By Thomas Mathew Joys
Meticulously, it is no small matter that the term “homeless” or “homelessness” is dimming the brightness of the major cities of America, but exudes an aura of nasty politics or indirect support to the-drug-mafia!
When American President Trump passed through some of the beautiful roads of India, Trump did not ask why green tarpaulin was beautifully stretched for kilometers on one side. But when the dark streets of most American cities, especially Los Angeles and San Francisco, in the state of California, are turning into the ‘mecca of homeless’, it is just hypocritical to laugh at the broad-mindedness of this great country and not hide it by applying “Modi tech” here.
Over the past seven years, 40 percent of the nation’s homeless are now unsheltered homeless.
What are the causes of homelessness?
The causes vary widely, but are often linked to homelessness and poverty. Poor people generally do not have enough money to cover basic needs like housing, food, child care, health care, and education; with the nominal social security benefits they get every month.
Unsheltered homeless means sleeping somewhere at night not primarily designed for human habitation, such as a car, park, abandoned building, or train station. Over the past seven years, 40 percent of the nation’s homeless are now unsheltered homeless.
Lack of affordable housing, unemployment, poverty, low wages, mental illness, substance abuse, and lack of needed services are creating more homeless people. I recently happened to visit Los Angeles and San Francisco, the major cities in the state of California, and the miserable situation of the homeless in these cities prompted me to write a few lines on the subject.
By evening, many of San Francisco’s streets were filled with homeless wretches. From the window of the fifth floor of the hotel where we were staying, I was astonished to see a young woman dancing naked but wearing only a hat: she could also be seen collecting dollar bills and shoving them into the hat. In between, her show seems to have been a bonus for her intoxicated audience. Freedom without restraint will never produce good results.
Los Angeles has a very high rate of homelessness. According to the city’s own statistics, about 30% of the homeless have already moved there after losing their housing. Another 17% were said to have lived in the city for less than a year before becoming homeless.
As Mayor London Breed admits, one of the reasons people come is because drugs are readily available here. The San Francisco Standard attempted a one-week cleanup two months ago, taking over the homeless encampment at Van Ness Avenue and Eddy Street. A completely different look was seen that day, the planting boxes of plants and trees were lined up at many places on the pavement.
But neither the political parties nor the rulers are interested in finding a permanent solution. All of this leads us to several questions: We found many of San Francisco’s homeless population on Willow Street. The busy transit corridor has become the latest scene of controversy over the city’s drug, mental health, and homelessness crisis, as residents and visitors alike decry increasingly unsanitary street conditions.
They say the situation has had a devastating effect on surrounding businesses. It is becoming difficult to park our car there or eat in a restaurant in peace. In recent years, court rulings have made it more difficult for cities, especially on the West Coast, to remove homeless encampments. In 2018, the US Ninth Circuit Court found that homeless people cannot be punished for sleeping outside in public places unless adequate alternatives are available.
There is another side to this. In September 2022, the Coalition on Homelessness sued San Francisco for violating its own laws to remove homeless shelters. A federal judge has barred the removal of homeless shelters in San Francisco unless people can find alternative shelter. Los Angeles will have the largest homeless population in the country in 2022. According to 2022 Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) data, approximately 582,000 Americans were homeless on the streets.
Experts say the biggest reason California’s per capita homelessness rate is five times that of Texas is because housing in California is so expensive; the average one-bedroom unit in California rents for $2,300 per month, compared to $1,200 in Texas. Although both cities suffer from crime, Los Angeles is actually safer. LA’s crime rate was 2870 per 100,000 residents, 22% higher than the national average. The violent crime rate is 722 per 100,000 residents, 86% higher than the national average.
Claims that adequate subsidized housing will solve the homelessness problem are belied by San Francisco’s efforts. In the last 15 years, the city has created more than 7,000 permanent housing units, reports said. It is shameful to say that 7000 units have been built in a place with 70000 homeless people.
Homelessness and how to deal with it has become one of the most pressing political issues in recent elections in liberal cities like Portland, San Diego, Seattle, and Austin. Republicans have portrayed Democrats as incompetent and fearless when it comes to addressing the crisis.
The public across the political spectrum wants elected officials to take action. The local administration has to devise a mission to rehabilitate all the unimaginative-size homeless people on a wartime basis.
Rehabilitation would be more feasible if the funds for the running of these centers were raised and wages commensurate with the work. Nothing will be solved if political parties continue to blame each other. True, the current administration may not be giving much importance to it.
While the number of poor people in this country is increasing and the homeless people on the streets are dimming the brightness of this country, it is our rulers who turn a blind eye to it and dim the country’s prosperity and the tourists inflow to these cities. Instead of guaranteeing the basic amenities of those at home, the “hidden agenda” of keeping the walls and gates open for anyone to come into this country and provide luxury living facilities and citizenship to those who come in the name of unaccountable refugees, while common people know, is nothing short of a double standard, USA is prosperous, only if no citizen is found wandering the streets of America as typical homeless. Otherwise the world will proclaim that we run on a shameful double standard policy.
Dr. Thomas Mathew Joys is director of IAPC and lives in Las Vegas, NV. He is a published writer, and columnist.
Disclaimer: The views expressed are not necessarily those of The South Asian Times