San Francisco made a choice to tolerate vagrancy and encourage drug use, with dire consequences

San Francisco made a choice to tolerate vagrancy and encourage drug use, with dire consequences. By Heather MacDonald.

This city has been conducting a three-decade experiment in what happens when society stops enforcing bourgeois norms of behavior. It has done so in the name of compassion for the homeless. The result: Street squalor and misery have increased, while government expenditures have ballooned. Yet the principles guiding city policy remain inviolate: Homelessness is a housing problem, it is involuntary, and it persists because of inadequate public spending. These propositions are readily disproved by talking to people living on the streets.

“Everyone’s on drugs here . . . and stealing,” an ex-convict named Shaku explains from an encampment of tents, trash and bicycles across from Glide Memorial Church in the heart of the Tenderloin district. A formerly homeless woman living in a city-subsidized hotel, asked if she does drugs, replies: “Is that a trick question?” Jeff, 50, slumps over his coffee cup at 7:30 a.m. A half-eaten muffin sits next to him on a filthy blanket. “I use drugs, alcohol, all of it,” he tells me, his eyes closed. “The whole Tenderloin is for drugs.”

The city sends the message relentlessly that drug use is not only acceptable but expected. The Health Department distributes 4.5 million syringes a year, along with alcohol swabs, vitamin C to dissolve heroin and crack, and instructions on how to tie one’s arm for a hit. Officials have installed 17 needle-disposal boxes and kiosks throughout the city, signaling to children that drug use is a normal part of adult life. …

The city also enables the entire homeless lifestyle. Outreach workers hand out beef jerky, crackers and other snacks. …

Poop map of San Francisco — everywhere

Free services and food — along with maximal tolerance for antisocial behavior — act as magnets. “San Francisco is the place to go if you live on the streets,” Jeff says. “There are more resources — showers, yeah, and housing.” A man standing outside the city’s latest shelter design, known as a Navigation Center, says that he was offered housing four times but always turned it down. Navigation Centers are designed to be maximally accommodating. Residents come and go as they please, order meals at any time of the day, and bring their pets, partners and possessions (known in shelter parlance as “the three Ps”). …

Elevating the rights of the homeless over those of the working public has cost taxpayers billions, with nothing to show for it. The “unsheltered” count continues to rise — up 17%, to 8,011, in 2019 from 2017 — and San Francisco continues to wonder why. …

The stories the homeless tell about their lives reveal that something far more complex than a housing shortage is at work. The tales veer from one confused and improbable situation to the next, against a backdrop of drug use, petty crime and chaotic child rearing. There are few policy levers to change this crisis of meaning in American culture. What is certain is that the continuing crusade to normalize drug use, along with the absence of any public encouragement of temperance, will further handicap this unmoored population.

Carving out a zone of immunity from the law and bourgeois norms for a perceived victim class destroys the quality of life in a city.

Previously the most prosperous city in the US, now heading down the progressive path. An object lesson for everyone else.