Monday, October 15, 2007

Subsidising Misery.

The left wing blog Harry's Place currently has a guest post about homelessness by Martha Bridegam, who I'm not otherwise familiar with. She is angry at the campaign by San Francisco's main newspaper the San Francisco Chronicle, to get the city's politicians to get the vagrants off the streets, according to Bridegam it is a 'hate campaign' designed to ensure the wealthy don't have to mingle with the very poor. She particularly despises a certain type of people who support the campaign:
These scapegoating articles and comments are full of quotes from people who begin by describing themselves as "liberal," then announce that, after some dreadful personal experience with an individual they presumed to be homeless, even their own sainted selves have had enough of sharing a city with homeless people in general.
I think this is what used to be known as liberals being mugged by reality.

The Chronicle is the principle newspaper of the most left wing city in the United States so why would they feel comfortable adopting such a supposedly right wing platform for dealing with homelessness? Quite simply because the ultra liberal (in the US sense of the word) policies that the city has pursued up until now have created a disaster in slow motion. The city has more homeless than New York despite being less than 10% of the size according to some sources, although the exact figure is unclear and estimates range from 7000 to 20000 people. More than 200 of them die each year. The cause of the city's problem is pretty obvious though, they pay people to be homeless:
San Francisco still gives about one-third of its homeless population its benefits all in cash - as much as $395 a month.
Yes you read that right, being homeless has a starting salary of almost $5000 a year, plus there is lax enforcement of begging laws, perhaps a few homeless charities can top up the figure too and there are few overheads. Whilst the death toll suggests that it is not a comfortable living in the long term, in the short term it isn't exactly onerous. If you subsidise something then you will get more of it, it really is pretty simple. It isn't compassionate to support the homeless when the effects of that support are to make homelessness more entrenched than ever.


JuliaM said...

An insight into the 'thinking' behind her post showed itself in her reply to the commenters who suggested that the homeless might find it easier to live somewhere cheaper than SF:

"Recovering addicts on methadone maintenance are closely bound to the towns where they live by their daily dosing schedules -- so completely that I even wonder about their constitutional freedom-of-travel rights. It is quite difficult to get permission from these clinics for "take-home" doses lasting a few days each, and daunting for a methadone addict to even start looking for a substitute clinic in a rural area."

This was part of a long essay on why 'homelessness is not their own fault'. You couldn't make it up! The lack of any concept of personal responsibility fairly drips from the screen....

Frankly, I'm surprised at HP running such a woolly article.

Ross said...

That passage is jaw dropping and I hadn't spotted it before! I think she takes the view that all homeless people are in that situation because of bad luck that could have happened to anyone. Whilst there is some percentage who undoubtedly are in that position I would be very surprised if the majority are not there because of bad choices they made freely.