By Ned Resnikoff
Sheriff Cooper and District Attorney Reisig claim to be offering your readers a plan to end homelessness within the next year, but they’re really just selling snake oil. Despite their blithe assertions to the contrary, drug addiction is not the root cause of California’s homelessness crisis, and tougher drug laws will not end homelessness.
In support of their extraordinary claim that their plan can end homelessness in a year, they cite several other states as positive examples. Each of these states, they write, has harsher penalties for drug possession and lower homelessness; surely the former causes the latter. What Cooper and Reisig neglect to mention is that every one of the states they mention also has more drug overdose deaths per capita than California. Substance abuse is actually a bigger problem in these states than in California, even as homelessness is less of one.
The real reason why these states have lower rates of homelessness isn’t a mystery: they have much lower housing costs. According to the most recent Zillow data, the average home in California is now worth nearly $730,000; of the other states mentioned by Cooper and Reisig, the most expensive is New Jersey, where the typical home is still worth just $457,000. Michigan and Illinois both have average home values below $250,000.
The hard fact of the matter is that California will not be able to end homelessness in the space of a year — least of all by simply arresting our way out of the problem. The only real solution begins with ensuring that every Californian has access to decent, stable housing. To end the homelessness crisis, we need to end the housing crisis.