Can We All Agree On A Humane, Non-Skull-Busting Solution To The Homeless Crisis?

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Can We All Agree On A Humane, Non-Skull-Busting Solution To The Homeless Crisis?

New York City is Taxi Driver scary again. That’s the current narrative at least. MSNBC host Joe Scarborough somberly declared,“Welcome back to 1989” when retweeting a thread from Rafael A. Mangual, a senior fellow and deputy director of legal policy at the Manhattan Institute.



The Federalist Society contributor wrote:

We took our son to watch @sesamestreet Live at @TheGarden tonight, and we were appalled by the scene outside the venue along 7th Avenue. Leaning addicts and other stone-faced characters (dealers?) blasting explitive-ridden (sic) rap from Bluetooth speakers cluttered the sidewalk…

When I lived in New York, the addicts stood upright. Their posture was magnificent! Mangual can’t confirm apparently if the “stone-faced characters” are drug dealers or maybe fellow tourists from Pennsylvania Dutch country.


He continued:

On our way out, a loud drunk who seemed to be homeless was yelling obscenities. Outside the parking lot (I didn’t dare take a stroller on the subway at night) a few blocks away, a young homeless guy who seemed to be high walked right up alongside our stroller asking for cash.

My wife—who’s heard me go on and on about the city’s growing crime and disorder problem—said she couldn’t believe how bad things had actually gotten, and didn’t feel safe the entire time we were outside. *In Midtown!*

On what was supposed to be a happy occasion, I found myself second-guessing our decision to venture into what used to be a much safer Midtown from the very moment we got out of our car. I spend a lot of time thinking and talking about serious violent crime…

Yet, Mangual isn’t describing “serious violent crime.” He’s horrified at the sight of what he assumes are homeless people. Although the COVID-19 pandemic was tough on all New Yorkers, it was devastating to those who already lived on the margins. Homeless rates skyrocketed for single adults during the pandemic, and the homeless were more susceptible to contracting and dying from COVID-19. According to the Coalition for the Homeless, 107,510 different homeless adults and children slept in the New York City Department of Homeless Services (DHS) shelter system during the 2021.This includes 31,947 homeless children. If your child is hungry, you might become desperate enough to ask a stranger for money, no matter how aesthetically unpleasing you are.

Although homeless single adults in New York reached record highs during the pandemic, short-term relief like eviction moratoriums helped reduce the number of homeless families, so that’s something. However, Mangual’s colleagues at both the Manhattan Institute and the City Journal, where he’s a contributing editor, have written such articles as “Do We Really Need A Moratorium On Evictions?” and “Stop Extending The Eviction Moratorium.” I’d ask Mangual how he thinks we should address the problem of people not having homes but I’m afraid he’d respond with “Are there no prisons?”

Scarborough’s “welcome to 1989” remark should remind us that Ronald Reagan spent the 1980s dismantling the social safety net. He slashed the budget for public housing and sought to eliminate federal housing assistance to the poor altogether. Reagan’s “free market” solutions resulted in a steep increase in homelessness by the end of his administration. The obvious facts didn’t matter to him, though, and he claimed during a 1984 "Good Morning America" interview that “people who are sleeping on the grates…the homeless…are homeless, you might say, by choice.” These people Reagan believed chose the freewheeling homeless lifestyle included Vietnam veterans, children, and laid-off workers.

Time Machine to 1984 and also two weeks ago: Wealthy Fox Hosts LAUGH And LAUGH Over How *Silly* It Is To Help Unhoused People Find Homes

New York Mayor Eric Adams echoed Reagan’s callous comments when he said at a news conference last week: "No more just doing whatever you want. No. Those days are over. Swipe your MetroCard, ride the system, get off at your destination. That’s what this administration is saying.”

This implies that the homeless are sheltering in subways because they refuse to pay $3,000 for a studio apartment like responsible citizens. We’re not naive. The current situation is untenable. Homelessness is a public health and safety issue, but conservatives refuse to address the root causes. Instead, they treat the homeless like an infestation. They think they can criminalize poverty and mental illness.

Mangual claims the city’s outdoor public spaces have been “surrendered" to the homeless, which has led to “crime and disorder.” However, conservatives only seem satisfied with a “cops-busting-skulls” solution. It’s unclear how more cops on the streets will resolve the homeless crisis unless we just hire all homeless people as cops, like Tennessee is considering making all people with guns cops. For once, I’d like to see a conservative admit that their preferred policies led to this mess.

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Stephen Robinson

Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He writes make believe for Cafe Nordo, an immersive theatre space in Seattle. Once, he wrote a novel called “Mahogany Slade,” which you should read or at least buy. He's also on the board of the Portland Playhouse theatre. His son describes him as a “play typer guy."

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