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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

Corporate Capture & Youth Checkout: The Covid Scorecard

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The decade past has witnessed a Great Realignment. (Mind we said realignment, not reset.) The election of Barack Obama through Donald Trump and Covid-19 has seen a tectonic shift in the plates beneath society. Alliances have been broken. Power has shifted. Loyalties have disappeared.

The result is a new coalition, a cult alliance of tech, knowledge-based industry, culture and corporatism. Under cover of social unrest and virus paranoia these former antagonists found common cause in punishing the middle and lower classes of society for not acknowledging their elevated, superior status. (Translation: they voted for Trump.)

These woke apostles are unapologetic. Through censorship, cancel culture and financial, leverage they’ve created an oligopoly unabashed in bare-knuckled self-interest. And to constantly remind you that they’re in charge.

To understand how revolutionary this alliance is one need only recall the dirigiste fervour of the 1960s. While it seemed to everyone at the time that society might tip in the maelstrom of riot and protest, the corporate side never blinked. They viewed the Weathermen and the Red Brigade as fringe outfits that would never see power. They held to the status quo (or privilege in today’s CRT newspeak.)

That has changed, because of writers such as French socialist economist Thomas Piketty. Thanks to him Corporate America is now obsessed with Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG), not shareholder value. It is dominated by HR departments deeply committed to radical notions of social justice and racial equity. Inspired by the example of Michelle Obama, they’ve made Wall Street into Woke Street.

As we wrote in February of 2021 “the New Left now ruthlessly employs Big Tech, Wall Street and the media against its idealogical enemies— including some of its former allies… the Democratic Party of 2021 has morphed from brave to slave, dedicated to intellectual conformity, not contrary opinions. Gone are the civil libertarians like (William) Kunstler. In their place are AOC and her brigades of SJWs purveying hate-speech laws and attacking deniers of the “true climate religion”. First amendment rights have been replaced by cancel-culture indictments.”

Jordan B. Peterson, who recently resigned his tenured position at University of Toronto, describes the corporate submission: “What in the world is wrong with you? Can’t you see that the ideologues who push such appalling nonsense are driven by an agenda that is not only absolutely antithetical to your free-market enterprise, as such, but precisely targeted at the freedoms that made your success possible?

“Can’t you see that by going along, sheep-like (just as the professors are doing; just as the artists and writers are doing) that you are generating a veritable fifth column within your businesses? Are you really so blind, cowed and cowardly?”

While this corporate surrender has transpired, another schism has developed under cover of the Covid-19 pandemic panic. Its effect could be just as enduring. This one is based on age.

The group in society most vulnerable to the ravages of the pandemic is the 55+ cohort, the aging Boomers— the same one orchestrating the reaction to the virus. They are also the most afraid of its impact on them personally. It would be no exaggeration to say those health concerns have been reflected in the overbearing lockdown, mask, distancing and detention policies used against the virus. The generation that once worshipped free speech was quick to abandon civil liberties in its panic to save its own hide.

But younger generations who are far less vulnerable to the virus are tired of being participants in the psycho-dramas of aging the Boomers and their death phobia. And they’ve reached their end. They now flock to clubs, arenas and stadiums to see their friends. They know some of them will get sick, but 99.99 percent of them will be fine even if infected.

They are dismissive of the political shell game of their elders and the autocrats of Big Health. And, as we can see from one of the major sports, they’re headed in a new direction.

NHL players, God bless ‘em, have recognized that old people’s worries are not their worries. For months the league has gone with the Covid catechism to please politicians. Players were ordered to be vaccinated. Anyone testing positive from the wonky PCR test was sidelined. Even asymptomatic players. Games were played with undermanned rosters.

With 100 percent vaccinated, the league still saw 70 percent of players test positive. So the NHL now says “No more”. Only players who show symptoms will be removed from play. Excellent athletes are not 81-year-old U.S. senators shaking in their Depends.

With the accepted narrative now collapsing— Britain has abandoned the mask and lockdown mandates— more jurisdictions will do contrition for overshooting the mark. Dottering Joe Biden can talk about belatedly sending out 400 million masks, but he’s lost the room. Under 50s have moved on.

The only question is how long the ESG folks propping him up will wait before he’s sent overboard. While health is important, everything is second to their power.

Bruce Dowbiggin @dowbboy is the editor of Not The Public Broadcaster (http://www.notthepublicbroadcaster.com). The best-selling author was nominated for the BBN Business Book award of 2020 for Personal Account with Tony Comper. A two-time winner of the Gemini Award as Canada’s top television sports broadcaster, he’s also a regular contributor to Sirius XM Canada Talks Ch. 167. His new book with his son Evan Inexact Science: The Six Most Compelling Draft Years In NHL History is now available on http://brucedowbigginbooks.ca/book-personalaccount.aspx

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Bruce Dowbiggin

Fortress Australia Gets Its Scalp, Tosses Djoker Out

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The ceremony of innocence is drowned;

The best lack all conviction, while the worst   

Are full of passionate intensity. —W.B. Yeats

There has always been a large reservoir of affection for Australia in the West. The sun-kissed land down under. Kangaroos. Beaches. Crocodile Dundee. Aussie Rules Football. Men At Work. Foreigners embraced all the clichés gleefully.

The Australian Open tennis tournament was part of that scenario. The first Grand Slam, played in scorching sunshine while the Northern Hemisphere freezes in January. TV coverage was laced with tourist entreaties to fly 14 hours to the Great Barrier Reef and Gold Coast.

But with the nation’s behaviour in fighting Covid-19, this is all (in the words of Yeats) “changed, changed utterly.” The fever-swamp regime now running the nation has gone off the rails with detention camps for unvaxxed, flying squads of police roaming the streets and total lockdowns in emulation of the Chinese.

Australia’s heavy-handed “cures” for Covid would make Curfew Quebec look a model of tolerance. While America is moving away from draconian lockdowns, (Associated Press is now asking its writers to play down Covid numbers) Australia is still singing from the 2020 WHO hymn book that pretends lockdowns save lives. For example, mask mandates were recently re-imposed when five— count ‘em— five local cases were spotted in Perth.

Look, Australia is entitled to run their nation any way they want. They have the constitutional right to act like so many scared kookaburras in the face of a virus that will spare 99.98 percent of them. But don’t push the “shrimp on the bar-b” hokum on the world when the tennis begins.

This whack-a-mole mania culminated in Sunday’s expulsion of Covid rebel Novak Djokovic. After granting the No. 1 men’s player in the world a visa to play, Australia’s Minister of Immigration Alex Hawke said he had cancelled the 34-year-old’s visa for a second time on “health and good order grounds, on the basis that it was in the public interest to do so”. He said Djokovic’s example was— wait for it— a threat to his people.

Good order? Hawke and his government have to lock up the population because their Island Fortress strategy isn’t enough to curb Omicron’s arrival. Yet Djokovic is the threat, not their frantic search for a fifth column of viral killers in Canberra.

Djoker knew he was going into headwinds as he sought to play in the Open as an unvaccinated player. He was less than forthcoming on his entry documents. So his highly political stance made him a target. But a threat to the people of Australia? Please. (The cops escorting him to the airport was reminiscent of Judy Garland being shooed from the country in the 1960s for being too drunk to perform.)

The Australian PM Scott Morrison, with his eyes on re-election, greeted the expulsion, mumbling about needing to “keep our borders strong and keep Australians safe… It’s now time to get on with the Australian Open and get back to enjoying tennis over the summer.”

Djokovic’s argument is that the Australian government that initially granted him a visa is now using him as an easy target to whip the natives in line. The independent, unapologetic Djokovic has certainly served the Aussie politicians well as a convenient whipping boy for the petrified millions who put their faith in governments and health “experts” to save them from the dreaded virus.

(Sounds like France, which never misses an opportunity to enforce the status quo, will emulate Australia by banning an unvaxxed Djokovic if he ventures there in June for the French Open.)

The “burn the witch” frenzy feeds into the non-vaxxed insanity currently underway in Canada and the U.S. There are demands that those who declined the juice be denied healthcare or fined or have their taxes audited. Immunity is dismssed. Cobbled hospital numbers are conflated with truths. Instead, images of gap-toothed hillbillies saturate progressive media who find their allies have been unable to halt the virus as promised.

Inconveniently, polling by Abacus in Canada has shown that the typical anti-vaxxer is not a swaggering tennis player, a bow hunter or toothless yokel but is in fact a 42-year-old Ontario white woman who votes Liberal.

The bright side of this Kafkaesque farce is that Omicron is fading like old Xmas decorations. Many are predicting that it is peaking now and will be a spent force by February. The tinpot tyrants in Australia, having booted Djokovic, will need something else to reinforce their desperate grasp on power.

Ditto here in North America. Unless a follow-up variant can be swiftly produced (remember that subsequent viruses are always weaker) Skippy and Biden will be left to explain their enforced vaccines and virus solutions to a public disinterested in their ongoing need for power.

To use a tennis analogy they’ll be down two breaks and facing Djokovic’s best serve. Should be entertaining.

 

Bruce Dowbiggin @dowbboy is the editor of Not The Public Broadcaster (http://www.notthepublicbroadcaster.com). The best-selling author was nominated for the BBN Business Book award of 2020 for Personal Account with Tony Comper. A two-time winner of the Gemini Award as Canada’s top television sports broadcaster, he’s also a regular contributor to Sirius XM Canada Talks Ch. 167. His new book with his son Evan Inexact Science: The Six Most Compelling Draft Years In NHL History is now available on http://brucedowbigginbooks.ca/book-personalaccount.aspx

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