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Could someone please explain what it means to "encourage homelessness"? At a first glance, it looks like a passive aggressive implication that homeless people, if they just tried harder, wouldn't be homeless. Can anyone help me see what I'm missing?



Maybe attracting homeless would be a better way of putting it. Homeless people aren't inherently irrational. Given an option, many of them will choose a place they like better than one they don't. Add in politicians who see a chance to solve the issue by encouraging the homeless to move somewhere better for them (which lets them even sell the measure as a benefit for the homeless), it means that places that make it much better to be homeless see homeless from other areas moving in.


The King County homeless census[1] found the overwhelming majority of homeless in the area were living in the area before becoming homeless.

[1] http://allhomekc.org/king-county-point-in-time-pit-count/


The most common zip code they get on the questionaire is for the Pioneer Square area, where many homeless services are provided and the price of rent is higher than average. They don't require any evidence of being housed previously and, even if they did, coming to Seattle with the promise of friend hosting them on their couch counts as "living in the area" before becoming homeless.


That data is highly disputed. The question had a significantly lower response rate, and living could mean on a couch etc.


80% of our population lives paycheck to paycheck and cannot afford a 400 dollar car repair bill. That is instant homelessness for a lot of people. So much wealth is hoarded in so few hands that we are squandering vast amounts of economic potential.



Thanks for posting this. I've been repeating this stat quite a bit lately without knowing that it's misleading.

However, I still think we're in pretty dire straits:

> The report finds, in 2018, that 61% of adults would cover a $400 unexpected expense using cash (or its equivalent). Politicians and many in the media seem to be subtracting 61 from 100, and concluding that 39% of people, to use Warren’s phrase, “can’t come up with” the money they’d need to handle this situation.

> Instead, as the Fed report makes clear, though “the remaining 4 in 10 adults” “would have more difficulty covering such an expense,” many of them would be able to make it work by carrying a credit card balance or borrowing from friends and family."

That's still really bad. 39% of people can't cover an unexpected $400 expense without borrowing money from someone else, or effectively taking out a loan at 20%+ interest.

And the 12-14% figure for people who actually would be unable to come up with that $400 via any means is also troubling.


>The report finds, in 2018, that 61% of adults would cover a $400 unexpected expense using cash (or its equivalent).

I guess the key question is, does the other 39% not have liquid assets to cover it and thus have to take on debt, or would they choose to cover it for other reasons? I have $400 in the bank but would likely put it on a credit card because I don't like carrying that much cash nor using my debit card (to reduce risk of it being leaked). So would I be in the 39% or the 61%?


I don't really see anywhere in your post where any refutation is concrete. They hem and haw over semantics, but nothing worth note is presented contrary to the my view. In fact, in the opinion piece he quotes anecdotal things I would hear frequently from my lower wage employees, such as being unable to purchase a new tire, $400 dollars is a lot of money for a lot of people.


One example is decriminalizing possession of heroin / crack, which makes it far easier and safer for dealers (who can hold below the limits and resupply frequently), which then increases the availability and drives down the price (less risk) of those drugs. Ignoring petty crime increases it as well.

Important to note that it’s often a funnel, homelessness -> addiction, so you have to work on both sides.

I don’t have the perfect solution, nobody seems to, but Seattle and a few other cities seem to be going down the wrong path with vigor.


Canada prescribes Heroin to some addicts... costly, $24K/year, but potentially ROI positive given the break-ins, petty crime, and cost of responding to it (police, insurance costs, etc.)


With methadone programs being about 1/4 the cost.

Probably lots of room to cut costs too.


We had a post here last week about soda taxes in Philadelphia and it seemed like common sense that by making sugary drinks more expensive, you are encouraging people to consume it less, which results in fewer people drinking it.

We can discuss this with no implication that there's a static amount of soda consumption in the world, or that people want to be obese from consuming it. We understand life is a series of choices, "when to consume sugary drinks" makes up some of them, and that by disincentivizing that choice, people are more likely to choose a different beverage.

Nobody "chooses" homelessness, but like anything else, becoming / staying homeless often is the result of numerous choices, some of which are easier than others for various reasons. When you artificially remove bad consequences from some of those choices, it is not surprising that those choices are made more often.


The big difference is, you can simply stop consuming soda drinks if the habit becomes too expensive, but if you are a homeless person, you cannot really just stop being homeless.


The claim isn't that you can "just stop being homeless."

> Nobody "chooses" homelessness, but like anything else, becoming / staying homeless often is the result of numerous choices, some of which are easier than others for various reasons. When you artificially remove bad consequences from some of those choices, it is not surprising that those choices are made more often.

Consuming soda is just one way people can become obese. The problem is obesity. If you are an obese person, you may not really be able to "just stop" being obese, but if policy leads to people choosing healthier beverages, it helps fight obesity.

...and the opposite is true, too. It would not be difficult to imagine what might happen if we subsidized soda until it was free, for example. Except we probably wouldn't have advocates claiming that because nobody wants to be obese, the incentives can't possibly be affecting the increase in soda consumption.


I see your point. I agree that we shouldn't incentivize drug consumption. However, the current way of de-incentivizing drug consumption through making it illegal doesn't seem to work well. Luckily, there is more than one way to de-incentivize something like that (look at the soda tax, for example!).

The issue with drugs (as opposed to soda) is that the illegality in itself a lot of times tends to make people homeless by heavily limiting their hosing/employment/etc. perspectives. De-incentivizing drug consumption by heavily taxing them and making the proceeds go towards rehabilitation for addicts and helping those people get on their feet and find employment? I am with you on that. But I cannot really support, in good conscience, punishing drug users to the point where they are pushed to become homeless.


> But I cannot really support, in good conscience, punishing drug users to the point where they are pushed to become homeless.

To a large extent I agree with your point here, but these cities are well beyond simply not punishing drug users.

Mobile safe injection sites, needle exchange programs, cash handouts, unfettered defecation in streets, naloxone handouts, lack of enforcement of petty crimes like vehicle break-ins and theft. There are plenty of policy decisions being made here that affect the choices people make, and none of that even touches on actually enforcing drug laws.

Moral and financial cases can be made for any of the above, and we can debate that, but to me it's really drinking the Kool-Aid to claim these don't encourage homelessness. They certainly make it easier to make bad decisions that can start or keep you on the track of homelessness.


You are missing the point, it isn't that simple. Doing the opposite might keep cities cleaner or reduce crime but the cost is significantly higher to maintain. A prison population is a social service that is incredibly expensive, the more enforcement there is, the more expensive it is per body. This doesn't solve the problem it just costs the taxpayer more for another non-solution.


My argument didn't even address costs. Did you mean to respond to another comment?

This does seem to be a topic that is (for whatever reason) very difficult to have a straightforward conversation about.


> When you artificially remove bad consequences from some of those choices, it is not surprising that those choices are made more often.

There was a talk by a finance minister from singapore who was asked about his country's social safety net, and he replied to the effect of: we don't have a net, we have a trampoline.


Yep. Singapore is always the country I point to when opponents point at (insert area) which legalized drug use and saw numbers go down. They don't beat Singapore's numbers, and Singapore's approach is a lot different.


Executing people for possessing pounds of pot won't solve Seattle's issues.

Enforcing vagrancy laws might.


Human beings are motivated both intrinsically and extrinsically.

Adding support for an activity provides extrinsic motivation for doing something.

Basically, cities get what they pay for. If you pay for homelessness you get it.

That said, I'm not saying we shouldn't help people, but that we should make sure that whatever support we provides guides people towards self sufficiency and not dependence.

“The lessons of history, confirmed by the evidence immediately before me, show conclusively that continued dependence upon relief induces a spiritual and moral disintegration fundamentally destructive to the national fiber, ... To dole out relief in this way is to administer a narcotic, a subtle destroyer of the human spirit. It is inimical to the dictates of sound policy. It is in violation of the traditions of America.” – FDR 1935


If you permit the assumption that homeless are more likely to engage in criminal activity [0], the city of Seattle has significantly reduced enforcement of crime, including violent crime.

Therefore, ppl who would otherwise being in jail for crimes are living on the streets.

There was a documentary about this done by a local Seattle TV station. I don't know how reliable it is, but at the end it actually gave fairly humanitarian and progressive solution to the problem, despite spending most of the show arguing lax and progressive policing attitudes created the problem to begin with [1]

[0] by, a criminal being more likely to become homeless, or by desperation driving the homeless to crime

[1] Their proposed solution, inspired by a program in RI (? maybe ME), is to treat drug addiction as a disease to be treated by having effective programs.


'Seattle is Dying' was produced by KOMO, which is owned by Sinclair, the largest broadcast company in the USA.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sinclair_Broadcast_Group


There are different approaches here.

One approach includes both reward / consequence. In this model, things like theft, various forms of violence particularly in shelter or public housing violence, even taking over extremely large areas of public space (ie, 3-4 tents plus dogs plus...) results in consequences, while avoiding issues along the above lines results in rewards (ie, eligibility for service or additional service). In addition, these approaches tend to also consider impact on the non-homeless (ie, prison time linked arguably with a reduced risk of property crime)

Other models are focused primarily on making life as bearable as possible for the homeless - basically the straight service model. Under this model, resources are provided and consequences are reduced in the event to solve homelessness.

Some folks going through the tougher love systems (ie, jail vs rehab etc) say good things, other folks ask how can homelessness be criminalized and focus primarily on reducing risk of govt involvement (this can also save money in some cases - prison is expensive, rehab is expensive etc).


I can elaborate. Enforcement of basic car camping and drug possession/use laws has basically gone to zero and as a result there is a sense that Seattle has opened itself up as a "Risk Free Zone" for homelessness. Stories like https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/crime/just-sickeni... have created a sentiment that people are moving to Seattle because of this.

While I can't speak to the truth of the belief that people are actively moving to Seattle, I can say that there's little incentive for someone to follow basic property or drug laws in this city.

EDIT: To your point on how this differs from "Homeless people are lazy" I guess the idea is that we've created a situation where there are even more factors pushing homeless individuals to the streets and suburbs of Seattle, that Seattle has made homelessness more attractive in a sense.


> Enforcement of basic car camping and drug possession/use laws has basically gone to zero and as a result there is a sense that Seattle has opened itself up as a "Risk Free Zone" for homelessness.

Again, I find this logic to be extremely confusing. How related is "car camping" to Seattle's homeless? Is there some implication that the majority of them have cars they sleep in? Or am I missing something there?

As for the incentive to follow basic property or drug laws, again, how does that encourage homelessness? I could understand if you argued it encourages crime, but why homelessness?

The only remaining argument is basically "this encourages already homeless people to move to Seattle", which I can see being a problem, but of a different kind. It shares certain aspects with the immigration-related problems: in both cases, it's an effect of a deeper underlying problem that acts as a root cause and should be solved.


Car-camping is the nice way of saying "permanent homeless camps". The idea is that, if we didn't allow homeless camps to grow and spread, then it would be much more difficult to live without a permanent home in Seattle, and thus, you might move to somewhere else.

Car camping is intended to be as shown at [1]; no more than a few days, tidy, and not overflowing with garbage and sewage. These campers are here to do pre-game tailgate parties for the nearby stadium.

However, largely because Seattle doesn't enforce limits on car camping, that same street will soon look like [2]. This is a small permanent homeless camp that will remain at this location for months. The trash pile across the street will grow and attract vermin. Eventually, after weeks of health issues, sometimes fires and other illegality, the city will do a 'sweep'.

These sweeps are problematic on their own, since it is obviously dehumanizing to chase people out of their homes. They're also depressingly impermanent. The [1] location had been recently swept before the Google car came through. It already looks like [2].

[1] https://www.google.com/maps/@47.5848614,-122.3351365,3a,75y,...

[2] https://www.google.com/maps/@47.5720255,-122.3366802,3a,75y,...


> thus, you might move to somewhere else.

This brings us back to CodeMage's first question:

> At a first glance, it looks like a passive aggressive implication that homeless people, if they just tried harder, wouldn't be homeless.

This is effectively what you're arguing. That homeless people just need to try harder. Or you're arguing that you don't care if they're homeless as long as they're not near you.


> How related is "car camping" to Seattle's homeless?

In Seattle, there are a lot of people living in tents, cars, and temporarily-parked RVs. They all get lumped under "homeless" because they don't have permanent addresses or access to municipal services.

> The only remaining argument is basically "this encourages already homeless people to move to Seattle", which I can see being a problem, but of a different kind.

It's really hard to get good data on this, but, yes, there is a widely shared belief that Seattle gets more than it's "fair share" of the country's homeless epidemic because we have a lot of compassionate people, services, and, increasingly, lax law enforcement. Talk to any local and they'll tell you anecdotes about other counties or even states buying people one-way bus tickets to Seattle so that it's not their problem any more. It's hard to tell how much of that is urban legend.


> It's really hard to get good data on this,

Okay sure, but the data we have indicates that it's not true, and yet people like yourself insist that it is. In a world where my options are to a) make my best guess based on imperfect data, or b) make something up that fits my worldview, it seems like the correct thing to do would be a, but you're going with b.

> states buying people one-way bus tickets to Seattle so that it's not their problem any more

Ironically, this is effectively the approach people in this thread are arguing for, except without the bus ticket.


> yet people like yourself insist that it is.

I absolutely did not. Did you read my comment carefully?

> Ironically, this is effectively the approach people in this thread are arguing for, except without the bus ticket.

Another irony: you're lumping all homeless people — criminals and victims — into the same bucket, which is the criticism many homeless advocates have of "NIMBYs". What I think many people in this thread are saying is that repeated offending criminals should be locked up. Some of those people happen to be homeless, but I don't see comments in this thread arguing that non-criminal homeless people should be discarded.


Even if those anecdotes aren't true, isn't the perception of Seattle being a homeless-enabling city likely to make it a self-fulfilling prophecy if it's believed widely enough? Homeless people in Canada definitely try to make it to Vancouver if they can because of the perception of an enabling local government and mild weather.

Shouldn't the city do something to dispel that perception, y'know, such as enforcement of vagrancy laws?


It seems obvious to me: if laws against behaviors that are common among homeless were actually enforced then some subset of the homeless population would try harder to not be homeless, or move to another location.


Ah, the good old 'bus them out of town, let them be someone else's problem' non-solution.


Sorry, where did I say that? I'm talking about not creating incentives for homeless to concentrate in one city.

I'm pretty sure it's better for society overall for the homeless population to be widely distributed than concentrated in one place.


> Sorry, where did I say that?

Here:

> would try harder to [...] move to another location.


That's different than putting homeless on busses to another city.


Okay, so it's "run them out of town" instead, but the effect is the same: you're just passing the problem off to someone else, to dehumanizing effect for the person.


If enforcing property rights and laws that protect public health and safety is "dehumanizing" then I don't know what to tell you.


> To your point on how this differs from "Homeless people are lazy" I guess the idea is that we've created a situation where there are even more factors pushing homeless individuals to the streets and suburbs of Seattle, that Seattle has made homelessness more attractive in a sense.

I'm sorry, but this makes no sense to me. The best data we have indicates that most homeless people are from the area, so I don't think there's any evidence to support the idea that people are moving here from elsewhere.

The idea that homelessness is "attractive" is even more absurd. Do you seriously believe that if we just criminalized people a bit more, they'd simply stop choosing to be homeless?


It's a bit cynical to call homelessness "risk free" in any sense of the term.

You seem to be arguing for criminalising poverty. That's going to work just as well as criminalising stupidity, short-sightedness, death, or losing your car keys.


You're not missing anything. A lot of people just want the problem gone and somehow think that being tougher on the already downtrodden is a viable solution. You can fine and jail the homeless and it's not going to make them any less homeless.

The only solution is exactly the kind of thing this article is talking about. Providing consoling / rehab services and helping people turn their lives around one by one. There is no blanket solution.




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