A state homelessness task force is recommending that local governments be hauled into court if they aren’t moving people off the streets. It’s unlikely to help. The most probable outcome is an increased burden on the courts and a higher dose of politics into an arena where politics have already failed.
The idea is part of a recently released set of proposals issued by the 13-member group appointed last year by Gov. Gavin Newsom. The task force wants to amend the state constitution so that the state could sue counties and cities if they don’t cut their homeless populations. Newsom wants the amendment on the November ballot.
The Los Angeles Times reports that Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, who with Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg is chairing the Council of Regional Homeless Advisors, “argues that the state needs to carry a big stick to convince local governments that they will face consequences if they don’t get people off the streets — including the possible loss of local control.”
Some local governments have already found a way to cut their homeless populations. They herd their homeless residents out of their jurisdictions and into other cities, where they become someone else’s problem. It’s not hard to envision an environment in which an amendment weaponizes the practice and cities play a numbers game, moving the homeless around from locality to locality as if they are pieces in a game of hot potato.
While the ballot measure has received the most coverage, the task force is also, according to Ridley-Thomas’ office:
- Recommending “strengthening renter protections, cracking down on rent gouging,” which will only make matters worse since those steps will inflame the housing shortage.
- Hoping to provide the homeless “with rent subsidies and other support to remain housed,” a moral hazard that will swell the numbers of those demanding subsidies and support.
- And suggesting the “streamlining the construction of permanent supportive housing, affordable housing, and service-enriched temporary shelters,” an idea that is about half right, as the permitting process for all housing needs to be streamlined.
There’s not much from the rest of the task force’s 40 recommendations to inspire confidence. It naturally includes new spending, but only a single reference to the “substance abuse” problems that are a significant part of the problem. Little happens unless that factor is thoroughly addressed.
As PRI’s Tim Anaya has noted, the task force’s members “all represent a government-only approach to addressing California’s homeless crisis.” Meanwhile, the infantry doing the dirty and real work on the streets, made up of the private charities and nonprofit organizations that have no political or bureaucratic agendas to follow, and are not part of the homeless-industrial complex that doesn’t want the problem solved, was shut out. This is a government show, doomed from the start.
Kerry Jackson is a fellow with the Center for California Reform at the Pacific Research Institute.