Fix Homelessness How to rebuild human lives

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Kings of the Road, Homeless Heroes, Noble Savages

It’s hard to develop a consensus on public policy concerning homelessness. One reason: Many Americans have decried homelessness but envy the supposedly care-free lives of those who don’t have to deal with mortgages, car payments, and health insurance.   Eight decades ago Frank Capra’s Meet John Doe, starring Gary Cooper as the hobo hero, was a popular movie with positive things to say about the wandering life. Six decades ago country singer Roger Miller’s “King of the Road” glorified day-to-day hobo life and reached #1 on both the U.S. Country chart and Easy Listening surveys. Miller sang, “I’m a man of means by no means/ King of the road.” He summarized disadvantages and advantages: “Old, worn out suit and shoes/ Read More ›

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EXCLUSIVE: Seattle-area July 4th parade rerouted to avoid homeless camp

The city of Burien, Washington altered the parade route for its 100th Annual Independence Day Celebration to avoid a massive homeless encampment. The encampment on SW 152nd St near the entrance of a Grocery Outlet and Dollar Tree is now close to 20 tents deep. “It’s best just to err on caution,” Debra George, who leads Discover Burien, a coalition of business owners responsible for making the last-minute decision, said. “We’re going to take a left on 4th and just head into town square park,” George added. Families, children, and tourists usually line downtown streets to get a glimpse of the floats and marching bands, but George says they have no choice but to alter the route since the city is refusing to remove the Read More ›


Buying Prayers, Building Cathedrals

This year is the 500th anniversary of the death of Hermann Zierenberg. The wealthy man’s will in 1523 revealed he had set aside money so that each year on the anniversary of his death homeless people would pray for his salvation and purportedly save him years in purgatory. As Zierenberg was dying, though, the tradition of buying prayers to reduce purgatory time was dying out in much of Europe. One agent of change was Martin Luther, who said purgatory does not exist, so prayers for beloved ones to escape it are a waste of effort. Another was the enormous cost of grand cathedrals. I visited several years back the Seville Cathedral, known as the third-largest church in the world. It Read More ›


California, the Dream and the Nightmare

“The homeless are just like you and me.” That’s a politically correct assertion that doesn’t quite recognize the reality on the ground, such as the link between self-destructive behavior — most notably, substance abuse — and living on the street with no place to call home. California is home to 12% of America’s population, but 30% of the number “experiencing homelessness” and half the population of unsheltered homeless. Why? A new study on homelessness, the California Statewide Study of People Experiencing Homelessness by UC San Francisco, lays out how a set of painful events can bring adults to the sad moment when they lose a roof over their heads. They lose low-paying jobs and then apartments; they bunk in spare Read More ›


Help the Homeless, Help Yourself?

Today, nonprofit organizations designed to help the homeless compete to be beneficiaries listed in wills. Some offer public relations after death: “Make your generosity live on after you! You can assist the homeless by supporting the work of ___ in your will.” Or, “How Will You Be Remembered? You can help… overcome homelessness, poverty, addiction and mental health issues — even after you’re gone.” Other requests for bequests emphasize helping ourselves as well as helping others: “Your charitable trusts can be established to help homeless families with children, and offer you a tax advantage,” or “Your bequests can leave a lasting legacy, secure tax advantages for your family, and help us to prevent and end homelessness for years to come.” Is partly self-interested altruism new? The late Read More ›

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What the Homeless Owe Us

Do we love our homeless countrymen and women enough to insist that as we provide roofs over their heads, they also diligently engage in programs to restore themselves to lives of dignity and personal self-respect? We often hear about what “we” — i.e., society —owe the homeless. But we rarely discuss what the unhoused owe us. It’s time for that to change. This is a matter of great urgency. Some of our (once) most prosperous and beautiful cities — San Francisco, Los Angeles, Seattle, etc. — are imploding under the pressure of squalid homeless squatter camps, populated largely by openly drug-addled or mentally ill people who befoul the sidewalks with human waste, litter the streets with needles used to shoot Read More ›

American Captial Building.
American Captial Building.

Faith & Law: Compassion First, A Sensible Approach to America’s Homeless Crisis

Washington, D.C – Discovery President Steve Buri, Senior Fellow Robert Marbut, and Senior Fellow Wesley J. Smith spoke at a Faith and Law forum on Capitol Hill. Below is a summary from Watch the forum and read more here. For nearly a decade, federal policies meant to address homelessness have centered around “Housing First,” which begins with an assumption that the crisis is driven primarily by a lack of affordable housing. But is it really? Studies show that most individuals experiencing homelessness suffer from severe addiction, untreated mental illness, or a combination of the two. Others end up on the streets because they have no one to turn to, typically owing to broken familial relationships. It’s time for a Read More ›

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After Reading Current Assumptions, Try Some Wisdom From the Past

C. S. Lewis once said, “It is a good rule, after reading a new book, never to allow yourself another new one till you have read an old one in between. If that is too much for you, you should at least read one old one to every three new ones.” The same goes for teaching about how to help the homeless and poor. Ever since 2013, federal policy has been “housing first”: Get homeless individuals under a roof with no pressure to get the mental health help many need, and no pressure to fight the drug addiction and alcoholism. We tend to equate compassion with giving-without-strings. That’s not the way influential poverty-fighters in the late 19th century thought. Maybe Read More ›

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Ranking Alternative Ways to Fix Homelessness

A lot of homelessness initiatives are 90 percent talk and only 10 percent walk. That’s why I’m impressed with the street-level experience of people involved in The True Charity Initiative, which champions “a national movement of voluntarily funded, effective charity at the most local level.” I asked local leaders involved with True Charity to rank the four views of fixing homelessness that I summarized in my column last week: 1) Housing first, 2) Improve mental health/stop substance abuse first, 3) Community first, and 4) Christ first. Bill Roberts of Love INC in Fishersville, Virginia, said ranking the four is challenging, but he’d give it a shot. He put housing first:  Having a place to call home creates a sense of safety and security. Housing allows individuals Read More ›

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Jonathan Choe on Fox Business: Seattle Cleans up Before MLB All Star Game

Jonathan Choe and radio host Ari Hoffman join Fox Business to react to Seattle residents joining forces to clean up the city’s squalor before the MLB All Star game. Click here to watch the clip.