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Opinion

Why treating the Homesless as victims only makes the problem worse

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This article is from Substack 

Bestselling author Michael Shellenberger has just published a new book, “San Fransicko” about the homeless crisis in San Francisco.  Shellenberger has lived in San Fransisco for 30 years.    In “San Fransicko” Shellenberger argues one of the root causes of the homeless crisis sweeping cities all over America (and Canada) is the victimization of homeless people.  In this article, Michael Shellenberger talks about the prevalent theory that homeless people are all victims as portrayed by TV Host John Oliver.

Why John Oliver Is Wrong About Homelessness

HBO TV Comedian Repeats Myth that the Homeless Are Just Poor People in Need of Subsidized Housing

The intelligent and hilarious HBO comedian John Oliver last night aired a 25-minute segment on homelessness. In it, he attributed homelessness to poverty, high rents, and NIMBY neighborhood activists who block new housing developments. Oliver showed interviews with homeless people who say they would like to work full-time but are unable to do so because they have to live in homeless shelters.

Unfortunately, Oliver’s segment repeated many myths that are easy to debunk. The vast majority of people we call “homeless” are suffering from serious mental illness, addiction, or both. We do a great job of helping mothers and others who don’t suffer from addiction or untreated mental illness to benefit from subsidized housing, but don’t mandate the psychiatric and addiction care that many “homeless” require. And the best-available, peer-reviewed science shows that “Housing First” agenda Oliver promotes fails on its own terms, worsens addiction, and is one of the main reasons homelessness has grown so much worse.

It’s true that we need more housing and voluntary addiction and psychiatric care, including what is called “permanent supportive housing” for people suffering from mental illness. In my new book, San Fransicko, I advocate for universal psychiatric care, drug treatment on demand, and building of more shelter space for the homeless. And Oliver is right that the U.S. lacks the social safety net that European and other developed nations have.

But Oliver badly misdescribes the problem. For example, he notes that some cities lack sufficient homeless shelter. But he doesn’t acknowledge that it has been “Housing First” homelessness advocates who caused the lack of shelter by demanding that funding be diverted to apartments often costing $750,000 each.

And Oliver promotes policies that have made addiction, mental illness, and homelessness worse. He claims homelessness causes addiction when it is far more often the other way around. And Oliver completely ignores the overwhelming body of scientific research showing that using housing as a reward for abstinence, rather than giving it away as a right, is essential to reducing homelessness by reducing addiction.

Oliver was wrong to encourage more of the same policies that caused homelessness to increase in the U.S. over the last decade, but also wrong for suggesting that anyone who disagreed with him were racist and NIMBY “dicks” who cause violence against homeless people. Oliver closes his segment by ridiculing a white woman who expresses concern about subsidized housing bringing the homeless into her neighborhood.

Why is that? Why does such an intelligent, thoughtful, and compassionate journalist repeat easily-debunked myths about homelessness?

Part of it is just ignorance. Oliver appears to have relied entirely on Housing First advocates and not read anything that questions their narrative. As I document in San Fransicko, homeless advocates are not just small service providers but major academics at top universities including Columbia University and University of California, San Francisco. Those “Housing First” advocates have received hundreds of millions in grants from Marc Benioff, John Arnold, George Soros, and other donors to promote the notion that Housing First works.

Another part of it is ideological. Housing First advocates believe that housing, not shelter, is a right, and that governments have a moral obligation to provide it. They have spent 20 years trying to prove that giving away housing to addicts and the mentally ill works, but the studies show that it fails to address addiction and thus even keep people in apartments at higher rates than other methods. The only thing proven to work is to make housing a reward for good behavior, mostly abstinence but also things like taking one’s psychiatric medicines, and going to work.

The dominant view among progressives of homelessness, drugs, and mental illness stems from victim ideology, which was born in the 1960s. Starting in the late 1960s, progressives attacked any effort to hold people who receive welfare or subsidized accountable as “blaming the victim.” Today, many progressives even view drug dealers as victims.

Victim ideology categorizes people as victims or oppressors, and argues that nothing should be demanded of people categorized as victims. This is terrible for the mentally ill, who often need to be coerced into taking their medicines, so they don’t end up breaking the law, hurting people or themselves, and winding up in prison. And this is terrible for addicts, who need to be arrested, when breaking laws related to their addiction, such as public drug use, shoplifting, and public defecation.

In the end, Oliver’s 25 minute segment on homelessness is a perfect encapsulation of victim ideology and why it is so wrong on both the facts and on ethics. On the facts, Oliver misdescribes a homeless woman who is likely suffering from mental illness and/or drug addiction as merely down on her luck. And Oliver mixes together apparently sober and sane homeless families, temporarily down on their luck, with people are on the street because of addiction and untreated mental illness. Doing so is wrong, analytically, but also wrong, morally, since most addicts and the mentally ill need something very different from just a subsidized apartment unit.

If we are to solve homelessness rather than make it worse, we need intelligent and thoughtful comedians and influencers like Oliver to do their homework, rather than to repeat myths. I researched and wrote San Fransicko, in part, to make it easier for people to get the facts, rather than repeat what we were told, and to see that there’s a better way to help the homeless, whether addicted to drugs, mentally ill, or not.

The good news is that the conversation around drugs and homelessness is changing rapidly because the situation on the ground has grown so much worse. Environmental Progress and the California Peace Coalition are at the very beginning of our efforts to educate journalists, policymakers, and the public. And San Fransicko was published just three weeks ago.

As time passes, many Americans will see the consequence of treating what is fundamentally a problem of untreated mental illness and addiction as a problem of poverty, high rents, and NIMBYs. And some of them, perhaps even comedians like John Oliver, will come to find humor, and humility, from the fact that so many of us got it so wrong.

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After 15 years as a TV reporter with Global and CBC and as news director of RDTV in Red Deer, Duane set out on his own 2008 as a visual storyteller. During this period, he became fascinated with a burgeoning online world and how it could better serve local communities. This fascination led to Todayville, launched in 2016.

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Bruce Dowbiggin

Concussed: The NFL Needs Its Head Read

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In 2014 Tipping Point author Malcolm Gladwell commented that, within 25 years, the NFL might become a renegade sport outside the mainstream of culture. “We will go to a middle position where we will disclose the risks and essentially dare people to play …,” Gladwell repeated in the recent film United State of Football  “That’s what the Army does. So we leave the Army for kids who have no other options, for whom the risks are acceptable.

“That’s what football is going to become. It’s going to become the Army. That’s a very, very different situation. That’s a ghettoized sport, not a mainstream American sport.” Many derided Gladwell at the time, but events this past week have leant credence to his theory.

Perhaps it’s the hangover from being lied to about The Science of Covid-19 by the mahatmas of healthcare. But if the NFL medics were hoping the public would give them the benefit of the doubt about their treatment of the gruesome Tua Tagovailoa head injury the past ten days they are sadly mistaken.

For a league that has pounded its chest about its attempts to lessen the danger from head hits, the farce that followed Tagovailoa’s injury the past week is a cruel deception. Whatever the facts eventually reveal (the NFL says it’s investigating) the PR failure of a system designed to protect employees is irreversible.

Former All Pro and now NBC broadcaster Rodney Harrison summed up the players’ reaction to the Tua episode. ““Please take care of yourself. Don’t depend on the NFL. Don’t depend on anybody. If something’s wrong with your head, report it.” – @Rodney_Harrison

Tagovailoa exhibited concussion symptoms after hitting his head late in the first half of Miami’s Week 3 game against Buffalo. He staggered and weaved before being helped off the field and into the dressing room. He was soon cleared by a team physician and an unaffiliated neurotrauma consultant to return in the second half as Miami beat the favoured Bills. Tagovailoa and the team later said his legs were wobbly because of a back injury.

Dolphins head coach Mike McDaniel said that he was comfortable with his team’s processes regarding Tagovailoa’s health and clearance to return to play so quickly. “He was evaluated and then cleared by several layers of medical professionals, who – I don’t pretend to be one – but those people, the collection of them, cleared him of any head injury whatsoever. He had a back and ankle issue.” The team said it was good with sending  Tagovailoa to play in Cincinnati.  again on Thursday, just four days later.

Bad idea. After the Dophins QB rolled out on a play, 340-pound Bengals defensive tackle Josh Tupou slammed Tagovailoa backward into the turf. In the classic sign of concussion, Tagovailoa’s hands froze in an upright position while his fingers splayed awkwardly as he lay still on the ground. After a long delay he was taken away on a stretcher and sent to a local hospital. He was later released from the hospital and flew home with the Dolphins hours later.

The tsunami of outrage from media, fans and players quickly destroyed the NFL’s cultivated narrative of a proper protocol. So a scapegoat had to found. Accordingly, the neuro-trauma consultant who let Tagovailoa back into the Bills game in Miami was fired by the NFLPA after it was discovered that the doctor has made ‘several mistakes’ in his evaluation.

Sure. You go with that. Baltimore head coach John Harbaugh— for one— was not buying., “I couldn’t believe what I saw,” Harbaugh said about Thursday night’s re-injury. “I couldn’t believe what I saw last Sunday. It was astonishing to see. I’ve been coaching for 40 years — college and the NFL — and I’ve never seen anything like it before.”

Players present day and retired chimed in. Chris Long: “Now IF protocol wasn’t followed & I’m a coach or executive who greenlit him playing 4 days after a head injury… I have no idea how you’re focused on the game… shit is going to get real.” Patriots star DB Adrian Phillips: “Dude should not have been playing tonight.”

Shannon Sharp: “That’s a serious injury . Tua shouldn’t have been out there with Sunday Thursday turn around. Sometimes players need protecting from themselves. Dolphins failed Tua”

Ben Watson: “I know what I saw and Tua was concussed last week. The fact that he was able to return to play is everything that’s wrong with the game so many of us love. A full investigation is forthcoming. Praying for this young man right now. This is awful to witness.”

What even lay people now understand is that one brain injury makes a person more vulnerable to another injury— especially in a short period of time. Meaning the NFL needed to be extra diligent with Tagavailoa. They failed. Now no one can say when— or if— Tagavailoa will return to playing.

While attention is focussed on the NFL’s shortcomings it needs to be pointed out that the NHL continues its own nonsense over brain injuries. Knowing what is known now the league still allows fit, powerful players to punch each other in the head over… no one is sure. If Don Cherry were still the measuring stick he’d say it’s about honour.

NHL commissioner Gary “The Good Doctor” Bettman somehow can say that the link between punching a man in the head and brain trauma is still unproven. He seems unaware that protecting the NHL’s sluggo past may make him popular with his owners, but sponsors and fans are no longer with him.

Jarred Tinordi #24 of the Montreal Canadiens fights with Cody McLeod #55 of the Colorado Avalanche in the NHL game at the Bell Centre on October 18, 2014 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. (Francois Lacasse/NHLI/Getty Images)

They are eventually going to follow Gladwell’s advice and avoid a lucrative sport that employs only those who have nothing to lose.

Bruce Dowbiggin @dowbboy is the editor of Not The Public Broadcaster (http://www.notthepublicbroadcaster.com). A two-time winner of the Gemini Award as Canada’s top television sports broadcaster, he’s a regular contributor to Sirius XM Canada Talks Ch. 167. Inexact Science: The Six Most Compelling Draft YearsIn NHL History, , his new book with his son Evan, was voted the eighth best professional hockey book of by bookauthority.org . His 2004 book Money Players was voted seventh best, and is available via http://brucedowbigginbooks.ca/book-personalaccount.aspx

 

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Brownstone Institute

How the Dutch Failed their Children – A Cautionary Tale

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BY HANS KOPPIES

One of the best places to raise children is The Netherlands. In several consecutive UNICEF reports the Netherlands ranked first for raising the happiest children among wealthy countries (2008, 2013, 2020). However, in the spring of 2020, The Netherlands became a harsh place for children and young people. The Dutch government adopted a one-size-fits-all policy handling the covid-19 pandemic, which did not spare the youngest and took a great toll on Dutch children. The Nobel Laureate Michael Levitt remarked that the Dutch policies would ‘set the record for worst covid-response ever.’

 ‘Intelligent Lockdown’

Unable to withstand the rising global panic, the Dutch government on March 16th 2020 announced an “intelligent” lockdown, a phrase coined by Prime Minister Mark Rutte.

Dutch society came to a halt. Offices, shops, restaurants and bars, libraries, sport facilities, as well as daycare centers, schools and universities were closed. The closure of schools was unexpected since the government’s official advisory group, the medics-dominated Outbreak Management Team (OMT), advised against it, for a school closure would have a minimal effect on the spread of the coronavirus.

A reconstruction of events showed that the main reason the Dutch government closed schools was that the educational field started to panic about keeping schools open. Closing schools was a political decision to follow the panic, not a medical decision. Schools supposedly closed for three weeks. Three weeks became three months. Research by The University of Oxford (Engzell, et al. 2021) shows that during the first wave the average Dutch student learned next to nothing during homeschooling. Moreover, students whose parents were not well-educated suffered up to 60% more learning losses.

School Closure ‘No Effect’

According to the Dutch equivalent of Fauci – Jaap van Dissel, chief scientist of the Dutch Health Agency (RIVM) and chairman of the Dutch OMT – the closure of schools in the spring of 2020 had “no effect.” Media, experts and politicians paid no attention to evidence though. Children were portrayed as ‘virus factories’ and schools were depicted as ’unsafe’ environments. Fear had a strong grip on the field of education and teaching unions exaggerated the risks of teachers in schools resulting in a drastic increase in safety demands.

The data was clear that not only did children not run any significant risk, but also that there was ‘no evidence that children play an important role in SARS-CoV-2 transmission.’ Still, a second lockdown would hit children. That second lockdown – now called a ‘hard lockdown’ – was announced on December 15th 2020. Schools closed again, this time advised by the OMT who had increased the number of areas it deemed itself expert on, on the basis of models, of course, proving Martin Kulldorff’s point that lab scientists are no public health scientists.

Dutch minister of Health Hugo de Jonge caused a stir by explaining this intervention was meant to coerce parents to stay at home. The international children’s rights organization KidsRights harshly criticized this policy: “The Netherlands has set a bad example internationally by closing schools during the corona pandemic to keep parents at home.” This children’s rights organization concluded that children were not a priority in Dutch corona policy and warned for the possible consequences.

As new insights on the negative impact of closing schools on children’s lives emerged, governments from countries all over the world decided not to close them again in the future. Undeterred, the Dutch government closed schools again on December 18 2021, just long enough to deny children their traditional Christmas dinner at school with their classmates, a big event in the childhood of Dutch children.

The deteriorating mental health of Dutch children was striking. The Dutch Health Authorities (RIVM) published a disturbing report which stated that more than one in five (22%) teenagers and young adults between the ages of 12 and 25 seriously considered taking their own life between December 2021 and February 2022 during the third lockdown. From happiest in the world to suicidal in a matter of three lockdowns.

Record Low in Sports Participation

Not only were schools closed by diktat. For two years, sports facilities were also repeatedly forced to close. The restrictions were constantly changing, with as a low point banning parents from watching their child play sports outdoors. Once again, there was no scientific evidence that this would help minimize the spread of the virus. The result is a record low in sports participation nationwide. The Dutch Olympic Committee and the Dutch Sports Federation (NOC*NSF) were ‘particularly’ worried by the negative effect on young people’s sports participation.

The Corona Pass

So no school and no sports. Another low point with regard to children was the corona pass (Coronatoegangsbewijs) that was mandatory from September 25th, 2021 for every Dutch citizen above 12. The corona pass was required for most social activities, such as going to the movies, attending a sports game with parents, or entering the canteen at sports club with teammates to drink tea or lemonade after the match.

Unsurprisingly, there was no scientific evidence that this intervention would reduce the spread of covid-19, but the Dutch government enforced it anyway. Crucially, the corona pass required vaccination, recovery from covid-19 or a negative result from a coronavirus test taken less than 24 hours before entry. So essentially, access to social life was used by the government to blackmail Dutch children into invasive medical procedures.

The madness continued, unsupported by evidence. At one point in time, outside playgrounds for children were closed. Parents were not allowed to enter swimming pools to dress their preschoolers before and after swimming lessons. In the winter of 2020-2021 the Dutch government even went as far as trying to regulate snowball fights, by dictating that only those from the same household were allowed to participate, and that their group could not exceed a certain number.

Neither sex nor the sea were exempt from the regulators. Young adults were advised which forms of sex were recommended, bearing the 1.5 m distance rule in mind. Drones were used to prevent people from gathering on the beach. To restrict the movements of young people even further, an evening curfew was introduced. It was not supported by any scientific explanation, just “boerenverstand” (common sense) as the advisory group OMT called it.

Restricting the lives of children and young people during the pandemic should require a great deal of evidence, as well as a risk-benefit evaluation. The Swedish government decided early in January 2020 that the measures in Sweden should be evidence-based. So it kept schools open, a decision supported by the evaluation of the Swedish Corona Commission in 2022. In Norway – where schools only closed briefly – the corona commission concluded in April 2022 that the Norwegian government had not done enough to protect children and that the measures regarding children had been excessive. The Norwegians essentially took the unethical initial decision to harm children without evidence and its authorities recognized that afterwards.

Sweden’s approach to the pandemic contains inconvenient truths for the Dutch, which is why Dutch authorities ignored the evidence from Sweden (and from Norway). As the Swedish journalist and author Johan Anderberg states in the epilogue of his book The Herd:

From a human perspective, it was easy to understand why so many were reluctant to face the numbers from Sweden. For the inevitable conclusion must be that millions of people had been denied their freedom, and millions of children had had their education disrupted, all for nothing. Who would want to be complicit in that?”

This year, my wife and I decided to spend our summer holidays in Sweden and after two years of often doubtful restrictions in our home country, the Swedish summer and the beaches of Skåne were a breath of fresh air. As a parent and a Special Needs Education Generalist (and former teacher of Physical Education) I am greatly impressed by the path chosen by The Swedish Public Health Agency and the Swedish Government as they remained focused on the health, well-being, and education of children in the process of policy-making. Anders Tegnell and his predecessor Johan Giesecke have tirelessly advocated for not disturbing the lives of children, and they have been proven right.

A very outspoken Giesecke gave his frank opinion on Swedish television: “I am a father and grandfather myself, and I feel if children are given the opportunity to receive a good education and that the risk for me to become infected with covid-19 would increase slightly, it is worth it. Their future is worth more than my future, and it’s not just about my grandchildren, it’s about all the children.”

The successful Swedish approach shows that in many countries government policies met the criteria of child abuse. A key lesson for the future is that schools should not close again in similar circumstances. The Dutch government and the OMT failed the children of their country, a dark and shameful chapter in our history that future historians will surely not look favorably upon.

All expert knowledge and wisdom that has contributed to the health and well-being of Dutch children was thrown out of the window overnight in the spring of 2020. Children and young people were made to carry the burden in order to ‘supposedly’ protect adults.

As Sunetra Gupta and many others have stated, that is the precautionary principle turned upside down. The Danish-American epidemiologist Tracy Beth Høeg rightly condemned such policies, which were also pursued in the US, by calling them: Sacrificing children’s health in the name of Health.

After two years of closing down children’s lives, I firmly believe we owe it to children and their parents to make amends for the wrongs that were done to Dutch children. Above all, Article 3 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child should never be forgotten: “In all measures concerning children, the best interests of the child must come first.” It is mind-boggling how quickly children’s rights have gone out of the window worldwide. With disastrous consequences.

For children and young people a recovery plan should focus on repairing the damage done in education, recovering sports participation, and restoring the trust in the government and institutions that they can traditionally rely on for their health and their well-being. The Netherlands should be a safe haven for children, as it used to be. Pandemic preparedness also includes watching over children’s health and well-being and in this regard the Dutch failed their children and young people. We should do better in the future. Much better.

Author

  • Dr. Hans Koppies has completed the Academy of Physical Education (ALO). He then studied Pedagogical Sciences at the VU University Amsterdam, specializing in Orthopedagogics: Families in Psychosocial Difficulties. He has worked as a remedial educationalist at various institutions in youth care and special education. He writes about growing up and raising children, parenting and counseling in articles and essays in newspapers and magazines.

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