Homelessness and the Midterms
Voters across the spectrum demand action on homelessness.
Crime and Homelessness America’s largest cities are becoming hotbeds of homelessness and crime. Whilst homelessness has always been present in the cities, the advent of large scale homeless camps in the street has not. This creates a visibly unsettling addition to cities, and frequently comes with social problems. This situation can only partly be explained by things like a rising cost of living. The biggest explanations are drug policy and a misguided view that homeless people are victims of society and therefore their behavior can always be excused in terms of this victimization.
The financial burden of homelessness is high. It has been estimated that every homeless person costs taxpayers at least $61,000 per year. This cost rises to $73,000 if the homeless person has a drug, alcohol or mental health problem. Public hygiene also suffers as many homeless people publicly relieve themselves, and large amounts of trash and human waste build up. In Denver, Colorado, homeless camps at the Civic Center Park were so bad that the park was closed for several months. The city authorities noted rodent infestations and increased crime were associated with these camps. This situation is not unique to Denver and most US large cities are experiencing similar things.
The decline in public confidence and safety has been severe. There have been high profile crimes committed by homeless people. In January 2022, a homeless man in Los Angeles murdered 24 year-old Brianna Kupfer in her workplace. In the same city the previous month, 70 year-old nurse Sandra Shells was randomly attacked and murdered by a homeless person. This is all despite a $440 million spending spree that was meant to tackle homelessness; in fact homelessness has increased 15 percent in the meantime.
Voters are tired and opinion polls show they demand action, even in ultra-liberal cities. 88% of voters in Portland, Oregon said their quality of life had gotten worse, up from 49% in 2017. 24% of voters said crime was their number 1 issue, up from a mere 1% of voters in early 2020. 83% of Portland voters favor mandating homeless people to live in official shelters or designated sites. San Francisco business leaders found that 70% of the Bay Area residents favored a “get tough” approach on homelessness. Another poll found that 65% of San Francisco residents were now avoiding the downtown area due to crime concerns. In the midterms, homelessness could become an issue.
In the critical battleground states of Arizona and Georgia, polls also show a strong appetite for action. 70% of GA voters say homelessness threatens public safety and 80% want a ban on illegal street camping; 64% “strongly support” moving homeless people to proper, hygienic shelters under law enforcement supervision. This is widespread, with 92% of Republicans, 80% of independents and 79% of Democrats supporting a policy of designated housing with mandatory participation in treatment and therapy for drugs/alcohol issues.
In Arizona, 68% of Arizona voters feel that homelessness has gotten worse. 79% of AZ voters want homeless people obligated to live in official camp sites or shelters, with proper sanitation and under supervision by law enforcement. When asked the best solution to homelessness, 84% of AZ voters said they supported moving homeless people to these official sites, with required treatment for any substance abuse issues they may have. 78% of voters surveyed would be “more likely” to support a candidate who proposed “new ways of addressing homelessness and who make reducing street homelessness a priority.” This included 69% of Democrats, 77% of Independents, and 88% of Republicans.
It is clear that homelessness is a serious issue and voters across the spectrum want action.
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