Mon, Jul

Housing First: Dollars Too Many -- Data Too Little!


MARK, MY WORDS! - Damn that Middle Class! How dare they work hard to better their stations, climbing the economic ladder to a more comfortable life. Let us cast them back to the poverty from whence they came.

That’ll fix it!

But the fair minded and sane amongst us know better, don’t we? Taxing the middle class to fund a two decade long failed Housing First program will not only yield marginal desired results but will send the middle class running to other States or out on the streets to add to the homeless we already have.

California will be left with a population of publicly funded low-income residents, mentally ill and people addicted to substances. Who will be the resentful benefactors of your Idiocracy then?

(I’m talking to you Scott Wiener and Gavin Newsom!)

So, what’s the plan? To leave a meth addict in a house until they get sober or overdose? For how long? Where is the long-term data on these “success stories” we keep hearing about? Until shown otherwise, I am going to continue to believe what I have seen for myself. That is, without mandated adherence to behavior parameters and mandated rehab, they will just have a cleaner place to continue their substance abuse and likely eventually overdose; never mind the damage done by wedging experimental housing into neighborhoods that were previously thriving.

Let’s walk through an example. You put an addict in a publicly funded home to help them get sober. So, what happens if they don’t? The “right to housing” lobby would never allow evicting a person “experiencing publicly funded drug use” in California. So how long is the public expected to support their habit? Publicly funded programs must require some kind of effort by the recipient because everything else in life does.

The only effective and affordable way to fix the problem is mandatory rehab. Oh, dear lord, did I type that out loud? Here’s an idea: Rehab first, followed by a transparent, efficient and cost-effective post- rehab program, including temporary shelter and work training, in exchange for cooperation to the fullest extent possible. Legitimately mentally disabled will be subject to parameters and programs that best serve them. Permanent low-cost housing can only be built where it is affordable for builders to build, and in the appropriate housing markets.

Building “affordable” housing where it is not affordable is unsustainable and antithetical to a fair capitalist democracy. Yes, California is too expensive and is becoming more unaffordable for most people by the day. But the mythological premise that the public can afford to pay for permanent low cost or no cost housing, has been peddled for too long.

Forcing charity from taxpayers is not charity. It’s extortion, and it will eventually force regime change, throwing away the billions of dollars spent on unfinished programs that will surely be discarded by the new regime. The cycle of “hey I have an unproven idea to fix the homeless problem” will continue and golly, it will only cost untold billions more dollars in the process.

If California’s housing first initiative actually worked, would we not have seen results by now? And I mean see, not just be told by advocates over and over that it works. The majority of working-class Californians are already living month to month, it is long past time to change strategy and replace the willingly deaf politicians with public servants who understand that it is the people who they work for, not special interests, not lobbyists and not the loud fringe minority of keyboard-warrior screaming meemies bent on redefining democracy as “100% my way, NOW!”

Tired of hearing me rant yet? So is my wife. So do her a favor. Stop lying about the statistics and SHOW ME! Prove to me that the majority of homeless people aren’t mentally ill, physically impaired and/or addicted to drugs. Show me that those who are, once they are given a publicly funded house, will complete a rehab program, stay sober and eventually become a productive member of the community. And finally, show me the cost! The real cost of housing first along with real long-term statistics. I’ll settle for only a three to four year study. Until then, forcing one heavily burdened class of society to uplift another is not on the menu. Call me when tiny home villages are built next door to politicians and their wealthy donors.

I'm ok with bad ideas as long as I am not forced to abide by them. Claims of success of housing first models with no mandated rehab, fly against empirical observation throughout California. “Data driven” evidence means nothing to me if the overwhelming observable evidence tells another story. The continued increased homelessness alone should set off alarms and cast serious doubt on the accuracy of Housing First advocates’ data.

An alarming lack of understanding of the cycle of addiction by Housing First advocates gives me no reason to entrust them with a solution. Ask the people on the front line. The police, firefighters, residents and the homeless themselves. They will paint a picture for you of what is really happening on the ground. Hotels being destroyed, neighborhood residents being terrorized, the threat of encampment fires and crime rates consistently rising in the adjacent areas.

Any recovering addict will tell you that there is a critical difference between helping and enabling. Even if there were an effective way to convince substance abusers to get sober, the cost of rap-around services is unarguably astronomical at a time when government revenue is being allocated to everything but repairing and maintaining the quality of life for the lower and middle classes.

Housing First advocate groups publishing favorable “reports” over and over again and calling it data does not prove the success of the program. It only demonstrates the blind tenacity of advocates who want it implemented. Where is the actual long-term data on the largest groups of homeless in California; the mentally ill, the disabled and people addicted to substances?

“The first randomized trial of Housing First conducted in the United States found that Housing First did not lead to greater improvements in substance use or psychiatric symptoms compared with treatment as usual. Two Other trials have had similar findings on mental health, substance abuse, and physical health outcomes consistent with a National Academies of Sciences report that concluded the following of permanent supportive housing (which is a broader term that includes Housing First, and the report included the Housing First studies mentioned here): “There is no substantial published evidence as yet to demonstrate that PSH [permanent supportive housing] improves health outcomes or reduces healthcare costs.” The one exception is a randomized trial of Housing First that found improved health outcomes for patients with HIV/AIDS,3 so this may be an important subgroup that experiences health benefits from Housing First. A systematic review of randomized and non-randomized studies of Housing First also concluded that little evidence indicates that Housing First improves criminal justice outcomes.

Jack Tsai, PhD 2020

National Library of Medicine article

The housing first model has been around for two decades during which, Los Angeles and San Francisco have seen a steady rise in homelessness. Advocates say it works, but communities and observable evidence shows that it does not. Given the failure of California politicians to make any progress on homelessness, and their inability to admit when they are wrong, we must rely on empirical evidence and conclude that our observations are more believable than our policy makers’ grandiose claims and undeliverable promises.

Observe and talk to the homeless in your communities. You may find it difficult to interpret what you see as anything less than what it appears to be; a majority homeless population of mentally ill,

drug addicts or combinations of both. I know some won’t like my language here, but spending time re- titling drug addiction so as not to offend the perpetually offended is not something I’m interested in.

Let’s just say I’m a person “experiencing the end of my patience.”

(Mark Dutton is a lifelong musician, music producer, and writer. He was arguing politics with his parents since he was a pre-teen. Majored in psychology and left college in his 3rd year on a 30 year magic bus trip around the world playing and writing music with some of the best in the biz. Mark is a contributor to CityWatchLA.com.)


Get The News In Your Email Inbox Mondays & Thursdays