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Deaths and Injuries of the Homeless in the East Bay

I find it particularly tragic when someone dies on the sidewalk, or while living in a tent or a vehicle, or in a camp in the woods. Particularly if they die young — which most all of these deaths have been:–  I have been trying to keep track of those homeless who have tragically passed away or been seriously hurt in this local area in recent times.  This article also lists criminal incidents related to homeless camps, which either effect homeless persons, or others.

(1) A woman named Laura Jadwin was found dead across from Berkeley High School in January 2017. https://www.eastbaytimes.com/2017/01/17/berkeley-police-identify-homeless-woman-found-dead-near-high-school/

(2) A man was fatally shot at an Oakland homeless camp under the freeway at 45th street, on September 5 2017, apparently in an argument over a stolen bicycle. https://www.mercurynews.com/2017/09/05/man-fatally-shot-in-west-oakland-7/

(3)A woman was found dead at the homeless camp at the Here/There sculpture in Berkeley, in October 2017. http://www.berkeleyside.com/2017/10/12/family-deaf-oakland-mother-found-dead-berkeley-homeless-camp-seeks-answers

(4) A fire occurred at a homeless camp in West Oakland on February 12 2018, killing one person there.Apparently this fire began in a plywood structure that someone had built as a makeshift house — which goes to demonstrate the danger of these wood structures, which many prefer to tents. https://www.eastbaytimes.com/2018/02/12/one-dead-in-blaze-at-west-oakland-homeless-encampment/

(5)A stabbing occurred at the Aquatic Park encampment on February 15 2018.

http://www.berkeleyside.com/2018/02/15/woman-found-stabbed-aquatic-park-berkeley/

(6) A man was found dead in a truck near 98th Avenue in Oaklandm, in February 2018. An article indicated deaths of homeless may not be tracked in Oakland. https://www.sfchronicle.com/bayarea/article/Deaths-of-homeless-people-go-uncounted-in-Oakland-12743919.php

In this article, one homeless woman names 5 other homeless she knew in her area, who had died in just the last year:

“Tamoo, Kilo, Chocolate, Spicey Mike, Ebo,” she said, just counting those she said died in the past year. Two were hit by cars, one was stabbed, another shot in the head. The latest perished in a fire. Their names were memorialized with sidewalk chalk until the rain came. It’s unclear whether they were marked as homeless in county death records.”Gravestones old

(7)A man’s body was found (deceased male) on Ashby Avenue near Bay Street (very close to the current homeless camp at Aquatic Park) on March 12 2018. http://www.berkeleyside.com/2018/03/13/man-found-dead-ashby-avenue-berkeley-near-aquatic-park

(8)And at an Oakland homeless camp in the vincinity of 2500 Embarcadero on March 9 2018, there was a hatchet attack that left one man injured. https://www.eastbaytimes.com/2018/03/10/man-hurt-in-apparent-hatchet-attack-at-oakland-homeless-camp-1-arrested/

(9)A homeless man was found deceased in the vincinity of homeless camp in the East Bay Regional Park district on March 16 2018. https://www.eastbaytimes.com/2018/03/16/body-of-apparent-homeless-man-found-in-east-bay-preserve/

(10)At a homeless camp in the area of 89th Avenue in Oakland, NBC news reports that it was discovered that someone in the homeless camp has apparently been mutilating German Shepherd puppies in May 2018. A dog rescue group discovered the mutilated animals. https://www.nbcbayarea.com/news/local/German-Shepherd-Puppies-Found-Mutilated-But-Alive-in-Oakland-483827031.html

(11)A man was fatally stabbed at a homeless camp at 5th and Webster Streets in Oakland in May 2018. https://www.eastbaytimes.com/2018/06/14/man-charged-with-murder-in-oakland-homeless-camp-fatal-stabbing/

(12) On September 10 2018, there was a large fire at the “Village” homeless camp in East Oakland, which destroyed the makeshift homes of about 37 people. Authorities also discovered a deceased man in a tent at the location, who was not killed by the fire, so apparently a man had been lying dead and rotting in his tent for days at this site without anyone to care or attend to the corpse. https://www.eastbayexpress.com/SevenDays/archives/2018/09/11/fire-at-the-village-homeless-camp-in-east-oakland-displaces-37

(13)A man stated that he had been shot at a West Berkeley homeless camp on September 17 2018. https://www.berkeleyside.com/2018/09/17/police-man-reports-he-was-shot-at-berkeley-homeless-camp

(14) A homeless woman was found dead on the sidewalk at Woolsey Street near Telegraph, on May 28 2018. https://www.berkeleyside.com/2018/05/31/woman-51-found-dead-on-berkeley-sidewalk

(15) A homeless man was found dead in Veterans Park in Berkeley in June 2018. https://www.berkeleyside.com/2018/06/22/man-39-found-dead-in-front-of-the-veterans-memorial-building-in-downtown-berkeley

(16) A homeless woman was found dead in a tent on Shattuck avenue, on October 4 2018. https://www.berkeleyside.com/2018/10/04/homeless-woman-found-dead-in-downtown-berkeley-on-thursday-morning

In addition, there have been several homeless killed by trains:

Homeless persons killed on train tracks:

(17)A homeless man was killed on the train tracks in Berkeley/Albany in 2014 as described here. http://www.berkeleyside.com/2014/03/17/breaking-person-hit-killed-by-freight-train-in-berkeley

(18)A deaf homeless man was killed on the train tracks in 2016 as described here. http://www.berkeleyside.com/2016/02/08/breaking-person-struck-by-train-in-west-berkeley

(19) Another man was killed by a train in 2016 as described in this article. http://www.berkeleyside.com/2016/12/03/man-dies-after-being-struck-by-train-on-berkeley-tracks

(20) A homeless woman was killed when crossing the train tracks in Berkeley in March 2018, as described in this article.
http://www.berkeleyside.com/2018/03/27/woman-struck-by-train-in-berkeley-killed

Gravestone crossHere are incidents which have involved crimes and harm to homeless or others, which have occurred in just one place in Berkeley, in People’s Park:

(21) Armed rape Berkeleyside article on armed rape in People’s Park,

(22)Drug dealing Berkeleyside article on drug dealing in People’s Park,

(23) Drug dealing with robbery Berkeleyside article on drug dealing with robber in People’s Park

(24) STrangers giving meth to children Berkeleyside article on strangers giving methamphetamine to children,

(25) Sodomization of a sleeping person Berkeleyside article on sodomization of a sleeping person,

(26) Attempted robbery and assault  Berkeleyside article on attempted robbery and assault,

(27) Deaths by overdose  Berkeleyside article on deaths by overdose,

(28) Random beatings Berkeleyside article on random beatings,

(29) Stabbings  Berkeleyside article on stabbings in People’s Park,

(30)More stabbings Berkeleyside article more stabbings in PEople’s Park,

(31) Robbery Berkeleyside article on robbery in PEople’s Park ,

(32)Assault Berkeleyside article on assault in PEople’s Park,

(33) Sexual Assault Berkeleyside article on sexual assault,

(34) Sexual battery Berkeleyside article on sexual battery in People’s Park,

(35) 3 people sent to hospital in People’s Park crimes. In July 2017, a “spate of crimes” at People’s Park sent 3 people to the hospital.  The place is exceptionally crime-ridden and is anything but a park for the people. It’s long been a park that attracts homeless and criminals.

 

RIP skeletal remains

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RV in the Face of Your City Councilperson

Many residents of Berkeley are fed up with how passive has been the response of Berkeley City Council members to nuisance caused by homeless camps or vehicle dwellers, and by the problem caused by all the RVs on the city streets,  and one has come up with a creative response to this problem, as shown in this GoFundMe project:

https://www.gofundme.com/policy-impact-rv

As stated on this GoFundMe page,

I am a concerned Berkeley resident that is growing tired of the surrender of our city to homeless encampments and makeshift RV parks. There is an RV in my neighborhood now and when I called the police they said that they are no longer responding to these calls, even though it is illegal to sleep in a vehicle on our streets. So, I am going to buy an RV and park it in 3 day increments in front of our city council members homes in an attempt to influence their position on this topic. Sadly I lack the resources to acquire this RV on my own, so am asking the community for assistance. When it is all over I will sell the RV and donate 100% of the sale proceeds to the BUSD cooking and gardening program.

I find this a delightful creative idea. Better yet might be to buy or rent a really battered up true zombie RV, one leaking various liquids onto the pavement, and set that in front of the council person’s home. That would be more realistic, and in line with the “3 or 4 daily horrors” which Linda Maio says Berkeley residents have been calling with, in regard to RVs in West Berkeley.

RVs in Berkeley article (2)People in Portland have this problem too, a real Zombie RV problem in that city: see the news story below.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BLazdkGvh24

Note that the news story indicates that one of the people associated with the trailer blight was a wanted felon, who was arrested, but a couple others associated with it still remain on site.

ZOmbie RV owner felon (2)

Zombie RV portland yecch (2)

Fortunately, this zombie wreck was finally hauled off, but it took WEEKS.

I’d like to reiterate an idea for what residents can do to prevent RVs or other vehicle dwellers from parking on the street in front of your home. Parklet two

parklet Some version of this parklet could be constructed on the street in front of your home.

It’s far more attractive to use the street for a parklet, than to have homeless vehicle dwellers living inappropriately on residential streets. Other options perhaps less costly or involved than the parklet include the “garden-let” which could easily be built by buying some large heavy planter pots and extending your garden into the street. One could of course use orange cones or construction signage to block the space in front of your home, but ideally you want something that can’t be moved by any random person. Another option would just be to have a big wedge of concrete plopped down on the street in front of your house, blocking anyone from parking there. Or construct a gated space, that allows only those who have a key for the gate to open it to park there.

None of these are exactly legal, but then, neither is camping on public streets. All these creative uses would make a comment to the city council about neighbors who’ve had quite enough nonsense. And uses which add to the neighborhood charm and keep out nuisance may be preferable for many than those which introduce nuisance and blight.

Seattle also has an ongoing problem with RVs on its streets which cycle off, through fines and towing, and then back onto the streets, as the towed vehicles are bought in auctions by others using them for the same purpose:   as shown here:

http://komonews.com/news/local/seattles-rv-auction-shuffle-has-towed-vehicles-appearing-back-on-the-streets

No, You Cannot Set a Tent on the Sidewalk and Keep it There: San Francisco Finally Gets Smart on Street Nuisance

The problem of nuisance caused by vagrants, homeless persons (often drug addicts), and homeless camps in San Francisco has been very bad for many years. In fact it’s been so bad that together with Skid Row in Los Angeles, San Francisco has been long showcased as a glaring example of how NOT to deal with the homeless problem — year after year of the same non-solutions, the same overtolerance and dopey enabling of homeless persons, vagrants and drug addicts, who often have no interest in receiving services or accepting offers of shelter, but just want to camp on sidewalks, cause nuisance and engage in drug use and crime. The resulting blight and filth has at times been spectacularly appalling.

SF calls re human waste

One news story about the problem of homeless drug addicts at the Civic Center BART station showed scenes that looked straight out of a zombie apocalypse movie. Other stories counted in the hundreds the piles of human feces a pedestrian would encounter on a routine walk through downtown. This New York Times story describes the “dirtiest block in San Francisco”, and explores how intractable the problem is in the Tenderloin district of San Francisco in particular.

The city has installed five portable bathrooms for the hundreds of unsheltered people in the Tenderloin, but that has not stopped people from urinating and defecating in the streets.

“There are way too many people out here that don’t have homes,” Ms. Warren said.

Over the past five years the number of homeless people in San Francisco has remained relatively steady — around 4,400 — and the sidewalks of the Tenderloin have come to resemble a refugee camp.

The city has replaced more than 300 lampposts corroded by dog and human urine over the past three years, according to the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission. Replacing the poles became more urgent after a lamppost collapsed in 2015, crushing a car.

Disputes among the street population are common and sometimes result in violence. At night bodies line the sidewalks.

“It’s like the land of the living dead,” said Adam Leising, a resident of Hyde Street.

 

In this video, it’s reported that the city spends $30 million a year JUST to clean up needles and human waste.  Most cities’ “poop patrols” deal with dog poop, but in San Francisco, the poop patrol scoops human poo daily. New mayor London Breed declared, “I will say there is more feces on the sidewalks than I’ve ever seen growing up here.”

Some conservative YouTubers have made videos mocking San Francisco over what a shithole it’s become, as in this video by Matt Christiansen, or this one by Paul Joseph Watson or this one, particularly the story about the legendary “twenty pound bag of shit” that was found on a street corner in San Francisco. 20 pounds human poo These are not emblems of the city by which to draw tourists and celebrate diversity and a colorful history.

So, it’s been long overdue to finally get around to taking an effective approach to this profound nuisance, and it appears that after many dilettantes, London Breed is finally the mayor who’s able to get tough and get smart. As reported in this article, Ms Breed has taken the common sense approach of cracking down on the sidewalk camps all over the city, sending out city workers to move these camps every single day. In the past, camps would be left for weeks or months, and once moved, would come right back and set up the very next day, such that the city’s intervention was pointless.

London said:

“Because someone refuses services doesn’t mean that we leave things the way they are,” she said in a recent interview with The Seattle Times. “Yes, we’re going to be compassionate and we’re going to offer support and help. But no, we’re not going to let you erect a tent on the sidewalk and keep it there. We’re going to ask you to take it down and, if you refuse, then we’re going to take it down.”

Washing streets in SF

Homeless and their advocates will argue that this is cruel. Some of the poorly informed will even argue that it’s unconstitutional — as did Steve in this post on the FTCFTH Facebook page. I dont’ know why it’s so hard for homeless advocates to understand the court’s ruling, as they so often misconstrue it. The court most definitely has not ruled that it’s unconstitutional to remove a homeless camp. Just consider for a moment what would be the consequences if any court in the nation actually made that ruling. You’d have to be a real idiot to not see the problems that would imply, and the total breakdown of law and zoning, health and safety in any city. No, the court’s ruling does not say that homeless camps cannot be removed, it says that people have a right to sleep in public places if there is no other shelter available. And the right to sleep overnight in a public place is most definitely not the same thing as the right to set up a permanent camp and appropriate public space on a permanent basis. At most, the right to sleep overnight would entail the right to occupy a space of the size needed to sleep, for 8 to 12 hours. But not 24 hrs, and certainly not for weeks and months at a time. As I’ve argued in many articles, limiting the homeless to what the courts have declared as their constitutional rights, instead of allowing them more space and time beyond that, would go a long way to reducing the nuisance we see in so many cities. And it appears that London Breed is finally a city leader who understands that. This may be because more of the homeless in San Francisco were drug addicts or criminals who refused help, than is the case in other cities…or maybe because the problem had just become too utterly disgusting. Or perhaps both.

Continually moving people along is the necessary “stick” to encourage the less cooperative to accept the “carrot” of offered services and/or shelter or permanent housing, something too many of the homeless and vagrants have no interest in. By making it much less pleasant to live on sidewalks, people are encouraged to get the message that they either need to accept help that’s offered, or get the hell out of the city and quit being an antisocial nuisance. More cities (like Berkeley, Oakland, Los Angeles, Seattle, Portland) would do well to follow the tough love model being taken up by London Breed in San Francisco.

Some homeless advocates and those stymied by the neurosis (it ought to be a DSM category) of enabling nuisance, will sometimes argue that it is pointless to chase people around from one spot to another — the nuisance will just move from one place to another.  Such arguments fail to recognize that the very process of frequent abating of nuisance is a deterrent, and that sometimes people become motivated to climb out of the toilet when, in addition to extending them a helping hand out, we make it more difficult for them to stay living in the toilet.  People sometimes argue that there have always been “free spirits” and those living on the margins, outside of social norms, and we should all accept this.  Yes, but those living “outside social norms” have not historically sat on the sidewalk in the middle of the city with their hand out, expecting to be compensated for causing nuisance.  In the past, they lived outside of cities,  in forests and hinterlands — and it’s still a much more suitable place for drug addicts to live in Slab City or some out of the way location, than on the sidewalk in a tent. It seems to me that compared to times past, “free independent spirits” have in modern times become more lame and dependent on the government and those they are literally shitting on, to support them.  I say, if you want to be a free independent spirit and do whatever drugs you want, go do that in some remote place where you’re not causing someone to trip over you on their way to work when you pass out on the sidewalk again.

In a forthcoming article, I’ll explore how I believe many who we could call “homeless by choice” are talking out two sides of their mouth.  While they on the one hand invoke the free spirits, hoboes, renegade tribes,  “outsiders” and independent vagabonds of times past as the romantic overlay to their layabout urban lives, on the other hand they refuse to “man up” to the true demands of such an outsider existence.

HOboes

Hoboes rode and wrote songs, they didn’t leave 20 pound bags of shit around. 

 

The talk about getting rid of police and the value of challenging the staus quo, but they run to their attorneys every time the city tries to clean up the mess they’ve made on the sidewalk or park.  They are all for being “free spirits” and off the grid, but they are afraid to live in true off the grid, extra-legal places such as Slab City, where arguments with other free spirits can result in a burned out motor home, or Cuidad Juarez where the police really are pretty impotent.  They want to be free to break laws, but at the same time they want to be protected from other people breaking laws and setting fire to their direlict vans and zombie RVs, as might occur in a true outlaw realm.  In sum, I’ll argue that all the chatter about being “free spirits” is often a veil of nonsense, and what these homeless-by-choice who settle in urban areas more often are is parasites, spongers who are incapable of creating their own way in the world and are dependent on handouts, freebies, and the charity of those afflicted with enabling neuroses.

This touches on another theme — which is, that many in Left Coast cities have lost the sense of what actually has made cities like San Francisco, Berkeley and Eureka colorful cities.  The color and vibrance comes from the arts, culture, eccentricity, new ideas, originality, vision, architecture, design, variety, diversity  — not from dirty bums on the sidewalks, drug addicts in the bushes, criminals stripping stolen bikes in a homeless camp under the freeway, people without a single useful skill living in a tent in the industrial district, insane people wandering around screaming on the sidewalks.  There are some artists among the homeless, but being homeless or a bum is not in and of itself of any value to society.  Not having any job skills or really anything at all useful to contribute, is also of no value to society, and is not something to celebrate or support in any way.

By all means, let’s help those who are suffering and need food, clothing, shelter — we can and should provide these things to all in need.  And we can do this in an organized, systematic way, coordinated at the state and national level, whereby we help lawful citizens first, and a limited number of refugees and asylum seekers with whatever resources remain, next.

But for those who don’t want help, and just want to cause nuisance, we should have very little tolerance.  So, in that respect,  good on London Breed, who’s begun the long overdue process of cleaning up the city of San Francisco, so that it hopefully can welcome tourists again without great embarassment.

Let it be your heart you leave in San Francisco. Not a twenty pound bag of poo. I left my heart in San Francisco: Photo by Flickr user-  TheGirlsNY

The Trouble with Using Parking Laws to Address Camping in the Streets

This premise is one that will strike most as common sense, and yet it’s a premise that many cities are having difficulty working into law: camping is not the same as parking. These are two different things.

If you’re in doubt about this, try driving into a National Park in the US, any National Park, and sleeping in your car or van or RV in a parking lot in that park, on any night of the year. You’re likely to be in for a rude awakening, oh, around midnight or so, when the park rangers come and shine a flashlight into your car, and wake you, and tell you that you’re camping, not parking, so you have to go. That’s what happened to this couple in the Grand Canyon Park.

Park Ranger

In many cities, though, this distinction between camping and parking has been lost. In part this is owing to the fact that the courts have clarified that people have to have a right to rest or even sleep in their vehicle, while traveling — (except, it would appear, not when in National Parks)— and so cities in California, at least cannot completely prohibit sleeping in vehicles, which for the homeless, is pretty much the same as “living in vehicles”. As I’ve pointed out elsewhere, however, this does not imply that cities cannot regulate sleeping/living in vehicles, limit it to certain areas, prohibit it in others, set up lots just for vehicle dwellers, or restrict the period of time for which persons could live in a vehicle in that city, absent special dispensation such as a permit. After its ban on living in vehicles was struck down by the court, this is what the city of Los Angeles did, it regulated living in vehicles, so that this activity could not be done just anywhere, but only within designated zones.

Many cities, however, including Oakland, Berkeley, and San Francisco, have simply stopped enforcing laws prohibiting vehicle dwelling, and not created any regulations on vehicle dwelling. The result is that in effect they have turned camping into parking, and if you talk to police or city leaders in these cities, what you’ll hear is that they are unable to address vehicle dwelling with any enforcement tools other than parking laws. And what this generally means, is just one law — the 72 hr parking rule, which prohibits parking in one spot for more than 72 hrs. So people can live indefinitely in vehicles on public streets, as long as they move every 3 days. Even if they just move back and forth across the same street.

Try that in a national park, and you’re likely to have the rangers tow your vehicle and find yourself in jail.

Now I’m not saying living in a vehicle should be prohibited, since it’s clearly a good way to go for those who are homeless, in fact probably the best way. But having no regulation at all on this matter is a problem. Consider:

(1) No regulation on which streets or areas a person could live in their vehicle — they could do this in residential as well as commercial areas, in front of your home as well as under the freeway overpass.
(2) No regulation on how long they can park in basicallly the same spot, as long as they move back and forth every 3 days.
(3) No regulation on how many people can live in their vehicles on any one street or in any one area, which leads to some of the scenes we’ve witnessed of entire city blocks and streets filled with RVs and vehicle dwellers.
(4) No regulation on how many people can live in the RV or on their life activities associated with this — eg, setting up a grill or sofa on the sidewalk next to it, washing their laundry on the street, dumping garbage or sewage on the street.

Even though many cities now have only parking laws to apply to mitigate the nuisance caused by people living in their vehicles in cities, applying parking laws to such people can cause other sorts of problems. Those bothered by the nuisance caused by vehicle dwellers may be angry that parking laws are too weak to deal effectively with this problem, but for the vehicle dwellers themselves, keeping up with the parking laws could be beyond their means to contend with. If they accumulate many parking tickets that they are unable to pay, they are at risk of having their vehicle towed. If their vehicle breaks down and they can’t afford to get it fixed, they can’t move it every 3 days, and are at risk of having it towed. It’s one thing for an ordinary citizen to have our vehicle towed — likely costs a minimum of $1500 to get it back — but for a poor person living in their car, this barrier could be too high, and the loss of their vehicle is not just the loss of their car, but the loss of their home.

In fact, for a homeless person living in their vehicle to have that vehicle towed away by the city, is so onerous a problem, that this issue has been brought to court at least twice. In one case in Washington, a man living in an truck fought back when it was towed, and the court ruled that his vehicle was a “homestead”. In a San Francisco case, a man named Sean Kayode living in his car found it was towed, could not afford the fees to reclaim it, and is suing to get it back. His attorney declares the towing and seizure of his vehicle to be unconstitutional.

SEattle man living in truck

These cases reveal a problematic catch-22 type situation for cities, and demonstrate the need to cope with homelessness in a more thoughtful and pro-active way that by merely passively tolerating camping all over the city street, contenting themselves that excesses and problem situations will be abated by parking law enforcement.

For if Sean Kayode succeeds in court, this could set a precedent which demonstrates something that cities are disingenuously failing to concede, namely that camping is not the same as parking, that people who use their vehicle as a residence should not and cannot simply be regulated by parking laws. For on the one hand, as I’ve pointed out in other articles, camping in the streets creates problems that mere parking does not. But on the other hand, as these court cases show, if it can be demonstrated that even mere enforcement of parking laws (and the towing of vehicles that is associated with such enforcement) is excessively punitive or harsh for the vehicle dwellers, or “unconstitutional” in any way, with regard to the homeless, then this would weaken even further cities’ already diminished ability to have any means of curtailing nuisance or problems caused by vehicle dwellers in public streets. It would mean that cities could no longer rely on parking laws to abate nuisance caused by vehicle dwellers, because those vehicle dwellers could shout “I’m poor, the court says I dont’ have to follow parking laws becuase I can’t afford to pay the fines for violations.” Parking ticket

In essence, all these things bring us back to the point of this article: which is that camping in the street is not the same as parking in the street, and you will get into various kinds of trouble if you pretend these things are the same. Cities need to stop dealing with this matter passively by turning to parking laws to regulate large-scale camping in the streets. Instead they need to be pro-active and find ways to regulate vehicle dwelling in public places, so as to succeed both in mitigation of nuisance in neighborhoods and city streets, as well as in creating options for the homeless and places for people to rest or stay for a temporary period of time.

Homeless Camps and Bike Theft

Many have noted that there is a correlation between homeless camps and bike theft. Not that all homeless or all homeless camps are involved with bike theft — but that a significant proportion of homeless camps contain what may be euphemistically described as “bike carcasses”, and function as “chop shops”.

I want to present some case stories and evidence about this problem, which, along with other problems associated with homeless camps, is too often swept under the rug both by city governments and homeless advocates, who want to portray the homeless as nothing but “economic victims” of gentrification and the economy, or as elderly or disabled or otherwise in need of nothing but compassion and help. The truth is more complicated — and there’s a need for a study about the amount of crime associated with homeless and homeless camps, as the degree of crime related to homeless camps is quite large.

Here are some stories about bike theft and homeless camps.

Begin with a situation in Seattle, reported here: https://old.reddit.com/r/SeattleWA/comments/8enrcn/ive_had_three_bikes_stolen_off_of_my_property_in/

Seattle homeless camp chop shop

where a man living not too far from a homeless camp, had 3 of his bikes stolen. It outraged him that he could easily see dozens of “bike carcasses” at the nearby homeless camp, but though he called the city multiple times to have them check it out, they essentially refused to do so, citing procedural obstacles.

In Orange County in 2017, as reported in this blog and this article, and this one, over 1000 bicycles were found in a tunnel in the Santa Ana Homeless camp, a huge camp over a mile long that was finally cleared out in 2018.

Bikes in tunnel Santa Ana River trail

The blog article on this matter points out that another homeless camp is being “given sanctuary” from searches, which may well support criminal activity. Really BAD idea to keep law enforcement out of homeless camps!

OC Public Works crew members were performing clean-up maintenance on the flood control property (removing debris and trash). A crew member saw a pile of dirt and observed a small section of carpet on the ground. When the carpet was removed, the crew member discovered a small wood cover and, upon lifting the wood, discovered it led to wood steps to the underground compartment. Whomever built the compartment used wood for the steps and for support beams in the underground compartment. It’s approximately a 5-10 ft square area and about 6 ft high. It was discovered on flood control property on the back-side of the levee (opposite side from the cement channel).”

The discovery of the bunker and enormous cache of stolen bikes raises the question of what might be found in the much larger homeless encampment by Angel Stadium, which stretches for approximately two miles from Ball Road south to the I-5 freeway. Inhabitants of that encampment currently enjoy the sanctuary from enforcement actions thanks to the settlement agreement imposed by federal District Court Judge David O. Carter.

The discovery of this cache also, as stated, give the lie to the claim that the criminals are only a small number of the homeless: “the discovieries at the Fountain Valley encampment further erode claims by homeless advocates that criminals are only a small portion of the population of the SART homeless encampments. ”

Meanwhile, in Portland Oregon, as stated in this article, a drug arrest at a homeless camp led to the discovery of more than $5000 in stolen bike parts.

And in Olympia, WA, as stated in this article, stolen bikes and parts were found at a homeless camp.
Homeless camp bike Olympia 1 (2)

Detectives said they recovered numerous stolen bicycles and bike parts at one of the homeless encampments in the city – marking one of the latest trends in this crime spree.

This article explains that stolen bikes have been found in homeless camps on a consistent basis, meaning, it’s a regular feature of homeless camps. In that sense, many “homeless individuals” (who are more accurately described as criminals who happen to be homeless)  should be viewed as a blight on a community and indeed as social/criminal predators, not as vulnerable people in need of community services and support.

This sense of the inevitability of a connection between homeless camps and stolen bikes is also expressed in this article, where a Long Beach Councilwoman said  that ““Every time you go to an encampment, or a place where homeless gather, you are just inundated with bike parts,” she said. “It’s clear that the bike parts are being used as currency to purchase drugs.”  This councilwoman was smarter than most, and actually sought to create laws that would make it more difficult to engage in sales of stolen bikes:

Price’s proposal offers a possible method of getting around that problem by prohibiting activities that may go along with a bicycle theft. It may not be immediately provable that someone selling a cache of bicycles on a Long Beach sidewalk is trying to make a profit off of stolen goods, but Price’s request would make it illegal for someone to sell bicycles or bike parts—stolen or not—on public grounds.

“It deters bike theft for sure, because in order to have a chop shop, you need to steal bikes,” Price said.

Price is asking the City Attorney’s office to draft an ordinance that may eventually be voted into law.

Here’s what she would like to see the city’s legal team incorporate into a new law:

  • A ban on selling five or more bicycles on public property. Additional prohibitions would apply to such actions as putting together, taking apart, distributing or storing more than five bicycles in this manner.
  • Extending the above-prohibited activities to any bicycle frame missing its gears or cables, or with its brake cables cut. The ban would also apply to anyone with three or more bicycles that have missing parts, as well as anyone trying to deal, store or distribute five or more bicycle parts.
  • City support for legal bicycle repair spots.
  • Exemptions for people working for a bona fide business or who repairing a single bicycle while its owner is present.

In the Portland area, the Springwater Corridor in particular is reknowned for bike thefts and chop shops in homeless camps, as described here. On one random day, police took a ride along the 21 mile bike path, and found multiple stolen bikes and bike stashes during their ride.

In Honolulu Hawaii, police seized many stolen bikes from homeless camps, as reported here.  

A homeless camp in Vancouver is full of bike parts, and a local cyclist accused camp members of stealing bikes.

IN Fairview near Anchorage, homeless camps are typically full of bike parts, as reported here.

IN San Diego, CA, a major cleanup of a homeless camp led to the discovery of bike thieves stripping bicycles, as reported here.

A major cleanup of a trash-filled, one-acre homeless encampment began Wednesday morning along the San Diego River, where thieves were stripping hundreds of stolen bicycles for recycling…..Police estimated there were parts to 500 bicycles stacked and strewn throughout the site.

Homeless camp San Diego bikes

In Calgary, Canada, as described here

Homeless camp Calgary stolen bike (2), irate residents had had quite enough when they discovered their own stolen bikes in a nearby homeless camp, and when police would not respond to their calls for enforcement on this issue. SO they took matters into their own hands and went and retrieved their own property which had been stolen by the homeless campers.

Journalists in San Francisco went to investigate about where stolen bikes end up. They discovered multiple homeless camps under freeways that were processing these stolen bikes, as reported here. See the video about it here: https://abc7news.com/video/embed/?pid=731968

Under the freeway, there are dozens of chop shops and homeless encampments where bikes and parts are piled up….During the investigation, the I-Team watched people rifle through bags, fumble with piles of cellphones and witnessed people buying, selling and doing drugs right out in the open.

To see how easy it is to get a bike from one of these camps, the I-Team took hidden cameras to the scene to buy a bike at a good deal. Within minutes the I-Team got an offer.

One of the men at the chop shop told us we could take the bike for a ride. After we returned, the man tried to close the deal by asking how much we felt like paying. We offered the man $60 and walked away with a bike worth nearly $500….one homeless man said, “We’re hustling to survive out there because obviously we’re homeless and we try to make it on the streets.”

Pulouoleola told the I-Team he turns 15 bikes a day and will sell a $200 wheel for $40. He knows most of the bikes he buys and sells are stolen.

Another article reported a bike thief living at a homeless camp in Northampton MA.

Back across the country again, police in Venice Beach CA continually find homeless camps full of stolen bikes and bike parts, as reported here. You can see some of the stolen bikes in this photo:
Homeless venice bike theft

And Police in Petaluma, CA are overwhelmed by the homeless camps full of stolen bikes in that city, as reported here.

Petaluma police say homeless encampments have become a bigger problem in the small city than they have been in 20 years.

In a recent police survey, officers found 34 active illegal encampments in the city, and police said these encampments pose a threat to public health and safety and the environment.

Police said the encampments are a haven for illegal activity, including violations related to narcotics, alcohol, weapons, stolen property, sexual assault, theft and vandalism.Officers arrested 28-year-old Ervin Osman from Spokane, Washington, on active warrants and found him to be in the possession of a stolen bicycle.

The $1,300 Cannondale bike had been stolen from a store on English Street in Petaluma. Police reunited the bike with its owner and Osman was booked into the county jail.

In Oakland, CA, a bike theft was the motive in a homeless camp killing, as described here.

A bike chop shop was discovered at a Culver City homeless camp, as described here. Culver city homeless camp bikes

IN another story, a stolen bike was located at a SEattle area homeless camp.

This article describes how Santa Cruz officials recovered stolen bikes at homeless camps in that city.

Unsanctioned camps are often dangerous places, quite full of crime, even dangerous for area residents to bicycle through, as one Santa Rosa resident discovered, when he was beat up by homeless campers as he tried to bike along a city bike path. In the article about this, it’s stated that police made 15 to 20 arrests at that camp in a period of just 1.5 weeks. This makes it abundantly clear that this camp, and doubtless many like it, are more accurately described as camps of criminals, rather than as camps of “homeless” persons.

In this article about homeless people in Anchorage, which pointedly questions whether these people are homeless or homesteaders, it’s pointed out that these homeless/homesteaders tend to consider the public property where they are located as their private property, and make a living from theft:

There is a belligerence in the folks that are living here. If you walk into a camp, the general response is ‘What are you doing on my property?'” Rhoades said.

In addition to living in the park illegally, “they steal bikes from surrounding areas and chop them up or sell the components, or they make one bike that’s resalable for a good amount. Clothing, coffee makers, computers – there’s just an endless supply of things people have gotten from other people’s homes,” Rhoades said.

This article takes a more in-depth look at how homeless camps function as bicycle chop shops. It includes this video which shows people chopping up bikes in broad daylight: https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=3&v=AXEyLBq4pNM

Note in that video, that the men processing the stolen bikes demand that the man making the video go away, and they say “we do not want to be recorded.”  In other words, they are basically saying, “Just let us commit crimes here and do our illegal stuff and go away and leave us alone.”  Well if you don’t want to be recorded, then f-ing quit engaging in criminal activities and stealing bikes, you dimwit dolts!   My only regret is that it wasn’t an undercover police officer recording them, but only an ordinary citizen.

Kingpin of BIke thieves:

Kingpin of bike thieves

People arrested and numerous stolen items found in a Carpinteria homeless camp: https://www.keyt.com/news/crime/two-suspects-arrested-and-numerous-stolen-items-found-in-a-carpinteria-homeless-camp/758756701

Here’s a blog about where stolen bikes go…conclusion…they go to homeless camps, like one at 7th and Market, or one in the bushes at Golden Gate Park.

After striking out at Seventh and Market, I figured it was time to investigate the chop shops Veysey mentioned. The San Francisco Bicycle Coalition (SFBC) reports bicycle chop shops operate all over the city. Thieves strip bikes because the parts (unlike the frames) don’t have serial numbers and can’t be traced as stolen once they are removed from a bike. The parts can be sold individually or put on another stolen bike to disguise it, hence the Frankenstein bikes that show up at the Bike Hut.

When Veysey told me about bicycle chop shops, I pictured something from a ’70s cop movie — a warehouse in an industrial district populated with burly men wielding blowtorches. But the trail led me somewhere else entirely: Golden Gate Park.

SFBC officials said they had received reports from a gardener about chop shops in the park. When I called Maggie Cleveland, a Recreation and Park Department employee responsible for cleaning up the park, she said they do exist and would show me what she thought was one if I threw on a pair of gloves, grabbed a trash bag, and joined one of her cleanup crews. I agreed.

Shortly before 8 a.m. on a foggy, chilly morning, the crew and I picked up mechanical grabbers and industrial-size trash bags and then climbed a steep hill near 25th Avenue and Fulton Street on the Richmond District side of the park. We plunged into a large camp in the middle of a hollowed-out grove of acacia bushes.

The camp looked like a sidewalk after an eviction. Books and papers vomited from the mouth of a tent. Rain-soaked junk littered the camp, including a golf bag filled with oars, an algebra textbook, a telescope, and a portable toilet. A hypodermic needle stuck in a stump like a dart and a gaudy brass chandelier swung from a branch. Amid the clutter was one constant: bicycles and their parts.

A half dozen bikes leaned against bushes in various states of repair. There were piles of tires and gears scattered around. The noise of the crew had awoken the residents of the camp. A man and two women sprung up and immediately tried to grab things as the crew stuffed the contents of the camp into trash bags. They grew more and more agitated as two dozen bags were filled.

The former GIlman St Underpass homeless camp in Berkeley was full of bike parts, likely stolen….as reported here. Bike parts Gilman st camp

Sometimes it’s even possible to see the bike chop shops just by sitting at your home computer, driving along on Google Earth,as I did when I found this bike chop shop homeless camp at 6th and Alice streets in downtown Oakland. The evidence had been preserved by the Google Earth drive by! Google Earth homeless chop shop Oakland 2 (2)Google Earth homeless chop shop Oakland 3 (2)

Summary

In conclusion, instead of blindly lumping all those who happen to be homeless into the same category of people who we view as “economic refugees” from a heartless campitalist system, I think a much better and more accurate way of looking at homelessness involves recognizing the sharp differences between types of homeless people and reasons why people end up in this circumstance.

We also should begin being more outspoken about the fact that a significant number of those we call “homeless” are simply criminals, who are quite likely homeless as a result of their criminal activity, and/or have become criminals to support a serious substance abuse problem. To refer to these as “homeless” is really missing the point — it would be like referring to those engaging in child sex abuse as part of the group of “people with unusual hobbies.” That people are criminals is a far more pertinent issue and concern than the fact that they dont’ have a standard residence, and in fact having criminals living in the bushes in the local city park is quite possibly a much bigger problem than if those same criminals lived in a house in that city.

As well, often it seems that we collectively have forgotten that criminals often tend to live on the outskirts of society, as individuals or in roaming bands.

This YouTube video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w2HE3TxJ79M makes the excellent point that quite a number of people living in RVs and “off the grid” around the nation, are doing that mainly because they are criminals and have been rejected by mainstream society. These people make life dangerous for the ordinary folk (like the creator of this video) who are wanting to go nomadic and live an RV life to experience the freedom associated with that lifestyle. The woman who made this video had such serious problems with criminals and people harassing her and making her feel unsafe when she “went nomadic”, that she gave up the RV life because of this, and made this video to articulate just this point and these dangers.

News articles: Stolen bikes and homeless camps

http://beta.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-stolen-bikes-20171130-story.html

http://katu.com/news/local/drug-arrest-at-portland-homeless-camp-leads-to-more-than-5000-in-stolen-bikes-parts

http://komonews.com/news/local/olympia-police-find-stolen-bikes-and-parts-at-homeless-camp

http://www.kiro7.com/news/bike-rack-chop-shop-growing-trend-theft/19109613

http://www.kgw.com/news/local/police-ride-springwater-corridor-to-find-stolen-bikes/284582528

http://www.anaheimblog.net/2017/11/17/underground-bunker-constructed-by-homeless-and-stash-of-1000-bikes-discovered-on-santa-ana-river-trail/

http://www.kolotv.com/content/news/1000-bikes-found-beneath-Southern-California-homeless-camp-458497213.html

http://www.houstonchronicle.com/news/article/1-000-bikes-found-beneath-Southern-California-12368315.php

http://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/news/public-safety/sd-me-river-trash-20170426-story.html

http://koin.com/2016/06/24/drugs-stolen-bikes-found-at-se-homeless-camp/

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/calgary/inglewood-thefts-spur-citizen-action-1.3295651

http://abc7news.com/news/i-team-uncovers-where-stolen-bikes-in-san-francisco-go/726503/

http://sfist.com/2016/08/15/sfpd_seeking_locations_of_mission_b_1.php

http://www.gazettenet.com/Archives/2014/07/HomelessCamp-hg-071514

https://yovenice.com/2017/05/02/the-life-and-time-of-bike-crime-in-venice-beach/

http://www.wweek.com/news/2016/06/25/portland-police-arrest-man-with-6000-worth-of-bike-parts/

https://patch.com/california/petaluma/homeless-camps-overwhelming-petaluma-police-0

Videos of homeless people, camps in Berkeley and Oakland

I thought it would be helpful to compile videos that others have done of homeless people and homeless camps in the East Bay, primarily Berkeley and Oakland. Many of these include interviews with homeless persons.

Berkeley

Drive by of 2nd street homeless camp Jan 2018: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=epj8u8JPhKc

Here is one where some people interview homeless who formerly lived at the 2nd Street camp in Berkeley:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B1Tg2dlr1lc

INterview of one 4th street homeless camper: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iGtBb_pkJDg

This is a video where a man interviews several homeless in Berkeley: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZFOvu1omU2M

Homeless living on Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=23lMpeUBRHo

Some on Telegraph: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wZhA1jxVodQ

HOmeless in Berkeley in 2011: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zwJfp0wI5Wg

Various homeless in Berkeley in 2013: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7AZkqNh1Hl8

Student homeless: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=49NDe1eg9t4

Homeless in Berkeley: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aPMpoSUTnvg

Panel discussion: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uQRnorJJCCE

MIke Zint https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ciDBSliXxOY

People’s Park https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=baJ3FWyljCc

There are also a lot of videos of parts of Berkeley City Council meetings on Homeless issues.

NEWS:

Berkeley SEeks to evict RV dwellers from Marina: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v8uP4O4YffQ

Berkeley celebrates opening of Navigation Center: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BjfDp-Bu4x0

Berkeley homeless camp sues BART over eviction plans: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_x3d7C6_WHk

Kindra Martin, houseless in West BErkeley: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=reoi_lyVilM

Investigative report BErkeley Homeless Shelters: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aE8LFwqrJsc

Oakland

Woman goes to interview various homeless in Oakland: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QKpkq081lsc&t=1523s

Short video about Oakland homeless: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W29L94lTxqI

Interview with one homeless man in Oakland https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mszXCyRlHdg

Summary of statistics on Oakland homeless: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u3BI8H2LsTk

Drone view of homeless camp https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x67YP2zia2M

SEventh St Oakland https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-VLgmAoQOXY

Oakland Tuff Shed camps, Mayor Schaaf speaks: https://vimeo.com/281000566

News stories:

Oakland Homeless Camps no longer hidden 2016:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nc3qKoHU0FE

Neighbors grow weary after latest fire at Oakland Homeless camp: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Oy_ATNFNbSM

At issue: sheltering Oakland’s homeless December 2017: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UdMlkxYzHEg

Oakland transforms homeless camps into shelters: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lg8iAsi8qBs

Oakland shuts down “The Village” homeless camp Feb 2017: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W8uZShe8mxY

Dozens booted from Oakland homeless camp Aug 2017: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JQC0RlevhtU

Trash from homeless camp piles up next to high school Jan 2018:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ECEB6P6vzsk

Oakland Homeless family August 2017: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zo5kHGeWULM

Massive West Oakland encampment spills into streets: March 2017: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s0hNXCpdzds&t=16s

Why Won’t the Homeless Pick up their trash? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V2WsrJdvti8&t=3s

Oakland wrangles with solution to dumping problem at homeless camps:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dQqusQgJrg4

BAY AREA

Bay Area Homeless, Concern or Crisis, Part 1, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dCaOeyjHgaE

In this video, they say that there are 30,000 homeless people in the Bay Area. THey say that half of the homeless in Alameda County, are in Oakland.

Bay Area Homeless, Concern or Crisis, Part 2
https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=1&v=K5J22vkzdaI

Guaranteed Shelter for All? All Will Come…

I would like to see us collectively get to the point where no one need be homeless, except by choice. I would like to see us get to a point where everyone who needs shelter, is given shelter. This shelter that homeless individuals are offered need not be elaborate, it could be rudimentary. But this is something that we CAN do collectively — if not in buildings, we can set up large circus tents with cots. We can create the equivalent of migrant or refugee camps that existed during the Depression Era in the United States. We CAN do something.

But at the same time as I believe that we can and should provide basic shelter for everyone who needs it, I also believe that this must be done at a state or national level, preferably national. I would like to see a federally organized network of homeless shelters set up across the country, and anyone who becomes homeless at any time, could sign up online or at the nearest homeless services office, and be directed immediately to the shelter nearest their location which had space.

As well, I believe that there is a problem with over-dependency on government in our nation, and this needs to be considered in connection with the providing of shelter, and certainly in terms of providing housing or housing subsidies.  One way of addressing the level of entitlement and over-dependency in our nation, while simultaneously attempting to help people, is to help them without making them too comfortable with the free help they are receiving.  Being kept from dire suffering is important, but being given too much is a problem.  Homeless services and advocates often do not have this ethical issue in their mindset.  This is a problem.  Ways to provide help to the homeless or poor, without making them overly dependent, could include providing shelter, but only rudimentary shelter.  Providing shelter, or housing, but not in the place the individual prefers to live.  Providing shelter, but requiring that individuals receiving this give back for what they have received, by doing some type of work, to the extent they are able, in exchange for what they have been given.  Providing subsidized housing, but only for a limited duration of time, after which point, if the individual hasn’t been able to get a job and provide for themselves, they will be returned to much less comfortable rudimentary shelter, and thus taught that if you dont’t start making efforts to stand on your own two feet, you won’t get much support from government.  All these kinds of things can build dignity and help mitigate against excessive dependency.  This is not freedom

Currently,  most all homeless services and shelter services in the nation are organized and provided by individual cities, or counties, and this can easily lead to problems when one city or county takes a more generous approach, offers better or more services, or more shelter, than neighboring cities/counties, or even states.

Portland is a case in point.  In this article in the Seattle Times, the author demonstrates how Portland, intending to solve the problem of homelessness in its city by offering shelter for all homeless, ended up trying “something that had never been tried”, and ended up making a big mistake, one that may plague that city for some time to come.  As a result of this very generous offer to shelter anyone in need, what Portland got was:

More people needed shelter than they expected, in part because data show that Portland’s no-turn-away shelters drew people from other counties, and even other states. Less than half the families who checked into the shelter said their last address was in Portland or Multnomah County. The policy ended in October with a blown budget, overflowing family shelters and nearly 100 families staying in motels, with the county footing the bill.

Washington D.C. and New York City also offer shelter to nearly all comers, though they were a bit more restrictive, and this helped prevent a flood of homeless from other areas pouring in.

Washington, D.C., has the closest thing to what Portland tried. The district has promised shelter during the winter for decades. But starting around the same time as Multnomah County, the district began sheltering families year-round.

District officials quickly recognized a problem, however. The surrounding suburbs didn’t have a right to shelter, and were only a quick subway ride away. From October 2016 to September 2017, 174 families came in from outside the district asking for assistance, so officials started requiring families to provide documentation showing they were district residents before becoming homeless.

Unlike D.C., Kafoury refused to turn anyone away in Portland.

New York City also houses all its homeless — now numbering over 60,000 — at great expense.  This program has its critics, such as the author of this article in the New York Post.  He points out that the city is spending enormous amounts of money, and handing over easy profits to developers, in an eagerness to plop down new, expensive homeless shelters and homeless housing in random areas of the city.  He points out that at least 10% of those being given not only free shelter, but free housing, are from out of town:

Lax admissions opened the floodgates to “homeless” families from far beyond the city itself. As Nicole Gelinas wrote in The Post, “New York is one of the only places in the country, by inclination and court order, that will give a free apartment to any family from anywhere in the world” if they try hard enough.

Of the 60,000 people in the homeless system, more than 6,600 are from out of town. That figure is certain to swell as word spreads that jobless, unstable drifters might luck into a room at a nice hotel or new apartment building.

As well, a great many — more than 10% of New York’s homeless — are being put up in hotels, at great expense to the city and its taxpayers.Homeless in a hotel

Meanwhile, Homeless Services has made an incredible 425,000 hotel bookings for homeless families costing taxpayers $72.9 million in a single year, city Comptroller Scott Stringer reported. Nearly 8,000 homeless now stay in hotels.

Not all seem grateful for it. Homeless residents at a DoubleTree in the Financial District had the chutzpah to complain that the neighborhood where they’re living for free is too expensive. “We live out of Burger King,” one told The Post.

I agree with the author, this approach seems too expensive and too simplistic. The assumption is being made that all these people, who happen to be present in New York City, should be sheltered there, even though it’s far more expensive to live in New York City than many other places. It makes more sense to build shelters — or indeed elaborate camps, serving as shelters — in places where land is more abundant and/or rent is less expensive. I would like to see a program that moved homeless people out of areas where housing is expensive and sheltered them in places where they can be sheltered at lower cost, preferably in areas like the Central Valley in California where agricultural jobs are available so that they can find work on farms.

Another problem in New York City is that it’s difficult for those being housed in shelters to find standard housing, because landlords (no surprise) prefer not to rent to people with poor credit scores, or who have no job, or who have been homeless or perhaps were evicted from their last apartment for nonpayment of rent. This article presents this issue as “landlord discrimination” which is a prejudicial and unfair way of discussing an issue which is better described as “reasonable business practice.” Given the costs and indeed serious problems which can be associated with bad tenants, landlords need to screen tenants and select carefully.

As housing for the homeless becomes a huge industry, corruption can occur. Some companies are moving in to create cozy relationships with the city to win lucrative contracts, and there may not be enough oversight about where the money is going, as this article suggests:

At the unit along Decatur Avenue owned by Eisenstein, for example, Apex and Childrens Community Services failed to pay more than $15,000 in rent, even though case files show the city issued thousands of dollars’ worth of checks to cover the cost. In another instance on East 190th Street, court documents indicate Childrens Community Services cashed $20,000 in city checks, but tenant attorneys say the money was not used to pay the landlord. At an apartment on Grand Avenue in the Bronx, another owner said it was owed $15,000 for nearly a year’s worth of back rent….”Essentially, the city will end up paying double,” said Lucy Newman, an attorney with Legal Aid who has been involved in several cases.

Another problem is where New York City puts its shelters….some neighborhoods like Blissville feel they are unfairly burdened with homeless shelters, and fear a transformation of their whole community with the influx of too many homeless.

Gavin Newsom, former mayor of San Francisco, who knows something about trying to work on the homeless problem, stated recently in a San Francisco Chronicle article that the solution to the homeless problem will not come from pouring more money into it. Gavin Newsom

His experience has demonstrated to him that, in fact, putting more money into the problem will make it worse, because the more you do for the homeless in any one particular city (above what is being done in neighboring cities) the more you attract homeless to that city to take advantage of those services and programs, shelter, etc:

Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom told Bay Area business leaders on Tuesday that boosting the amount of money San Francisco spends on homeless programs by hundreds of millions of dollars would only exacerbate the problem.

“Put another $400 million into the homeless problem and I promise you this: Your problem is going to get a lot worse,” the Democratic candidate for governor said.

Newsom later explained that he was making a pitch for a regional approach to solving problems.

“You’re not going to solve this homeless problem in San Francisco,” he said. “It’s not a San Francisco issue; it’s a regional issue.” He said Tuesday that the “Care Not Cash” program that he sponsored while on the Board of Supervisors, which substituted housing and services for monthly case payments, provided “very relevant” examples of homeless people being lured to San Francisco “because San Francisco was doing something no one else was.”

There’s a profound need for a “big picture” look at the homeless problem in the nation, and a plan for providing shelter to those in need, without creating new problems for neighborhoods and cities. I think that in order to be successful in addressing the need for shelter, those working on this problem need to be realistic about the consequences of setting up shelters in places where those living in them too often cannot hope to be able to afford to live on their own, such as expensive New York City or the San Francisco Bay Area. The problem of providing something too nice, too easily to those in need, must be recognized as a way to create a dysfunctional dependency, a dependency of the kind that has been crippling our nation for several decades, since the start of the welfare program which rewarded women for having more children and no husband.Are we nanny enough

We’re quite comfortable in this nation doing “social engineering” in order to try to increase shallow forms of diversity in places of employment, for instance, (and we fixate quite pointlessly and even destructively on identity politics, as explored in this video ) but we can’t seem to engineer structures of service for the poor and homeless which place value on taking responsibility for one’s own life and moving away from government dependency.

Creating programs that aid the homeless while simultaneously a sufficiently rudimentary level of service, as to discourage people from hoping to live for the rest of their lives on these handouts, would be smart in this regard. As would the creation of a network of shelters and sign up for shelters, which took away people’s ability to choose exactly where they would live, again helping to teach important moral lessons that would combat an entitlement mentality and over-dependency by showing that “beggars can’t be choosers” and that the benefit of working to stand on your own two feet in life, is that this, and this alone, gives you choice again.