The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

No, We Can’t.

Posted on | December 11, 2012 | 23 Comments

Memeorandum features this headline from Think Progress:

We Could End Homelessness With The Money
Americans Spend On Christmas Decorations

This is false. It could only be true if the complex problem known by the misleading label ”homelessness” were just a matter of money, but it’s not.

Homelessness made headlines in the 1980s and was exploited for purposes of partisan propaganda by liberals who saw an opportunity to dramatize what they construed as consequences of “Reaganomics.” In fact, as researchers discovered, homelessness is primarily caused by non-economic factors: mental illness, substance abuse and family disruption.

Insofar as homelessness resulted from public policy, it was not the Reagan administration’s budget policies, but rather the de-institutionalization of the mentally ill — a liberal priority during the 1970s — which had done most to aggravate the problem.

Prior to the 1970s, people with serious chronic mental illnesses like schizophrenia were for the most part incarcerated in psychiatric wards at state institutions. (For example, when I was a kid growing up near Atlanta, a common synonym for “crazy” was “Milledgeville,” the town where Central State Hospital was located.) As a result of court rulings, new ideas about the nature of mental illness and governmental policy, in the late ’70s long-term involuntary committment became much less common. Unless it could be proven that a patient was an immediate danger to himself or others, the mentally ill could not be hospitalized against their will.

As a result of these policy changes, many thousands of seriously deranged individuals were turned loose in society. While these patients were eligible for (and, in some cases, under court order to participate in) outpatient psychiatric treatment, many were unwilling or unable to cooperate with the outpatient process. This is, by the way, how the phrase “off his meds” entered our language as a slang for craziness.

If these liberated lunatics were off their meds — not taking the anti-psychotic drugs needed to control their symptoms — they were not incapable of self-medication, and many of them resorted to alcohol, marijuana and other drugs that did nothing to improve their condition. And as strange as it may seem, liberals in many instances actively assisted in keeping such people on the streets.

The most infamous case was Joyce Brown, alias “Billie Boggs,” a schizophrenic in New York City who in the 1980s defecated and urinated on the sidewalks of Manhattan, yelling obscene gibberish and harassing passersby. The American Civil Liberties Union went to court to protect the crazy woman’s right to live in this manner and, when authorities tried to have her involuntarily committed for psychiatric treatment, her ACLU lawyers actually described Brown as a “political prisoner.” During one 1988 hearing, the ACLU represented Brown as having established “a fearless, independent life style.”

A junkie, a drunk or a schizophrenic may be “homeless,” but this isn’t a problem that can be solved with the money you could save by not decorating your home for Christmas. And the same is true of violent criminals, who make up a larger portion of the homeless population than most people are aware. Joyce Brown had a criminal record, including an assault charge in New Jersey, and so too did another notorious homeless drug addict who terrorized New Yorkers, Larry Hogue, the “Wild Man of 96th Street”:

He was big and he was bad, regularly mugging people to support his drug habit.
He set fires under cars, heaved rocks through stained glass church windows, masturbated in front of kids, stalked seniors and threatened children with nail-studded clubs.
Cops would arrest him and take him to the psychiatric ward, where he would be cut off from his crack supply.
After a few weeks his demons would disappear and he’d be back to his old tricks on W. 96th St.

Hogue’s case illustrates why money can’t prevent homelessness: Hogue received a $3,000-a-month disability check from Veterans Affairs, but his mental illness and drug abuse made him incapable of spending this responsibly, and his dangerous violence finally got him committed to Creedmoor Psychiatric Center in Queens.

There was never any shortage of housing or other assistance available to people like Joyce Brown and Larry Hogue. The problem was a set of government policies and court rulings that made it impossible to incarcerate them for their crimes, rescue them from their drug addiction or institutionalize them for their insanity.

Despite these facts, however, the Grinches at Think Progress want to guilt-trip Americans this holiday season by insinuating that Christmas decorations are the cause of homelessness.

To which I reply: “Bah! Humbug!”

 

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Comments

  • M. Thompson

    Right on. There’s a difference between the truly needy and the looneys who used to be put away for life.

  • robertstacymccain

    If I can find it, I may post an article I wrote several years ago about the criminal dangers posed by the homeless.

  • http://boogieforward.us/ K-Bob

    I read the whole thing. Now where’s that cop with my free shoes?

  • http://alanye.com/ Dai Alanye

    I’m personally familiar with the case of a young schizophrenic who had been jailed by a profoundly ignorant judge for petty crimes, one of which was stealing a can of pop from a store.

    He was forcefully medicated while in jail for purposes of control. When his sentence was complete, a counselor from a private mental health organization was called in to evaluate him. The counselor determined the young man was no danger to himself or others “at that moment.”

    Still delusional, and now un-medicated, he was released into thirty degree weather during a snowfall, wearing neither a winter coat, hat nor boots, and with no shelter available. He walked and hitchhiked to an adjacent town to beg for food and shelter from friends who were also off-kilter but on welfare. Had he not gained shelter from one of them he intended, so he told me, to mug someone to gain money.

  • http://twitter.com/RoxeanneDeLuca Roxeanne de Luca

    Except that I work a LOT and sometimes, want a bit of frivolous joy in exchange for my labour. If my life were to be devoid of Christmas decorations, Starbucks, chocolate goodies, and such, and all my funds given to the ‘homeless’ instead, you can bet that I would be more miserable and would alleviate that misery by working less, thereby not having any money to give to the homeless.

    Sometimes, us working stiffs need a break.

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  • Frank_B

    Every other day some lib is claiming that all the money spent on X would cure social woe Y. It never has anything to do with Y. It’s just libspeak for, “I hate X.”

  • http://boogieforward.us/ K-Bob

    Obviously government did a good job there. Let’s let them handle more of our problems.

  • http://wyblog.us/blog Chris Wysocki

    It turns out Mr. Shoeless Homeless Dude is neither shoeless nor homeless. He has a perfectly good, government subsidized apartment in The Bronx, filled with the normal possessions of a potentially normal person. Including shoes. Alas he is, as Stacy so eloquently put it, “off his meds”.

    Then there’s the notorious case here in NJ of Richard Kreimer. Mr. Kreimer makes a living being a pest. A smelly, unwashed, unkempt, noisy, ostensibly homeless pest. He then sues whatever establishment throws him out for being a pest. With the ACLU by his side, of course. He won a half-million or so judgment a few years back, bought himself a nice house. Which he has never lived in, because he *likes* being a homeless pest. And he’s really really good at it.

  • http://thecampofthesaints.org Bob Belvedere

    -I remember that article – it was damn good.

  • http://thecampofthesaints.org Bob Belvedere

    Don’t forget the bourbon, Roxe!

  • http://thecampofthesaints.org Bob Belvedere

    I am fully convinced that the ACLU Leadership is made up of disciples of Saul Alinsky. Want to foster Chaos, anyone?

  • http://opinion.ak4mc.us/ McGehee

    (For example, when I was a kid growing up near Atlanta, a common synonym for “crazy” was “Milledgeville,” the town where Central State Hospital was located.)

    In California it was “Napa.” We even joked at Sac State U. about “Napa State” being a sister campus.

    These days, of course, you find your most prominent California mental patient in the Capitol’s souitheast corner office.

  • TR

    RSM, thanks for a concise and well focused article that shows how facts and logic are bypassed in the day-to-day propaganda put out by the left and then believed by many concerned citizens.

    Now wait for Geraldo with his millions and latest new wife in the helicopter or yacht, take your argument and pick it apart on FOX news (no less). Follow up, with the leftist Law and Order episodes that dramatiize the ACLU arguments in those oh-so-believeable stories with plenty of victims that just sadly repeat the twisted and broken story of “homelessness”.

  • Conservative Girl

    I do a great deal of work with the homeless. Only about 1/3 of them are mentally ill. They are a very misunderstood population, you see the addicts and the mentally ill, so people just assume that is the whole story and it isn’t.

  • http://wizbangblog.com/ Adjoran

    Of course you are quite correct in your analysis, but there is yet another point to be made.

    How many of the folks who contribute to and/or read Think Progress decorate their homes for Christmas? Rounded to the nearest decimal point, NONE of them. So again, they want to take someone else’s money being spent on something they wouldn’t spend on, and give it to a third party they deem worthy through arbitrary “reasoning,” and then pat themselves on the back for their “compassion.”

  • Free to Choose

    “We could end homelessness with the money Americans spend on Christmas decorations.”

    Sure, and we could do that and a lot more with the money Americans spend on union dues.

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  • http://alanye.com/ Dai Alanye

    If I didn’t know you so well I might think you were being sarcastic.

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  • http://boogieforward.us/ K-Bob

    Heh. I rarely employ the “/sarc” tag. Makes it difficult sometimes.

  • Behind_You1

    That’s still a sizable percentage. If we were to reopen the institutions, it’d at least take care of part of the problem.

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