Carusovilles and Keith

“I will build 30,000 temporary housing units in the first year. If anyone knows how to build I know how to build. If I don’t get it done vote me out.  I know I can get that done. I’ve talked to the manufacturer.”

So said mayoral candidate Rick Caruso last week, walking through Skid Row for the benefit of local TV news. If you don’t know, Caruso is on the right, displaying the Hand Gesture of Progress.

“The minute we have good, warm, clean bed and food, then people need to move off the streets. No more encampments. You have to enforce the law. We may offer a bed once, we may offer a bed twice. But the third time we are going to have to say I’m sorry but you’ve broken the law.”

I agree with him but this is wishful thinking as policy.

After the third refusal to self-house, then what? Jail? Imagine the headlines. Billionaire Puts Paupers Behind Bars. It’s a moot point. In 2020 Los Angeles County voted to close the Twin Towers facility to felons.

Fines? They’ll never pay. Penalties will accrue. Years hence, upon a hypothetical sobriety, the chains of Dickensian debt will prevent them from re-integrating and we can’t have that.

The pillory?  If this were colonial Virginia we could parade them in Shrews Fiddles through downtown with signs saying Sloth. If only!

“Sorry, but you have broken the law and we have no place to put you” is not exactly a deterrence.

To distill to a sentence our cognitive dissonance around the army of dispossessed who squat and hunker among us, if would be difficult to improve upon a good, warm, clean bed and food.  A solution few have asked for, and when offered, fewer takers.

In a contest between civic good intentions and the unrestrained id, human nature wins in a blowout.

Man is first a social animal. Hunter gatherers roam the urban landscape, forming street families and alliances. From the detritus of the city all can be foraged:  plywood and tarps and cast off tents, couches, old rugs and bikes. Electricity can be purloined from any light pole. Run a cable across the sidewalk, fire up the flat screen and the hibachi and smoke what needs to be smoked with the satisfaction hunter-gatherers have enjoyed at sundown since we first left the caves.

There is a raison d’être to be found in this, even pride, irritating though that might be for the rest of us.

Add EBT, free phones, free health care, pro bono legal representation and the crucial license to steal™ and most of Maslow’s Needs are well met. The weather is glorious.

Sitting in a clean, Boise decision-approved Tiny Home, with a bookshelf and a lock and showers and rules about drugs and smoking? This appeals to taxpayers.  This is what we would do if we were in their shoes, between filling out job applications, and learning to code.

If you were hoping Caruso would do for the armies of dereliction in L.A. what Elon Musk is poised to do for free speech by purchasing Twitter, you may be disappointed.  He accepts the operative premise of Shantytown, Inc., the massively funded bureaucracy of service providers:  we can build our way out of this.

We can’t. This is the fatal flaw of his candidacy: I’m a developer. I will deliver more units per year. 

Too bad, because he’s wealthy enough not to need the local machine to fund his campaign. He doesn’t owe anybody.

For those who think Housing First policy is working, I would remind readers we are running a real-time experiment in the efficacy of Tiny Home villages in Venice and Van Nuys and North Hollywood, and not only are they utilized at about one-third capacity they continue to be surrounded by encampments, thriving uncontested.

The stars come out for Housing Now! 1989

Take a good look at this picture. Lakers coach Pat Riley. Jon Voight. Bea Arthur. Edith Bunker. Casey Kassem.  The great and good coming together to address the terrible blight of Skid Row. They mean well. They’ve opened their checkbooks. In 1989 camping on the sidewalk in Los Angeles was confined to fifty square blocks downtown. To deal with this, the City had a line item in the budget totaling…millions.

For 2022, the City will spend $1 Billion on Homeless, Inc. The County spent half a billion, the State $7.2 billion, 40% of which came here. I have no idea what the Federal government sends us, but it ain’t zero.  Like a well watered garden, the army of addicts and freeloaders have grown ten-fold, from San Pedro to Granada Hills.

Let us not despair, there remains a fourth alternative…smiling at us from the branches like the Cheshire Cat, villainous and coy.

Stop subsidizing it. All of it. Lean into human nature.

Wait, what? Are you serious? Yes. But, but…we can’t! It’s monstrous! Think of the case workers! The administrators and lobbyists! How will they eat? How will those checks make it home to Pasadena?

While we’re at it, re-criminalize theft. I know of no civilization which has survived the abolition of a principle as basic as this.

Here’s Keith from Pennsylvania to explain it.

*btw, this video is eleven years old and this guy was still here as of 2020.

4 thoughts on “Carusovilles and Keith”

  1. One of the funniest chapters (among many) from PJ O’Rourke’s “Parliament of Whores” covered a Housing Now! march in Washington DC in 1989.

    The last thing we need to do for the “homeless” is build them “homes”, i.e. Tiny Houses that make Manzanar look regal and spacious by comparison. It’s either (1) mandatory drug treatment/institutionalization or (2) Wrap them in a burlap sack and toss them off the end of Santa Monica Pier. And such wonders that latter would do for our declining fish populations! I assume Heal The Bay would be supportive.

  2. I’ve been following Michael Shellenberger, who is running for governor, for the past couple years and he seems like he’s done the homework on the homeless situation. I don’t follow CA politics all that close so I have no idea if he has a chance. He doesn’t advocate for more housing, because like you said, this isn’t a housing problem. I saw an article about what some of these “free” tiny homes have turned into. Unsanitary drug dens. Shellenberger advocates for arrest and treatment and sometimes that means treatment inside a prison. Not sure he has the cred to overcome the “monster who jails poor people” label though. My mom and brother live in Orange County and I can slip in and out of there avoiding the worst of California. Same for Yosemite which is one of my favorite places. I’ll always go back even though the state keeps giving me more and more reasons to avoid it like the plague.

    1. Jonathan, I support Shellenberger for Governor. He’s an interesting case in that he started on the left, deeply involved in environmental advocacy and broke away due to his recognition of the efficacy of nuclear power. Then he reached a similar conclusion about housing first homeless policy. He’s a leader of a growing tribe I would label “Born-again realists”, dissenters from both left and right who are finding common ground based on logic and empirical evidence. Once you drill below the institutional media narratives, American politics has become very interesting, and healthier, since 2020. I’m thinking of Substack and Podcasts and YouTube and Rogan and whatnot.

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