Thinking about… homelessness (and the ties that no longer seem to bind)

Some thoughts on the topic that cannot leave my mind at the end of 2017.

Less than a week ago the Sacramento Bee ran an article about my push for a $50 per year parcel tax in Davis, to raise money for services for homeless individuals in Davis.  We already have a program in place that has moved 7 homeless individuals into permanent housing over the past year.  It has also provided jobs for 6 previously unemployed homeless individuals.  Will there be some who drop out?  Yes, there will.

But the results are clear, and in a city of our size, they are considerable.

The only problem is that the resources we are using to support local non-profits to run these programs is a short-term (3-year) grant and if we are to continue it we will need a longer-term revenue stream.

But… based on the emails I am receiving, the posts on a local newsblog, and some postings on my own Facebook site, it is clear that $50 dollars is simply too much for local property owners to pay for these vital services.

Some thoughts, quotes, observations.

The median closing price on a Davis, CA home is $615,000.

One (apparently respected) business leader in the community has written that “Davis needs to determine how many homeless people it can serve and get rid of the rest…”

I am, according to what people have written, taking other people’s money to deal with a problem that is not theirs.  This shows that I am merely a “tax and spend” politician who penalizes “makers” at the expense of “takers.”  (Ayn Rand lives in the hearts of far too many Davisites is my take home message on this one).  Apparently, people should be able to decide whether or not they want to contribute to this problem but no one should have the temerity to require them to do so (did I mention that the proposed tax is $50 per year and that the median home closing cost is $615,000?). One CA columnist held out Houston’s mayor as an example of creative problem solving without taxation and then blithely added that Beyonce gave a cool $7 million to efforts to end homelessness there.  Hey, I will take that, and if Beyonce gives that amount I will bank it and run a full program on the interest…

One resident wrote that we must make Davis so inhospitable to homeless people that they leave.  Another suggested that if we spend money on the problem that another 100 or 1000 homeless people will flood our community.  Another said we cannot “solve” homelessness and so he will actively campaign against a tax.

(Note: In the annals of human history only one significant public health problem has ever been “solved.”  That would be smallpox.  All the others, from measles to malaria, are still with us (polio may be on its last legs but don’t bet on it).  So… the fact that we can’t “solve” them implies we should not spend money dealing with them?  I am just trying to understand the logic here.  Tell that to the hundreds of thousands of African children who are no longer dying of malaria since we decided to spend money on it.  And make no mistake, homelessness is first and foremost a public health problem.  It is not about moral turpitude or “bad decisions.”  Two hundred years ago cholera could not be solved but then safer water systems were put into place…)

Another local “leader” suggested that we need to (essentially) intern the “occupying army” (his words) of homeless people in camps on the City’s edge and make them work cleaning up the City.  (I am NOT going to comment on the implications of this)

Someone wrote to tell me that this is not “our” problem but that the state needs to step up.

Another said that this is a problem that requires a federal response (good luck with that).

Someone called homeless people “the animals that get into our trash cans.”

Davis went 75% for Dems in the last election.

Look, I get it.  Your lives are hard.  You are overtaxed and underappreciated.  You worked for yours and others should not suck off your teat.  Right?

Except… no…

  • Let’s talk about childhood trauma
  • Let’s talk about drug companies that facilitate the slide into opiate addiction
  • Let’s talk about the cheapness of meth (oh my god it is so cheap… cheaper than a movie for two and dinner and that will get you a week’s supply).
  • Let’s talk about felony convictions–the scarlet letter of our age.
  • Let’s talk about our collective decision to underfund mental health services for a generation and then we can discuss chickens coming home to roost.

So, here we are.  Lost souls living on the edges, in ditches, under bridges…  Do we really believe that this is “lifestyle choice” or the result of “bad decisions”?


But standing at the end of 2017 I must say that I would have thought that we would be far more enlightened at this point in time.  Instead, we have retreated into the gospel of personal peace and security where our savior is our sacred right to consume without guilt, live without social responsibility, and blame our social ills on the bad choices of a coddled population.

All the while, on the edge of your town a human being is reaching the end of a long road that was not at all like the road you had the privilege to walk.

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