A former advocate of affordable housing and decriminalizing drugs, Shellenberger watched as “homeless encampments spread and overdose deaths skyrocketed.” Digging into the data, he was shocked to conclude that the problems worsened not in spite of but because of progressive policies.
Central to the downward spiral, he concludes, is tolerance of destructive behaviors. For example, he now questions the “Housing First” approach as lacking accountability.
One homeless man addicted to fentanyl explains “on one side of the street are people giving you food and clean needles. On the other side of the street are all the drug dealers … It’s like getting all the candy and treats that you think you want. You think you’re having fun. But little by little it’s taking away your humanity and turning you into something you were never meant to be.”
Observing the explosion of drug crimes and overdoses, Shellenberger concludes that “people are not dying from drug overdose deaths in San Francisco because they’re being arrested. They’re dying because they aren’t being arrested.” A contentious statement but one Shellenberger backs up with statistics in a chapter entitled “The War on the War on Drugs.”
Shellenberger considers untreated mental illness and drastic insufficiency of mental health beds as a critical failing in cities’ approaches to homelessness. Again, no one is held accountable for the sad and dangerous results.
Shellenberger warns of the dangers of these failings. “Disorder and the loss of freedom go hand in hand. Political leaders who fail to maintain order are often replaced by leaders who sacrifice freedom.”
Michael Lynch’s statement recommending Shellenberger is itself worthy of study. For example, on the importance of faith in recovery from homelessness, he observes “for some organizations, faith can get in the way of their success. To others it can be a shining star. When it excels, it’s awe inspiring.”
Lynch’s message is that “privately plus publicly funded solutions working together can manage and improve the vexing issues we face today in homelessness.”
Ann Donnelly, a Vancouver businesswoman, is a former chair of the Clark County Republican Party.