling "helper class".

    3. There is no charm in it, but maybe we're wrong to judge it on its effectiveness as a cure for homelessness, something which Jayhawk explains explicitly that it doesn't pretend to be.

    4. It's not a cure, but an "accelerant". To show compassion is to encourage greater tragedy. Sometimes doing "nothing" is better than the compassionate "something".

    5. Ever see the movie "Rambo"? The sheriff in THAT NW town knew how to deal with "vagrancy".

    6. Vagrants have the "right" to go go wherever they want. What they don't have is the right to violate the laws where they do go, like they are allowed to do in Philly.

    7. Today's "America" needs a "state" that is not run for the Global Corporatocracy... where those rendered 'surplus' to the consumerist economic order can escape and provide for themselves in freedom, liberty, and DIGNITY. A place where the system rewards those who are capable of becoming self-reliant. A state like Nevada where 84% of the land is currently owned by the federal government and can be "homesteaded" out.

    8. All the feds would have to provide is a better water collection and distribution system.

    9. Homesteading musta passed "out-of-fashion" before the Western states were admitted to the union.

    10. ...or maybe the growing corporatocracy at the time (~1900) just needed more people to live in their company towns and work in their debtor sweatshops.

    11. Joe,
      Today's "America" needs a "state" that is not run for the Global Corporatocracy...

      HEAR! HEAR!

      Such a "state" would go a long way to solving America's problems.

    12. San Diego holds "homeless fairs". Isn't that special. The average home in San Diego costs $830,000, and they they say that they are concerned about homelessness? lol!

  5. In L.A., many homeless are said not to want to go downtown into shelters because drugs, alcohol and prostitution aren't allowed once inside. That's just a fact. It's not like there isn't any housing. We also have excellent religious based help but not enough. I believe we should build tilt-ups in the desert and house homeless there...with counseling, nutrition, job training.
    I didn't think anything new or earth shatteringly original came from this guy's talk, but it was interesting....
    Mustang's right...build more mental institutions, etc. it sure would cost less than $80K per homeless person a year...I'd have thought so, anyway.

    1. Z,
      In L.A., many homeless are said not to want to go downtown into shelters because drugs, alcohol and prostitution aren't allowed once inside. That's just a fact. It's not like there isn't any housing.

      One would think these nomads would have hit bottom and ready to abandon their dead-end lifestyles. Apparently not.

      I don't know what it takes to change them.

    2. There's something about being in the grip of a compulsive behaviour that stops a person from behaving rationally :(

    3. ...or even thinking rationally instead of accepting the framing of this issue as one of "homelessness"...

      If homes in California didn't cost $1+ million each, there wouldn't be a "homelessness problem" in CA so much as there would be a very solvable "affordable housing" problem... Solvable in the sense that many more houses CAN and WOULD be cheaply built if the state opened up the more than 42% of California's state/federal owned land for development.... and not to mention existing private properties being re-zoned so that building in the hills surrounding the major cities were permitted.

    4. America doesn't have a homelessness problem. It has a NIMBY/ government over-regulation problem.


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