Generally, when the topic of homelessness comes up, the suggested cure is more affordable housing.

The homeless are just people who, because of unfairly high rents, can’t make ends meet. Activists call for spending billions on subsidized housing.

Homeless advocates play down drug addiction, mental illness, and criminality as causes of homelessness, harping on the theme of “affordable” housing.

Of course, most of us intuitively know that the heartbreaking men and women we see on our streets are not there just because they fell behind on the rent.

Now, Christopher Rufo of City Journal takes a look at new data on the composition of the homeless population that indicates the affordable housing solution is based on fantasy.  

Addiction plays a bigger part in putting people on the streets than activists like to acknowledge. Rufo writes:

Homeless advocates argue that substance abuse is a small contributor to the problem, and that no more than 20 percent of the homeless population abuses drugs. Last year, when I suggested that homelessness is primarily an addiction crisis—citing Seattle and King County data that suggested half of homeless individuals suffered from opioid addiction—activists denounced me on social media and wrote letters to the editor demanding a retraction.

But according to a recent Los Angeles Times investigation, 46 percent of the homeless and 75 percent of the unsheltered homeless have a substance-abuse disorder—more than three times higher than official estimates from the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority.

Mental illness also leads more people to living on the streets than advocates want to admit:

In the interest of preventing “stigmatization,” progressives downplay the connection between schizophrenia, severe bipolar disorder, and homelessness. In general, cities have claimed that roughly 25 percent to 39 percent of the homeless suffer from mental-health disorders.

As new data from the California Policy Lab show, it’s likely that 50 percent of the homeless and 78 percent of the unsheltered homeless have a serious mental health condition. For residents of cities like San Francisco, Portland, and Seattle, this should come as no surprise. The people smashing up property and yelling in the streets are clearly suffering from mental illness. The numbers confirm the ground-level reality.

And finally, there is the role of criminality:

The relationship between homelessness and crime has been the strongest taboo in the public discourse. Activists and political leaders insist that the homeless are ordinary neighbors who commit crimes at rates comparable with that of the general population. Not so: according to new data from the Downtown Seattle Association, the homeless represent 45 percent of all bookings into the King County Jail system, which means that homeless individuals are nearly 100 times more likely to commit crimes and get booked into jail than the average citizen.

Public fears about homeless encampments are not a symptom of “mean-world syndrome,” as some commentators suggest, then, but a rational response to the increased probability of crime.

Some San Francisco residents, confronted by the spectacle of vast homeless encampments, Rufo says, are “quietly demanding” policy changes. The mayor of San Francisco has begun to talk candidly about the root causes of homelessness. A mental health expert is also developing a program to deal with the homeless in San Francisco. Let’s hope a large number of San Francisco residents will soon be loudly demanding changes.

We can’t address the matter of homelessness unless we admit what causes it. It’s not compassion to avoid admitting unpleasant realities. 

This becomes even more urgent in light of the coronavirus outbreak.   

Read the entire article.