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It's Not a Housing Problem

Added 06-26-22 05:20:07am EST - “"Look, Mom, that one has a Christmas tree." That's what one of my kids yelled out while we were going with some friends to Teddy Roosevelt Island last winter. It's true, as they noticed, that the homeless encampments along the Potomac…” - Freebeacon.com

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Posted By TheNewsCommenter: From Freebeacon.com: “It's Not a Housing Problem - Washington Free Beacon”. Below is an excerpt from the article.

REVIEW: 'Homelessness in America: The History and Tragedy of an Intractable Social Problem'

"Look, Mom, that one has a Christmas tree." That's what one of my kids yelled out while we were going with some friends to Teddy Roosevelt Island last winter. It's true, as they noticed, that the homeless encampments along the Potomac were more scenic and elaborately decorated than the ones in New York City. But the effect has been the same. Over the course of the past two years, cities across the United States have been dotted with people living on the streets. As urban residents retreated from public spaces during the pandemic, homeless populations took over. The effects have ranged from parks that reek of urine to people shooting up on street corners and pushing commuters in front of subway trains. One friend had narrowly avoided a can of Redbull that was hurled at his head during a lunchtime stroll in midtown Manhattan.

The question of how we got to this point, though, is not as easily answered as it might seem. Though it is certainly true that population exodus during COVID and the retreat of law enforcement in the wake of the George Floyd protests contributed both to public disorder and violence in much of the country, the origins and expansion of homelessness in particular have a much longer and more complex history. (For instance, places like Detroit that have a much higher rate of crime also have much lower rates of homelessness.) Stephen Eide's new book, Homelessness in America: The History and Tragedy of an Intractable Social Problem, sheds new light on this issue.

The language is eminently readable; unfortunately the actual text is not. And it's not just my aging eyes. Do yourself a favor and get the e-book. I hate to harp on a problem that is not entirely the fault of the author, but this is a topic that deserves broad (not just academic) attention and I might have skipped the 30-page bibliography in favor of spacing out the 150 pages of miniscule font a little more.

To the substance: Eide first adds some important historical context to the debate. The homeless population has always been predominantly men as it is today, but other aspects of it were different. It used to be much larger, for instance. Nationwide estimates in the early 20th century ranged from 500,000 to 5 million. As Eide notes, "adjusted for population, any of those estimates would dwarf the current count of around 580,000." A researcher in the 1920s noted that the homeless population in Chicago alone was 30,000 in good times and 75,000 in hard times. In the late 19th century one historian estimated that between 10 and 20 percent of the populations had a family member who had used a homeless shelter.

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