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Readers Opposed To Licenses To Help Homeless

July 20, 2016 Downtown, Featured, Homeless 15 Comments

Homelessness is a problem everywhere around the world, though not at the same rates.

What’s even more surprising than the discrepancy in homeless populations between the two cities is the fact that Tokyo, at 13.4 million people, is larger than New York City (8.4 million people) and Los Angeles (3.9 million people) combined. While the rate of homelessness in New York is currently 67 for every 10,000 people, in Tokyo there is just one homeless individual for every 10,000 city residents.

Why the massive discrepancy in rates of homelessness between two of the most populous cities in the world?

As with most socioeconomic phenomena, there are a number of contributing factors. First and foremost, income inequality is a massive and growing problem in the United States, while Japan has historically had one of the lowest rates of inequality among developed countries. One principal measure of income inequality is the GINI coefficient, a measure from 0.0 (perfect equality) to 1.0 (perfect inequality). Recent surveys in the two countries found a GINI coefficient in Japan of 0.32, while in the US that rate was 0.41. However, income inequality can’t be the only explanation for Japan’s success combatting homelessness, especially considering that the country’s inequality index has actually worsened over the past few decades.

Where Japan is really surpassing the United States, instead, is in the social safety net it offers its citizens. (Think Progress)

Our safety net is full of holes, allowing far too many people to become homeless.

Richard Gere recently portrayed a homeless man.

Two hours of trying to find a place to sleep, trying to get identification to receive benefits.

Here are the results from the recent Sunday Poll:

Q: Agree or disagree? St. Louis should require those giving food to the homeless to have a license?

  • Strongly agree 8 [18.18%]
  • Agree 4 [9.09%]
  • Somewhat agree 1 [2.27%]
  • Neither agree or disagreei 2 [4.55%]
  • Somewhat disagree 3 [6.82%]
  • Disagree 8 [18.18%]
  • Strongly disagree 15 [34.09%]
  • Unsure/No Answer 3 [6.82%]

Nearly 60% disagree with requiring a license, I’m in the middle. Every day I pass the homeless and the criminals that prey on them, I often see a new person with a suitcase. A church group unloading baloney sandwiches from a trunk isn’t helpful as a warm meal indoors. Those doing so think it’ll help them after they’ve died, but I’d rather offer real help in the present.

I’ve helped two people who were homeless in downtown St. Louis. The first lived in a property I owned for over a year as he got a job and rebuilt his life. He’s remarried and they recently bought a home together. The more recent person is still struggling, but he was able to leave St. Louis a few years ago. I brought both food — fresh fruit. They’ve both been in our loft, guests for a home-cooked meal. It’s rare that I meet anyone on the street that I feel comfortable with inviting into our home.

The sight of crowds of homeless, and those who prey on them, crowding around a car/van must further lower the spirits of those in that situation. Of course, we don’t want anyone dropping dead due to starvation, but all of society would be better off if we improved our safety net and then improved our ability to get people off the street and into housing. It’s also cheaper.

But this is St. Louis, we don’t do what’s best. In June police drove into the park between Soldiers Memorial and the library to run off the homeless.

June 23
June 23
June 28
June 28

Like most parks downtown, this one no longer has any benches. No reason for anyone to be there.

Those newly on the street need to be housed quickly before they become accustomed to life on the streets. An overnight cot isn’t the same thing. This requires social workers. The license bill shouldn’t become law, but it would be nice if those who want to help took action to actually help. Volunteer at places that feed the homeless warm meals indoors, provide stable housing, etc.

— Steve Patterson


Currently there are "15 comments" on this Article:

  1. JZ71 says:

    Why is there a continuing implication that government or society needs to “solve” the homeless “problem”? Why is there not more focus on individual responsibility? Most of us work hard for what we have, and most of don’t have everything we “want”, yet the vast majority of us remain housed and fed. Life is full of choices. With choices come consequences, some good, some bad. And while mental health is not a choice, who you associate with, what you consume and how you choose to manage your money are all choices that, when made poorly, can, and do, lead to homelessness.

    • Adam says:

      Do you just get a kick out of constantly playing devil’s advocate? A significant number of homeless are mentally ill, and there are a million paths to homelessness other than too much shopping. It’s f*cking arrogant and ignorant (as in lack of education) of you to suggest that every homeless person just made some bad choices. This is a new low for you, Mr. Zavist.

      • JZ71 says:

        Doing drugs is a choice. Drinking alcohol is a choice. Dropping out of school is a choice. Getting / staying pregnant is a choice. Sleeping in one time too many and getting fired is a choice. Breaking the law, getting arrested, getting convicted and getting a record is a choice – see the 14-year-old girl arrested in north county today! None are a result of mental illness, but they all involve making personal choices.

        And I’m well aware that many homeless people have mental illnesses – that’s the first thing that I said. But not every homeless person is mentally ill, either. And yes, “there are a million paths to homelessness” – that’s exactly my point! Growing up poor is no excuse for having a child you can’t afford, stealing stuff, getting high or not graduating. And while addiction can be a bear to kick, it starts with that first choice to experiment, to be cool, to hang with your “friends”.

        We need to help our veterans with PTSD and we need to help people with organic mental illnesses, but letting baby daddies duck their responsibilities, enabling drug addicts and glorifying criminal behavior is no way to solve the “problem”, either! And as Steve noted, there’s a fine line between helping and enabling: “A church group unloading baloney sandwiches from a trunk isn’t helpful as a warm meal indoors”

        • Mark-AL says:

          ……..but a baloney sandwich eaten on the street corner is more helpful than no sandwich on the same street corner..

          • JZ71 says:

            What people conveniently (want to) ignore is that the fundamental reason for homelessness is not mental illness or addiction, it’s a lack of money (to pay the rent); a secondary reason is estrangement from family, friends, partners and/or spouses – true friends rarely let friends sleep on the street. And since this is an affordable area, to both rent and buy (unlike places like NYC, silicon valley, Denver, Austin or Seattle), if you’re willing (and able?) to work hard, keeping a roof over one’s head is not too difficult. And yes, while mental illness, addiction, multiple kids and/or a criminal record can make it (way?) more difficult to both find and keep a job, it’s still possible to make it happen.

          • Mark-AL says:

            “….mental illness, addiction, multiple kids and/or criminal record….”

            Why is it that many in this crowd who read and respond to Urban Review fail to acknowledge that the only obstacle (listed above) over which these ‘homeless job seekers’ have no control is ‘mental illness’…..which means that 75% of our ‘homeless population’ just might be in that position because of free choice. This fact should give us a heads up to the true identity of the ‘homeless’. We all know that there’s no magic formula and that it’s fairly simple to avoid addiction and crime and rutting. But when gov’t coddles those who live recklessly, where’s the incentive? I believe that reward should follow sacrifice, hard work, tenacity, and even more hard work, that individuals should be held fully responsible for their personal bad choices. This is how I’m raising my sons, and I trust they’ll do the same with theirs.

          • JZ71 says:

            The other half of the equation is attempting to treat mental health issues outside of controlled facilities, out on the streets. I’m well aware that there’s a complete spectrum of mental illnesses, with some people who need to be institutionalized, and a large group that does very well not being in any institution, but it seems like many of the homeless are in that middle ground, where medication can help them function better, yet they refuse to take their medications because of how they make them feel. I certainly don’t have the answer, but closing state facilities and expecting people with borderline-severe cognitive issues to fend for themselves sure doesn’t seem to be working. And no, just putting a roof over their heads is not the complete answer, either – addressing their underlying mental and/or social issues IS a big(ger) part, not just warehousing them in a more dispersed environment.

          • Adam says:

            I know how much you love to hear yourself talk, but show some statistics to back up your bulls*t or STFU. 🙂

          • JZ71 says:

            And for those who don’t like clicking on links, the following are all direct cut-and-paste quotes:

            MENTAL ILLNESS

            According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 20 to 25% of the homeless population in the United States suffers from some form of severe mental illness. In comparison, only 6% of Americans are severely mentally ill (National Institute of Mental Health, 2009). In a 2008 survey performed by the U.S. Conference of Mayors, 25 cities were asked for the three largest causes of homelessness in their communities. Mental illness was the third largest cause of homelessness for single adults (mentioned by 48% of cities). For homeless families, mental illness was mentioned by 12% of cities as one of the top 3 causes of homelessness.

            SINGLE MOTHERS

            One of the fastest growing segments of the homeless population is families with children. A 2005 study revealed that of the counted homeless population there were 98,452 homeless families, making up 41% of the entire homeless population (Homelessness Counts, 2007). Research indicates that families, single mothers, and children make up the largest group of people who are homeless in rural areas (Vissing, 1996). Approximately 924,000 children are homeless, and in 1995, 4.2% of children under the age of one year were homeless (Urban Institute, 2000; Culhane & Metraux, 1999). Homeless families are most commonly headed by single mothers in their late 20s with approximately two children (Rog & Buckner, 2007).


            Here are some statistics concerning the veterans homeless:

            23% of homeless population are veterans
            33% of male homeless population are veterans
            47% Vietnam Era
            17% post-Vietnam
            15% pre-Vietnam
            67% served three or more years
            33% stationed in war zone
            25% have used VA Homeless Services
            85% completed high school/GED, compared to 56% of non-veterans
            89% received Honorable Discharge
            79% reside in central cities
            16% reside in suburban areas
            5% reside in rural areas
            76% experience alcohol, drug, or mental health problems
            46% white males compared to 34% non-veterans
            46% age 45 or older compared to 20% non-veterans

            HAVING A FELONY

            If you think about the obstacles that many prisoners face when they are released, it’s not hard to understand why so many end up homeless.

            Imagine you’re leaving a cell after a relatively short sentence of, say, five to 10 years. Here is the reality you face after you’re released [in California]:

            1. For security reasons, neither you nor anyone who knows you is allowed to know in advance when you’ll be released. So it’s impossible to make appointments in advance for health care, for job interviews, for housing placement, or for assistance of any kind.

            2. You have little money and probably no prospects for income. You get, at most, $200 on release (but even that small amount can be at the discretion of your parole agent). Out of that $200, you must pay for clothes, if you need them, and a bus ticket. You’re now down to a small amount of cash, which must cover you for the indefinite future because you are pretty much unemployable. (Too bad if you have contracting skills, since a felon is permanently barred from getting a contractor’s license.)

            3. You are ineligible for almost all affordable housing. To get publicly subsidized housing, you must be able to pass a “crimcheck” to show you’ve never been convicted. You’ll never pass a crimcheck again in your life. That leaves you the street, a shelter, or trying to bum a night or two on someone’s couch.

            4. You probably have no relationships left. There’s a good chance you haven’t seen a friendly face during visiting hours in years. Your girlfriend/boyfriend moved on ages ago. Your parents may have died. Even if your loved ones tried to hang in there, the longer you’ve been behind bars, the more your relationships have eroded. This erosion is much worse if you are one of the prisoners that California shipped to another state. Who could visit you in Wyoming?

            5. You may have health problems, and you have no insurance. Prisoners are older and sicker on release than they used to be. But unless you have HIV or are one of the subset of prisoners whose mental illness was diagnosed in prison, you get no help when you leave — not even an appointment, not even one day’s worth of pills. In fact, you’re sent out without even a piece of paper to show what medical conditions developed or care you got in the last decade.

            MY FINAL THOUGHT

            Ending up in prison takes work. You can do many crimes – burglary, shoplifting, DUI, gun possession, even assault – and not end up in prison, at least not for the first crime. The “war on drugs” HAS sent too many people to prison, but that is definitely a choice (to deal). I have a member of my extended family who was arrested, convicted, sentenced to drug court (for a forged prescription), failed to complete the program and now has a warrant out for their arrest. They’re likely homeless, but a series of bad choices, over many years, got them to where they are, today, NOT a lack of either family or society trying to help them.

          • Mark-AL says:


          • Adam says:

            Thanks for doing the work and proving my point. At least half of the homeless population are mentally ill, veterans (who are often also mentally ill), and homeless children—you know, “degenerates” who just made some bad choices. And none of your stats about single mothers, drug users, or felons actually take into account their individual circumstances or their reasons for being single, using drugs, or committing crimes (or maybe being wrongly convicted of committing crimes). I’m not defending every homeless person, but your broad brush is simply unintellectual. It’s easy to dismiss people from your position of relative privilege when you have no f*cking idea what they’ve gone through.

          • JZ71 says:

            We’re actually not that far apart – we agree that nearly half of the homeless are NOT mentally ill, veterans or children, and that painting the “homeless” with a broad brush is neither fair nor accurate. There are a lot of people out there that DO need (and deserve) help, especially for short-term situations, in and out of their control. Where we likely differ is in how best to “help” (or not) the visible, chronically homeless individuals, those that continue to receive “services” yet their situations (and their negative impacts on urban living) never seem to change (or as you, not me, put it, the “degenerates”). But I’m also going to stand behind my position that the choices we make as teenagers (sex, drugs, crime, school) do have lifelong impacts. Yes, “individual circumstances” do play a part in EVERY decision every individual makes over the course of their lives, but many decisions can also be life altering. Choices do, and should, have consequences!

            Choosing to use drugs, everything from tobacco, alcohol and marijuana to opiates, crack and meth, whether it’s for the thrill of experimenting, being rebellious, wanting to “fit in” or just self medicating are all, at least initially, individual, personal choices. And given the widely available and publicized information about their addictive properties, it’s a somewhat educated choice, as well – you really can’t say that you didn’t know that or weren’t told that they’re bad for you. But hey, at 13 or 15 or 17, you’re immortal or just don’t give a shit about the consequences. The same goes for wanting, as a single mom, still in school, at 15 or 17, to keep the baby, when you have no real job skills or job prospects. I’m not naive enough to tell kids to just say no to sex, but I’m also not willing to pay for 15 or 20 years of public support when the baby daddy is never in the picture – staying pregnant is a choice, as is keeping / having children you know you can’t afford to support on your own.

            I get it, teenagers are young and stupid, they make poor choices (and I made my share). But some choices are truly life-altering, in very negative ways, and there will be consequences. The question (and where we differ) is how much can (and should) society do to bail people out after they make bad choices, especially multiple bad choices? Much like health care, when do we say we’ve done (and spent) enough? All that we can reasonably afford to spend? We’ve tried, but spending more money, just to prolong a life, for another year or two, will not make that individual’s life better, nor will it make society better, yet it WLL suck up inordinate amounts of money that can be directed to more productive uses?

      • Sgt Stadanko says:

        Many are degenerates, not homeless but play the part for bleeding hearts to dole out their hard earned (to be tax free) dollars to lazy stinking bums. I am with JZ71 on this one. thanks, Sarge

    • Mark-AL says:

      You’re preaching to the choir, unfortunately.


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