Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Homelessness in LA

Serving as an object lesson for those of us struggling with the homeless issue in Sacramento and in particular, the values-free approach to homeless advocacy (which is really only a guarantee of further degradation), the situation in Los Angeles is horrible, and written about in an article in this quarter’s City Journal magazine that unfortunately, is not available online, but I have typed out the first few paragraphs to give you an idea of why you should immediately go out and buy an issue to read the full article if this is an issue resonating with you.

Heather Mac Donald is one of the most astute journalists in the country about this issue.

“The Reclamation of Skid Row
“The LAPD’s efforts are reviving America’s most squalid neighborhood—and the homeless industry is hopping mad.
By Heather Mac Donald

“Drive around Los Angeles’s Skid Row with Commander Andrew Smith and you can barely go a block without someone’s congratulating him on his recent promotion. Such enthusiasm is certainly in order. Over the last year, this tall, high-spirited policeman has achieved what for a long while seemed impossible: a radical reduction of Skid Row’s anarchy. What is surprising about Smith’s popularity, however, is that his fans are street-wizened drug addicts, alcoholics, and mentally ill vagrants. And in that fact lies a resounding refutation of the untruths tha the American Civil Liberties Union and the rest of the homeless industry have used to keep Skid Row in chaos—until now.

“For 25 years, the advocates used lawsuits and antipolice propaganda to beat back every effort to restore sanity to Skid Row. They concealed the real causes of homelessness under a false narrative about a callous, profit-mad society that abused the less fortunate. The result: a level of squalor that had no counterpart in the United States. Smith’s policing initiatives—grounded in the Broken Windows theory of order maintenance—ended that experiment in engineered anarchy, saving more lives in ten months that most homeless advocates have helped over their careers. The forces of lawlessness are regrouping, however, and Smith’s successes may wind up reversed in a renewed attack on the police.

“Before Smith’s Safer City Imitative began in September 2006, Skid Row’s 50 blocks had reached a level of depravity that stunned even longtime observers. Encampments composed of tents and cardboard boxes covered practically every inch of sidewalk. Their 1,500 or so occupants, stretched out in lawn chairs or sprawled on the pavement, injected heroin and smoked crack and marijuana in plain view, day and night. Feces, urine, and drug-resistant bacteria coated the ground. Even drug addicts were amazed at the scene…

“The human chaos hid entrenched criminal networks. The biggest heroin gang in downtown Los Angeles operated from the area’s west end, using illegal aliens to peddle dope supplied by the Mexican Mafia. Able-bodied dealers sold drugs from wheelchairs and from tents color-coded to signal the wares within. Young Bloods and Crips from Watt’s housing projects battled over drug turf and amused themselves by robbing the elderly…

“In May 2006, a mentally ill woman who had repeatedly resisted offers of housing and services was stomped to death by a homeless parolee. That night, 82 shelter beds were available on Skid Row; a business improvement district’s homeless outreach team could persuade only two people to accept them.

“Nonviolent crime also metastasized on Skid Row, fed by government welfare. General relief payments—California’s little-copied welfare program for able-bodied childless adults—arrive early in the month, followed a few days later by Federal Supplemental Security Income for drug addicts and the mentally ill. Skid Row’s population and partying spiked around check days. When the money was gone, smoked away in crack pipes or injected into veins, the hustling began. A doctor’s clinic in the Hispanic MacArthur Park neighborhood sent a van out to collect volunteers for Medicaid fraud; it offered $20 to anyone willing to take a fake health exam, and then billed the exams to the government at exorbitant rates. Two food-stamp rings, paying homeless recipients 50 cents for every dollar’s worth of stamps , stole $6 million from federal taxpayers. The spending money handed out in these scams went right back into the drug trade, keeping the homeless addicted and the drug sellers in diamond tooth caps.

“This lawlessness hurt Skid Row’s law-abiding residents the most. The area’s century-old residential hotels and missions house thousands of senior citizens, non-drug-abusing mentally ill persons, and addicts trying to turn their lives around.” (City Journal, Autumn 2007, pp. 15-16)