Reading the article, I pretty much had the exact same thoughts. It really seemed like the writer had a particular feel-good story in mind ("hippies still live in the Haight!") and went out there trying to find it. The error in the article is casting the entire scene as the same slice of peace-n-love that is espoused in the story, leaving aside -- as you say -- the things that happen after dark. Serious mental illness, the sexual risks inherent in being homeless, run-ins with gangs, disease and the worsening of any future prospects as the "tree of life" is embraced.
I was once similarly enamored with the hippy scene and dated a flower child for quite some time, even visited the commune in Lake county that she grew up in, etc. There is a distinctly darker side of the whole experience whose surface is not even scratched by this article.
I think the point of the article is that it's not as bad, or their word, "Dickensian," as people think. The article is missing some hard numbers: how many are choosing the lifestyle? How many of those that do are engaging in criminal / disruptive activity?
It's pretty cool you got to check out a commune in Lake county.
> It's pretty cool you got to check out a commune in Lake county.
It was a little creepy, to be honest. They have pictorial banners up in the woods, without any words. I was only allowed into the bookshop, and every single book and CD was by the commune leader. Every single one.
Edit: I'll add some detail here since people seem to be interested. Lake County is a very, very remote area a few hours north of San Francisco. The commune has been functional since the 60s, sucking up its members' wealth in exchange for living under the direction of a charismatic leader. While a generation lived under this leader's direction, their children suffered the brunt of the eccentricity and thoughtlessness that the era inculcated. The one incident that I recall hearing about is when several children (including the person I was dating) in the 8-12 age range were randomly ordered to live with different parents on a whim, and the families complied. A significant fraction of the kids of that generation are somewhat screwed up, with causes ranging from heroin addiction to the effects of sexual abuse as children. It put a very dark tint on the rainbow of the 60s for me.