Both online and in real life there seem to be two main positions that are the loudest. I’m not saying majority, but loud.

  1. All homeless are from here, just take a look at this survey. The housing prices are such that they just can’t afford to live here. We just need to give everyone a home and the problem is solved! GROUP HUG!
  2. All of homeless are just leeches on our society that came here for freeatle. They’re all criminals and need to get arrested and preferably put on a boat somewhere in the Pacific. BURN THEM! (yes, this came up in a recent thread on Reddit)

My gut feel is the majority of people just stand back while these two camps fight it out for some sort of intellectual victory. Of course, both are wrong, at least in large parts. Neither, in my humble opinion, has any real solution to the problem. Both groups are far too busy to “be right” than trying to solve the damn problem.

The thing is that neither group has any sense of nuance. Such all-or-nothing type of solutions tends to not work. It misses the fact that there is a lot of variability of various subpopulations of people who are considered homeless. There are many homeless who are couch-surfing on friends’ couches — I’m not talking about these folks for this post.

My view is that we need a zero-tolerance approach to the problem. Zero tolerance in my book looks like this:

  • Anyone who is camping or shooting up or selling street drugs immediately gets confronted by police.
  • An evaluation takes place.
  • If the person is homeless, they are given the option to go to a shelter (and we will ensure shelter beds are available). If they choose to not go to the shelter they can either pack up their stuff and move along or get arrested. Note that the first option is the preferred option by far. If the person chooses shelter we’ll store their stuff. If they choose to move along then the stuff they leave will be disposed of. If they choose to get arrested, then the prison system will store their stuff like every other inmate.
  • If the person is shooting up, they get arrested and taken in for treatment. Will this solve the problem? Of course not… but preventing people from ever hitting rock bottom prevents the needed changes from ever taking place.
  • Drug dealer or engaged in other criminal activities like property crimes: arrest and prosecution.
  • In cases of mental issues, we need to treat people. According to a recent report, the case worker interviewed is saying that 90% of the homeless are mentally ill. It simply is not humane nor progressive to just throw these people out on the streets. Some of these folks can be treated, some, unfortunately, just need to be locked up for their own safety and the safety of the community.

In short: enforce the laws we already have on the books.

This boils down to a carrot and stick approach to this problem. Right now we only have a carrot, and it’s attracting homeless from all over the country. (Yes, take a look at the news stories — every time there’s someone in hot water they almost always have moved here from elsewhere because we’re good to them) In addition to a carrot we need a stick as well.

You always hear about addicts and their recovery processes. In nearly 100% of the cases it involves hitting rock bottom. What we are doing is preventing that from ever happening.

It’s neither progressive nor humane to just leave people to sit outside like that.