We aren’t seeing increasing numbers of homeless individuals in Reno because we lack housing. There will never be sufficient housing for those wanting free housing; the demand for anything “free” will always be greater than the supply. We’re seeing more and more street dwellers due to increased chronic drug/alcohol use, increased mental illness, decreased consequences for unlawful behavior, increased availability of “homeless services,” and increased reliance on government entitlements.
Reno is following the same plans that San Francisco and Los Angeles have implemented for housing and managing the homeless, so we can expect the same results. Is that really what Reno wants? Why are we following other cities’ failed “solutions”?
The Reno City Council has ordered our law enforcement agencies to stand down on prosecuting common crimes of the homeless, preventing the RPD from enforcing basic laws and ordinances that protect property and citizens. City leaders are more concerned with protecting the rights of the homeless than they are with the rights and safety of tax-paying, law-abiding citizens. Reno’s street dwellers endanger and victimize our citizens, businesses, and public facilities.
Their chosen lifestyle includes: defecating/urinating in public, tossing needles and other drug paraphernalia throughout city streets and parks; theft, possessing stolen property, being under the influence, lewd public acts, and disregarding other quality of life laws and ordinances.
Tragically, street dweller behavior all too often also includes violently injuring or killing others. It makes no difference whether homeless lawless behavior is exacerbated by drugs, alcohol, or mental illness; their behavior is criminal, yet there are minor to no consequences for it.
Even worse, Nevada’s lawmakers recently reduced several felonies to misdemeanors, disregarding many requests from law enforcement agencies not to pass this legislation. Reno citizens can expect to see an increase in crime in their neighborhoods if they haven’t already.
RELIANCE ON GOVERNMENT ENTITLEMENTS
Few are aware that a major mission of all federal homeless programs is to help clients access every dime possible from federal entitlements. This help is called a “supportive service,” and is just one of the offered supportive services such as drug, mental health, and employment counseling, and other life-rebuilding activities.
It sounds like a winning plan, but it’s no surprise that the assistance offered to receive money entitlements is welcomed, while the life-rebuilding programs are almost completely rejected since participation in them is not required to access any services or entitlements.
Drug addicts are now being classified as “disabled” due to their self-inflicted addictions. With a regular federal entitlement and no requirement to participate in programs that rebuild lives, street dwellers continue on the road to self-destruction. Social workers who have worked at homeless encampments will also tell you that very few of them accept offered services when the encampments are closed.
Federal entitlements do nothing to address behaviors leading to homelessness, but instead enable the chronically homeless individual to slowly commit suicide through dangerous drug use or street crime, including murder, seen 3 times in the past few months here in Reno.
Until the causes of homelessness are addressed, the number of homeless will, of course, increase regardless of how much money is poured into enabling programs or entitlements.
HOMELESS INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX
Homeless programs ask for ever-increasing amounts of funding every year. Taxpayers would be more enthusiastic about funding these programs IF they produced visible results in helping large numbers of individuals regain independent and functioning lives, but they don’t. Instead, we see ever increasing numbers of street dwellers accessing services on the public dime, evidencing increased dependence, not independence.
The homeless industrial complex is growing by leaps and bounds, NOT because it is successfully reducing homelessness, but because is has become big business. Increased homelessness translates to increased funding which leads to steady employment, increased pay and job openings, and program expansion. The motivation to decrease homelessness has been twisted inside out. Program success is now demonstrated by increased funding and program expansion, not by reduced homeless numbers.
No clear thinking individual – or city – would continue to fund anything that doesn’t demonstrate success, yet countless cities are funding the same failed programs and plans, essentially just feeding the homeless industrial complex.
Seattle, LA, San Diego, San Francisco, Portland, and other cities across the country have all followed the same failed homeless plans and programs, and their cities are in decay with evidence of serious health dangers on the horizon. The Reno and Sparks’ Community Homeless Advisory Board, along with the homeless industrial complex, are also marching confidently and arrogantly toward the same homeless disasters called San Francisco and Los Angeles.
It’s time for Reno and Sparks residents, the most numerous stakeholders in the homeless solution for our cities, to demand that we not follow the same path to disaster. Let’s stop the insanity and actually address the causes of homelessness. Let’s not play “Follow the Leader” to disaster.
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
Attend the two upcoming community meetings (dates yet to be announced) on homelessness and demand that your voice be heard. Demand that Reno and Sparks fund programs that address the causes of homelessness, not programs, shelter, and housing that enable a suicidal lifestyle. You can bet that the homeless industrial complex will be there at these meetings, loudly defending their positions, programs, and funding.
Published with author’s permission. First published in This IS Reno
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official position of Citizens Journal.
Valerie White, a Reno resident, is a member of the community group Quality of Life-Reno (www.QOL-Reno.org). She has worked with homeless individuals for a number of years and believes that Reno and Sparks’ present homeless plan will deliver the same results she saw realized in Southern California. She welcomes comments at [email protected].