Why We Can’t Solve Homelessness

According to this article, the vast majority of people being pushed out onto the streets by America’s growing urban economies do not need dedicated social workers or intensive medication regimes. They simply need higher incomes and lower housing costs. The article goes on to claim that “The biggest hindrance to solving homelessness is that city residents keep demanding the least effective policies.”  Such as criminalizing panhandling and bulldozing tent encampments.

Alarmingly, the article finally states that “the only way to address the crisis is through a concerted — and costly — expansion of government assistance. And yet, even as homelessness becomes a defining feature of urban growth, no city in America can afford to meaningfully address it. Before the 1980s, most of the responsibility for low-income housing, rental assistance and mental health treatment fell on the federal government.  Since then, though, these costs have been systematically handed over to cities. And there are no signs that it’s going to get better. The economy is creating new homeless people faster than cities can house them.”

The entire article, and links to supporting articles, are worth reading, but IMO the key point being made is that homelessness can’t be solved at the local level.  In our local community, it’s clear that this is true.  So I have to ask, where is the federal or even state leadership?

Homeless Camp in Santa Cruz

Homeless camp in Santa Cruz, Winter/Spring 2019


One thought on “Why We Can’t Solve Homelessness

  1. A few thoughts:
    1. I do think problem resolution is better done at the local level vs. Federal level. But my guess is (I don’t have the right information to state conclusively) that the Feds turned the problem over to the states/Cities without any funding.
    2. No where have I seen a breakdown of the homeless by problem diagnosis (e.g. mental, drug, crime, housing costs, etc.) or alignment of proper programs to get folks on a path back to a productive situation (i.e. living on their own in proper housing). I see bits of programs on local news (e.g. Tiny homes for homeless) but I haven’t seen a ‘success story’ of where some one talks about how they were put on a path to success.
    3. Simply blaming housing costs is absurd in my humble opinion. Yes, more housing will drive down costs (greater demand vs. supply equilibrium) but if you can’t afford to live a certain place, go to where you can!


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