Thursday, December 25, 2008

L.A. Times: A Home for the Homeless

It's a nice humanitarian idea, but it won't work in the real world.

MY COMMENTS: Here's the essential problem: If you give the homeless a comfortable place to stay, they are going to stay there... and stay and stay. If you give someone a tent to live in, you are implicitly giving him permission to set that tent up somewhere, probably on land owned by someone else. That someone is going to protest and squelch the program.

It is a little like feeding the pigeons in a city park. If you do, then more pigeons will come, and eventually whoever controls the park is going to have to put a stop to it.

Essentially, there is no institutional solution to homelessness. By definition, it exists at the limits of tolerance. If someone is sleeping under a bridge, it may be illegal, but the authorities probably won't intervene. If 100 people are sleeping under a bridge, then authorities have to intervene.

Like with many well meaning acts of charity, if you give people tents, you could be upsetting the local ecology -- the equilibrium that has already been worked out. That's the potential risk with any technological solutions to social problems. -- GC

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