I was at work late one night a week or so ago, perusing the Missoulian, when I came across a story about homelessness.
Seems the homeless population in the US has gone up significantly this past year, with the largest gains happening in California.
Over 151,000 people in California were homeless this past year, which is 21,000 more people than they had last year.
We know that 567,000 Americans were homeless for at least one night this past year around the country.
That’s 15,000 more than we had in 2018, or a 2.7% increase.
Three years in a row that number has gone up.
This is bad.
We know that 29 states saw their homeless populations go down, while 21 states saw their homeless populations go up.
Most of the states that have seen decreases are in New England - Connecticut saw a nearly 24% drop in their homeless population, for instance.
The states with the biggest gains in their homeless populations are New Mexico (up 27%), California (up 16%) and...Idaho (up 15%).
That last one startles me.
Idaho is right next door to us, and it’s not exactly a liberal bastion that’s accepting of the homeless. In fact, it’s a heavily GOP state that doesn’t care about weakness. I can’t imagine why anyone would want to be homeless there.
Well...not everyone wants to be homeless. While it’s true we have a lot of young men in this country that want to drink and get high all day between the panhandling sessions, it’s also true that we have lots of hardworking Americans that have simply fallen on hard times.
So Idaho isn’t really the place for homeless people.
But they’re coming, big time. Now Idaho has to deal with that. In fact, Idaho has been in the news for something Missoula was in the news for years ago - trying to make it illegal for homeless people to sit/camp on the sidewalk.
Idaho lost that battle at the U.S. Supreme Court, so places like Boise (population 228,000 with anywhere from 1,000 to 2,000 homeless living there) will have to come up with another solution.
And let’s be frank, for a moment - those 2,000 homeless individuals could get jobs if they wanted to.
Idaho’s unemployment rate is 2.6%, and they call the western portion of the state “Treasure Valley” due to its ability to make the people there rich...if they want to work.
But many don’t want to work, and many others simply cannot.
Last January, over 2,000 people were homeless in Idaho each night.
When we break that down we see it comes to:
- 324 chronic homeless
- 215 veterans
- 209 family households
- 115 young adults (ages 18-24)
What’s perhaps more alarming is the number of school-age kids that don’t have a home in Idaho:
- 5,921 youths were doubled-up with supporting households
- 538 were in shelters
- 413 were in hotels
- 271 had no shelter at all
That’s over 7,100 kids that had no permanent home in Idaho during the 2016-17 school year. I’m sure those numbers have only grown worse.
What the hell is causing this crisis?
There aren’t any simple answers to that question, but we do know that two of the leading causes of homelessness are drug addiction and mental illness.
The LA Times did a recent survey and found that “a majority of homeless people have either reported or showed signs of mental illness, a physical disability or substance abuse — conditions that get worse the longer people remain outside.”
Let’s be honest - many Americans are homeless today because they’re addicted to drugs and alcohol and don’t want to change. Many more are homeless because they have mental health issues that they refuse to deal with.
Over 8 million Americans have serious mental health problems, or 3.4% of the population. While record-keeping is surely a leading cause of this next stat, it definitely is alarming: in 1880, just 0.7% of people had a mental illness but by 2005 it was up to 21%.
Individuals and families simply cannot tackle this burden on their own. Hell, we know that the average cost to stay in a mental institution is $30,000 a month. Who can afford that?
This is why it’s so critical the federal government steps in and gives the states the money they need to take care of this issue.
We must reopen the mental institutions.
American began to deinstitutionalize itself in the 1950s and 1960s, closing the mental health clinics and institutions. Between 2005 and 2010, another 14% of psychiatric beds were lost.
But that’s not the whole story.
In Idaho, the minimum wage is one of the lowest in the nation...just $7.25 an hour.
Can you see the dilemma? Here’s a “Treasure Valley” that won’t pay common workers enough money to afford a place to live...if they can even find a place to live.
And let’s say you have some skills and can pick up and move anywhere in the country to work?
Good luck with that. While it’s true that housing starts have gone up by 3.2% last month, multi-family housing starts only went up by 2.4%.
Most builders build for the market. There simply isn’t a market for affordable housing. Supply and demand. It makes so much more sense to build for the well-off, not the downtrodden.
And we’ve seen our builders do that for years and years now. It’s why we have an affordable housing crisis from sea to shining sea.
China was the joke of the world from 1850 to 1950. Britain got the country hooked on opium, and actually fought two wars with China to ensure they could keep the people their hooked, keep those profits rolling in.
The sun finally set on that scheme when Mao took over.
There was no rehab - opium addicts were taken out and shot in the head.
As you can imagine, the number of drug addicts in China went down substantially.
It’s interesting how times change. Now China is shipping opium into America, and getting Americans hooked.
This has decimated our country. We currently have a whole generation of kids with drug-addicted parents that are being raised in foster care - if they’re lucky - and by the state if they’re not. This is why those homeless numbers for children are so high in Idaho...drugs.
This is fueling our homeless crisis, the opium crisis.
No one knows what to do about this.
While it’s true we could simply cutoff all opium shipments to the US, this would hurt the bottom line of many Big Pharma companies, which in turn would hurt the stock market.
We’re so overdue for a correction that no one wants to rock the boat.
So the opium will continue to come in. China, together with Big Pharma, will get Americans hooked via the prescription pad, and when that runs out, there’s the heroin on the street. When that won’t cut it, we have lots of fentanyl for you. A day or two of that and you’ll be dead. And who will care? Few if anyone.
Folks, I don’t have any answers.
I do know that what we’re doing right now is not working.
So what will work?