What's it going to take, a full-on outbreak of the bubonic plague before the Smart People catch on? "America abandoned a custodial approach to mental illness a half-century ago, and the results have been obvious in the nation’s streets and public spaces ever since — and never more so than on the Bowery early Saturday morning." "Bowery," dear reader, is New York for "skid row," and, although it has always been with us, New York Post columnist Bob McManus is making the same point Mr Royko made about Chicago, in the pre-digital era. (The Tribune might slowly be putting a digital archive of Royko columns together, but Cold Spring Shops is unlikely ever to subscribe.)
Beggars, addicts, scammers of every stripe and the helpless, severely mentally ill have overwhelmed the city’s boulevards, parks and mass transit.It's somebody else who ends up paying the price for the virtue signal. The best we can do might be to add "progressive" mental health policy changes to all the other failed technocratic impulses of the past fifty years.
Thus it has been to one degree or another for 50 years, ever since ideologically inspired mental-health policy makers began to shut down large state insane asylums — those words used to mean something — in favor of non-coercive, so-called community-based treatment.
The new policies, made possible by advances in psychotropic-drug therapy, largely were driven by 1960s-era “liberation” activists not dissimilar to today’s so-called “social-justice” zealots.
They subordinated clinical needs and realities to ideology, and the new ways led directly to concentrations of blighted hotels and shelters for drugged-up, non-functional former patients; long prison terms for those who reacted violently to the pressures of unsupervised life; the legions of hopeless street dwellers and, inevitably, to homicidal subway pushers and associated maniacs.
Heather MacDonald is not afraid to point out exactly what went wrong, in San Francisco, where you're less likely to meet some gentle people there.
For the last three decades, San Francisco has conducted a real-life experiment in what happens when a society stops enforcing bourgeois norms of behavior. The city has done so in the name of compassion toward the homeless. The results have been the opposite: street squalor and misery have increased, even as government expenditures have ballooned. Yet the principles that have guided the city’s homelessness policy remain inviolate: homelessness is a housing problem; it is involuntary; and its persistence is the result of inadequate public spending. These propositions are readily disproved by talking to people living on the streets.Everything that follows, and it's a full-length article, is elaboration.
The combination of maximal tolerance for antisocial behavior, on the one hand, and free services and food, on the other, acts as a magnet. “San Francisco is the place to go if you live on the streets,” observes Jeff, the 50-year-old wino and drug addict. “There are more resources—showers, yeah, and housing.” A 31-year-old named Rose arrived in San Francisco from Martinez, northeast of the city, four years ago, trailing a long criminal record. She came for the benefits, including Vivitrol to dull the effect of opiates, she says woozily, standing outside a huge green tent and pink bike at Golden Gate and Hyde, surrounded by the Hondurans.All across the nation, such a strange vibration, it starts with the mellow flower children and it ends with the reality-challenged, enabled by the so-called enlightened.
Suggesting that some of the homeless are making a choice is heresy in official circles. Longtime San Francisco pol Bevan Dufty, formerly director of the Mayor’s Office of Housing Opportunities, Partnerships and Engagement, now president of the BART board of directors, says that it is “B.S.” to call people service-resistant. “The lies that people tell are disgusting—‘people don’t want services,’ ‘they come here to be homeless.’ These lies are to make you blame the victim.”
The viability of cities should not be held hostage to solving social breakdown. Carving out a zone of immunity from the law and bourgeois norms for a perceived victim class destroys the quality of urban existence. As important, that immunity consigns its alleged beneficiaries to lives of self-abasement and marginality. Tolerating street vagrancy is a choice that cities make; for the public good, in San Francisco and elsewhere, that choice should be unmade.By their fruits shall ye know the deconstructors of bourgeois norms.