Home>Highlight>The Homeless Industrial Complex
Highlight Uncategorized

The Homeless Industrial Complex

Every major city in California is spending tens of millions or more on programs for the homeless

By Edward Ring, May 28, 2019 2:15 am

Los Angeles could be at risk of a deadly typhus epidemic this summer according to Dr. Drew Pinsky, an outspoken celebrity doctor and specialist in addiction medicine. Pinsky, a Los Angeles native, recently quoted on Fox News, said: “We have tens and tens of thousands of people living in tents. Horrible conditions. Rats have taken over the city. We’re the only city in the country, Los Angeles, without a rodent control program. We have multiple rodent-borne, flea-borne illnesses, plague, typhus. We’re going to have louse-borne illness. Measles could break into that population. We have tuberculosis exploding.”

All of this is easily confirmed. Los Angeles already has outbreaks of typhushepatitis and tuberculosis,  as do other cities in California. Shigella, a communicable form of diarrhea, is now common among the homeless. There have even been outbreaks of trench fever, spread by lice. As reported by the Atlantic earlier this year “Medieval Diseases Are Infecting California’s Homeless.”

There are estimated to be over 55,000 homeless in Los Angeles County, and at least 130,000 statewide, living on sidewalks, parks and parking lots, vacant lots and on the beach. There is no sanitation and no trash collection. The populations of disease carrying animals and insects that thrive in these conditions are exploding: rats, fleas, mosquitoes, ticks, mites, lice.

The problem of the homeless could be completely solved in a few months if there were the political and judicial will to get it done. The national guard could be deployed, working with city and county law enforcement. The homeless could be sorted into groups; criminals, substance abusers, mentally ill, undocumented aliens, and all the rest. For each of these groups, separate facilities could be built on vacant or underutilized government land in or near urban centers but away from downtowns and residential areas. They could consist of tents, porta-potties, and mobile modules providing food and medical services.

There’s plenty of money available to do this. Just in Los Angeles, in 2016 voters approved Measure HHH, allocating $1.2 billion in bonds to build 10,000 units to house the homeless. Since then, Los Angeles voters approved a quarter cent sales tax increase, also to help the homeless. Additional hundreds of millions are coming from the state to help the homeless.

Every major city in California is spending tens of millions or more on programs for the homeless. But most of the money is being wasted. Why? Because there is a Homeless Industrial Complex that is getting filthy rich, wasting the money, while the homeless population swells.

WHAT IS THE HOMELESS INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX?

Here’s how the process works: Developers accept public money to build these projects to house the homeless – either “bridge housing,” or “permanent supportive housing.” Cities and counties collect building fees and hire bureaucrats for oversight. The projects are then handed off to nonprofits with long term contracts to run them.

That doesn’t sound so bad, right? The problem is the price tag. Developers don’t just build housing projects, they build ridiculously overpriced, overbuilt housing projects. Cities and counties don’t just collect building fees, they collect outrageously expensive building fees, at the same time as they create a massive bureaucracy. The nonprofits don’t just run these projects – the actual people staffing these shelters aren’t overpaid – they operate huge bureaucratic empires with overhead and executive salaries that do nothing for the homeless.

An example of wasteful spending can be found in the homeless shelter being built in Venice Beach, where a permanent population of over 1,000 homeless have taken over virtually every public venue, including the beach. Because their tents are now protected by law as private space, they not only serve as housing, but as pop-up drug retailers and brothels. To get these folks off the streets and off the beach, a 154 bed shelter has been approved by the Los Angeles City Council. It will be a “wet” shelter, meaning druggies and drunkards will be able to come and go as they please. The estimated cost for this shelter so far is $8 million, which equates to over $50,000 per bed. Why doesn’t anyone ask why?

These costs aren’t that bad if you consider the cost of new construction in exorbitant California. But this isn’t new construction, it’s “temporary” construction of very large tents on three acres of land. Eight million dollars, to put up some large tents and plumb for bathrooms and a kitchen. As a “wet” shelter, it will become a hotel for freeloading partiers as much as a refuge for the truly needy. Not only is it only capable of housing a small fraction of the 1,000+ homeless already in Venice, it will attract more homeless people to relocate to Venice.

Finally, this property, owned by the Los Angeles Metropolitan Transit District and located on some of the most precious real estate on earth, could have been sold to private investors to generate tens if not hundreds of millions of dollars. Why wasn’t that choice made? Why, for that matter, aren’t homeless shelters being built in Pacific Palisades, or Brentwood, or Beverly Hills, or the other tony enclaves of LA’s super rich? Because as with all boondoggles that destroy neighborhoods in the name of compassion, the Homeless Industrial Complex knows better than to defecate where they masticate.

The Homeless Industrial Complex’s expensive maltreatment of Venice Beach in particular, and taxpayers in general, is an example of how “bridge housing” projects are co-opted and corrupted. But even more horrendous waste is exemplified by the efforts to construct “permanent supportive housing.”

According to an NPR report from June 2018, “when voters passed Measure HHH, they were told that new ‘permanent supportive housing’ would cost about $140,000 a unit. But average per unit costs are now more than triple that. The PATH Ventures project in East Hollywood has an estimated per-unit cost of $440,000.”

A privately funded development company, Flyaway Homes, has debuted in Los Angeles with the mission of rapidly providing housing for the homeless. Using retrofitted shipping containers, the company’s modular approach to apartment building construction is purported to streamline the approval process and cut costs. But the two projects they’ve got underway are too expensive to ever offer a solution to more than fraction of the homeless.

Their 82nd Street Development will cost $4.5 million to house 32 “clients” in 16 two-bedroom, 480 square foot apartments. That’s $281,250 per two-bedroom apartment. The firm’s 820 W. Colden Ave. property will cost $3.6 million to house 32 clients in eight four-bedroom apartments. That’s $450,000 per apartment.

These costs are utterly unsustainable. But the Homeless Industrial Complex has grown into a juggernaut, crushing the opposition. At community hearings across California, “homeless advocates,” who are often bused in from other areas expressly to shout down local opposition, demand action, because “no one deserves to live on a sidewalk.”

Money is squandered, and the population of homeless people multiplies. This is not compassion in action, rather, it’s corruption in action.

WAYS TO REIN IN THE HOMELESS INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX

(1) Acknowledge there’s a problem. Agree that it’s no longer acceptable to throw money at the homeless epidemic without questioning all the current proposals and the underlying premises. Billions of dollars are being wasted. Admit it.

(2) Recognize that a special interest, the Homeless Industrial Complex – comprised of developers, government bureaucrats, and activist nonprofits – has taken over the homeless agenda and turned it into a profit center. They are not going to solve the problem, they are going to milk it. Their PR firms will sell compliant media a feel-good story about someone who turned their life around, living in a fine new apartment. What they won’t tell you is that because of the $400,000 they charged to build that single apartment unit, dozens if not hundreds of people are still on the street with nothing.

(3) Act at the municipal and state level to set a limit on the cost per shelter “bed.” This cost must represent a compromise between ideal facilities for homeless people, and what is affordable at a scale sufficient to solve the problem. There is no reason the capital costs for a shelter bed should be $50,000 each, but that’s exactly what’s proposed in Venice – $8 million for a semi-permanent “tent” with 154 beds. Similarly, there is no reason a basic apartment unit for the homeless should cost over $400,000, but in Los Angeles, by most accounts, that’s what they cost. This is outrageous. Durable tents and supportive facilities should be set up for a small fraction of that amount. Pick a number. Stick to it. Demand creative solutions.

(4) Stop differentiating between “bridge housing” (basic shelter) and “permanent supportive housing.” Permanent supportive housing IS “bridge housing.” Amenities better than a durable, dry, sole occupancy tent and a porta-potty can belong exclusively in the realm of privately funded nonprofits and charities. Until there isn’t a single homeless person left on the street, not one penny of taxpayer money should be paying for anything beyond basic bridge housing.

(5) Accept that homeless shelters will be more cost-effectively constructed and operated if they are in industrial, commercial (where appropriate), or rural areas, and not in downtown areas or residential neighborhoods.

(6) Abandon decentralized solutions that involve seeding safe neighborhoods with mini-homeless shelters in converted residential homes. Estimates vary, but between 35 and 77 percent of homeless people suffer from substance abuse, and between 26 and 58 percent have mental illness, and by some accounts over half of them have a criminal record. It is not just too expensive, it is dangerous to mix a homeless population into family neighborhoods.

(7) Go to court. Challenge the decision in Jones vs the City of Los Angeles, that ruled that law enforcement and city officials can no longer enforce the ban on sleeping on sidewalks anywhere within the Los Angeles city limits until a sufficient amount of permanent supportive housing could be built.

(8) File a state ballot referendum to overturn Prop. 47, which downgraded drug and property crimes. Prop. 47 has led to what police derisively refer to as “catch and release,” because suspects are only issued citations with a court date, and let go.

(9) Recognize that the rights of the homeless must be balanced with the rights of local residents, and that homeless accommodations should be safe but should never be better than the cheapest unit of commercial housing.

10) Confront the fact that a lot of homeless people are homeless by choice, not because they’ve ran out of options, and they DON’T WANT HELP. Act accordingly: Do we give these people control over our public spaces, our neighborhoods, our parks and beaches? And what of the others? The mentally ill, the substance abusers, the criminals? Do we give them control of over our public spaces?

It is terribly difficult for proponents of rational policies to be heard in public hearings on the homeless. Professional activists, often hired by developers or well-heeled nonprofits, abetted by sincere homeless advocates who simply haven’t ran the numbers, will usually outnumber and shout down neighborhood “NIMBYs” who have come to raise objections. But the NIMBYs are right.

We have a moral obligation to help the homeless. But we are not obligated to cede our downtowns, our tourist attractions, and our residential neighborhoods to homeless encampments. And as a society, we also have a moral obligation to protect the general population from rampant infectious diseases. What if Dr. Pinsky is right? What if there is a major infectious disease epidemic in Los Angeles this summer? Is that what it’s going to take before we clean up our streets and get the homeless into cost-effective, safe, supervised, sanitary encampments?

The moral question of how to help the homeless cannot rest apart from financial reality. It is impossible to solve the homeless crisis under current law and according to current policies. Therefore a new approach must be taken.

Before criticizing the suggestion that we spend a $5,000 per bed (or less) instead of $50,000 per bed (or more) to build bridge housing facilities, imagine what could be done with all the money we save. We might be able to help a lot of people get their lives back on track. Instead of feeding the insatiable excesses of the Homeless Industrial Complex, which helps a few but neglects so many.

Edward Ring

Edward Ring is a political and financial analyst, working primarily with start-up and early-stage organizations. In 2013, he co-founded the California Policy Center, a free-market think tank based in Southern California.
Edward Ring
Spread the news:
RELATED ARTICLES
Filter by
Post Page
Highlight Governor Legislature
Sort by

Gov. Newsom Appoints Leaders of Cities Overrun With Homeless to New Homeless Commission

Homeless are getting away with crimes lawful citizens would be arrested for
May 22, 2019 2:05 am

18

Homeless Spending in CA: Where is the Money Going?

Cities amassing grants and funding, while homeless populations only get worse
May 16, 2019 9:18 am

18

Will $1 Billion Spending on California’s Homeless Fix the Problem?

Cities amassing grants and funding, while homeless populations only get worse
May 14, 2019 4:47 pm

18

32 thoughts on “The Homeless Industrial Complex

  1. Leave the homeless be and nature will take its course. The homeless like their situation of being on the street. They have everything they need, each other.

    1. Unfortunately, working people often need to walk by these public health hazards to get to their jobs. I agree with the author that these “camps” need to be cleaned up.

    2. IF they required no taxpayer assistance, perhaps one could claim that we should leave them alone (though I disagree for the usual reasons). But since they are in reality usually wards of the state, we own them. We can do what we want with their choices of where and how to live. That’s the price of taxpayer dependence.

    3. Yes!
      Stop wasting taxpayer money. That’s what charity (non-government homeless shelters, rescue missions, etc.) organizations are for.

  2. A great and properly alarmist article — very informative to expose why the politicians et al have been non-responsive to what has become a dangerous situation — for the vagrants as well as for regular residents just trying to live their lives without threat of random attack and disease.

    Extremely impressed that Drew Pinsky came out swinging: “Here’s what I want to do, I want to take away qualified immunity from the politicians so we can go after them for reckless negligence.” YES! He sounds serious; hope he is. With Drew Pinsky in our corner, look out. This has become a public health emergency and must be dealt with NOW.

    With the wealth of information and analysis that has come out lately about the true nature of this scourge the public is catching on fast and apparently realizes they’ve been had. It looks like they can no longer be manipulated into feeling guilty and on the defensive. NIMBY protest at public meetings (formerly mocked) is now something to be proud of and respected. It exposes the true motives of our “leaders” and backs them against a wall.

    Good luck to all the scam artists involved in the Homeless Industrial Complex — you are making angry activists out of people who would otherwise be busy with their own lives and of little concern to you.

  3. I’m very concerned about the Black plague this summer. It’s also is carried by fleas. With the Da Mayor of LA doing nothing but playing politics with the taxpayers, he needs to focus and the Concrete Campers, who just might have to be inconvenienced for once, so the majority won’t become infected with Typhus or Plague.

    1. Not to mention that Assemblyman Bloom is pushing a bill to ban rodenticides . The furry carriers would be allowed massive reign to spread these wonderful diseases without any bars.

  4. Its now common to find uncapped needles, used condoms, human feces, shoes, clothes and general garbage on the beaches throughout Long Beach due to the coordinated efforts between community leaders, out of touch in denial activists and to some degree law enforcement. Homeless industrial complex is alive and well in Long Beach. California USA.

  5. Offer freebies & a Sanctuary from crime millions will come from all over the world. Destruction of CA and then the USA is what the communist democrats want.

  6. “…Demand creative solutions.”

    I did… where were you? HHH has a Civic Oversight Committee and if you want to be heard you need to know when and where these are happening (DTLA) and SHOW UP. Make your voices heard.

    1. Don’t worry Tom – they’re already here. Hollywood has more frigging tents propped around then base camp to Everest.
      It’s appalling really – I’ve stopped walking my kids to school (5 minute walk) because of the ‘encampments’ along the way, sometimes IN THE WAY. Seriously, when I have to cross the street to get up the road because a homeless person’s tent is literally blocking the side-walk, it’s gone too far. Don’t get me wrong – I’m all for helping these people, but living on the street is not the answer. And with the amount of taxes we pay in this state you’d think this would be something that could be handled, but clearly our leaders and governing bodies couldn’t give a crap or are completely incompetent. Sad state of affairs.

      1. I’ve seen the situation in Hollywood and it IS shocking. Now crime has gone way up too. And, as you probably know already, vagrants have become so bold they are breaking into uninhabited houses (because of remodels or being for sale) and living there. And it’s not so easy to get these squatters out either.
        Re the “leaders” and their cronies — it’s worse than not caring or being incompetent. We see big false shows of compassion but they are actually getting rich off the backs of the people they claim to be helping. That’s why they veer away from common-sense answers and following models that would work because it wouldn’t be in their interest to fix the situation — they have too much at stake

  7. A perfectly rational proposal that will be ignored by leftist politicians who secretly gain satisfaction from the homeless problem because it bolsters their narrative of an evil, uncaring America. Enjoy the coming epidemics.

  8. Incredible piece which provides insight into why this problem is being addressed in name only. Criminalfornia all like to call it has been morphed into, by the political leadership in concert with the ignorant voting populace, a mecca for criminals and homeless. Everyone is responsible for creating the environment which attracts this 3rd world squalor. It seems California manages to squander every well intentioned effort no matter how big or small because, well, that’s what they do and what everyone comes to expect. This is mismanagement at the very top folks, but remember, you voted for this so enjoy.

  9. So glad that finally people are starting to see through the BS of the Homeless Industry. And that there are different groups like drug addicts and criminal that don’t want help, just free hand outs. There are people getting rich off this and really don’t want to see a true cure, because that would mean their pay check will end. So much of the tax payers money is mismanaged and wasted. The majority of the Nations homeless are in California and Hawaii. This population needs to be broken up and spread back to the other states. There needs to be more housing in every state, not just California.

  10. Having been homeless in California, I can say that the overall cost of living and the general systemic abuses by employers that prevent easily earning enough to even rent a room makes it really difficult to say that the homelessness issue is entirely about choosing to live like that. I agree the solution is something we all need to recognize is our solution. I hadn’t heard any of these figures before but I am not surprised, as with everything else in California the cost is hyper inflated to line the pockets of the few who are already dealing with an abundance of money. I spent 10 years on the streets in Santa Rosa not because I wanted to be there but because as a aged out foster youth with no family to live with and a part time job that averaged out at $800 a month, while even rooms were regularly going for $600 how do you afford to rent a room and feed yourself when, you are ineligible for food benefits. The reality is there needs to be something there that’s at least reduces the risk of epidemics because they don’t just effect the homeless population they impact us all we have to recognize that, then take a stand to resolve the issue. Letting nature run it’s course is a bad idea as those outbreaks can easily impact the guys who walks past that encampment to got work everyday or the guy who got in line for coffee at Starbucks behind the homeless guy who hasn’t shown symptoms yet but is carrying a communicable disease. It isn’t and us and them problem it’s a them and us problem, in an all of us problem. Don’t bury your head in the sand and pretend it doesn’t effect you because if you can see it in your life than it is effecting your life.

    1. Andy,
      This is what you do:
      Go in with someone else and rent a place. Your rent will be cut in half!
      Get a box of oatmeal and cook some for breakfast. Easy, good, and cheap.

  11. Well researched article. I work in downtown Los Angeles and have been concerned about flea-borne illnesses with the number of homeless camps near heavily-traveled areas of Los Angeles. The big problem with Bubonic Plague is if it morphs into Pneumonic Plague (airborne). With so many people in close proximity it has the potential to spread well outside of the City of Los Angeles with all of the people that commute to Los Angeles from the suburbs. It could quickly spread into the adjacent counties. Something to think about.

  12. Bring back the workhouses of yesteryear. If you are living on the street, you must be enrolled in a workhouse. You get sober, clean, healthy, have housing, learn and practice a rudimentary skill, get paid, and eventually leave to rejoin society. It is “tough love time” for the homeless. In every animal society, individual value is demanded. If you do not add value over time, you are harshly removed from that society. We need to establish value in the homeless as the alternative is horrible.

  13. Simple solution to “the homeless problem”:
    Stop spending taxpayer money on them.
    Make them fend for themselves. There are private charitable homeless shelters and rescue missions they can turn to when they want a handout or to get help from when they finally decide to be productive citizens again and get back on their feet.
    Also, make them obey the law like the rest of us. Police should not let them block sidewalks with their tents.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *