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Independent Candidate for CA Governor on Dealing With Homeless Crisis: Acknowledge Addiction and Mental Illness

Independent Candidate for CA Governor on Dealing With Homeless Crisis: Acknowledge Addiction and Mental Illness

“My basic view now is that what we call homelessness or homeless encampments are more properly referred to as open drug scenes. These are places where people buy, sell, and use drugs.”

Michael Shellenberger is a writer and political activist who you may have seen in appearances on FOX News. He is a former progressive who wrote a book about the decline of San Francisco called San Fransicko: Why Progressives Ruin Cities.

He is now running for governor of California and he has some real ideas for handling the state’s homeless problem.

He recently appeared on the Joe Rogan podcast to discuss it.

Shellenberger acknowledged that this problem stems widely from drug abuse, mental illness, and a combination of both. He calls for cities to buy properties to convert to shelters and enforce a no-camping ban.

Shellenberger is not against the idea of going to other states and/or the federal government for financial help if California attracts homeless people from elsewhere due to success. He advocates increasing the number of police and psychiatrists in the state as well.

At one point Shellenberger suggested that people in rehab could repay the state by working on much-needed fire crews.

Watch the segment below:

In March, Shellenberger was interviewed by Daniel Kennelly of City Journal:

As you write in the book, you’ve been a progressive and a Democrat all your life. Could you describe where you started out on these issues?

Visiting San Francisco as a 14-year-old in 1985, I remember seeing people who were clearly psychotic and in dirty clothing talking to themselves, and my stepmother saying that it was because Reagan had let everybody out of the psychiatric hospitals. I didn’t think much more about it, because there were very few visible homeless in Colorado, where I’m from. When I moved to San Francisco in 1993, there were many homeless people in my neighborhood, the Mission District. In particular, the 16th Street BART station was an open drug scene. But still, as late as 2019, I wrote a column for Forbes calling on the governor to declare a state of emergency to build more housing, because I thought homelessness was still primarily a housing issue.

How did you come to write a book that questions so many of those assumptions?

Friends of mine kept telling me that it’s not just a housing issue—that it’s also obviously an addiction and mental illness issue. And I went on Dr. Drew Pinsky’s radio show—to talk about the Amazon and environmental issues—and we got to talking about San Francisco, and he said, yes, it’s a drug addiction and mental illness issue. After my book Apocalypse Never became a bestseller, I had a chance to do another book, and it was obvious that homelessness and addiction deserved such treatment. Ever since, I’ve continued to be shocked by the things that I got wrong in the past. My basic view now is that what we call homelessness or homeless encampments are more properly referred to as open drug scenes. These are places where people buy, sell, and use drugs. Their addiction leads them to live in those places, right where the drugs are, because they’re so sick with addiction. This is not just a problem of people who lost their jobs or couldn’t afford the rent. These are people who are suffering a mental illness, which is what substance-abuse disorder is and should be considered.

I don’t know if Shellenberger has a real shot at winning the California governor race, but it’s great to hear someone talking about the homeless issue so frankly and offering real ideas for handling it.

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“…acknowledges addiction and mental illness.”

He cut and pasted that from an article about Hunter and Joe Biden.

As you get older, you often find yourself in the role of a “caregiver” to someone in your extended family that is mentally ill or to older relatives who are falling apart due to age. It’s a draining and thankless 24-hour job that you have to do, because no one else will step up to it. I’ve cared for a relative who was severely mentally ill and several relatives who were suffering from dementia, while working a job full time and while caring for my children. “Draining” is an understatement.

Here are some insights, I’d like to share. Those homeless beggars out in every corner are usually mentally ill or drug addicts, or more usually “both.” They rarely understand that they are mentally ill. They aren’t usually able to work jobs, because they can’t interact with people at all. If they do interact,, it’s usually stressful for them. That’s also the reason why they often sleep outdoors, instead of in some warm shelter. To them, the shelter is stressful. They can’t function on their own, but don’t know how to survive on their own. The world of drugs is an escape from that. The government is usually no help at all. If you seek involuntary commitment its a nasty legal struggle that goes on for years.

Caring for the elderly, who are slowly dying from dementia is even worse. They frequently must go to the hospital, because their bodies are failing. There is almost always a nurse those hospitals that wants to put them into a hospice, where they would give them a cocktail of drugs to ease them out of existence. It’s encouraged by Medicare, which threatens them with Medicare fraud if they try to provide medical care to someone with dementia. Few people realize, our government is essentially murdering millions of the elderly every year. But, the alternative seems worse, .. the endless care of someone who is failing.

That’s the situation, as I see it. It’s not a pretty picture, for those of us who must deal with it.

    healthguyfsu in reply to ruralguy. | April 7, 2022 at 1:20 pm

    That’s obviously a story coming from a place of care and concern but it offers no solutions, only problems.

    Any of those you would consider?

      ruralguy in reply to healthguyfsu. | April 8, 2022 at 7:52 am

      The easiest solution of the homeless problem is to remove the legal barriers, to allow a pathway for relatives to seek involuntary care. Presently, we relatives have no legal pathway to seek that diagnose and treatment, because the courts restrict our ability to help, the privacy laws shield our access to diagnoses, and many counties simply can’t afford a 1-2 month psychiatric evaluation. Presently, the only way to get them diagnose is to wait for them to commit a violent act, in which case the court can order 1-2 month mental-health evaluation. But, the counties can’t afford them, so they release them after just a month of treatment. I completely understand Pasadena Phil’s disgust with the homeless/mentally ill — I am too. But what many people fail to understand is that there are often many relatives of those people struggling unsuccessfully behind the scenes to get them off the street, but are stymied by the courts and existing laws. From my perspective, this is a government-created crisis. Clear the pathway to diagnosis and treatment, and you’ll likely see relatives of the homeless and mentally ill take care of “most” of the problem.

    As someone who had to take responsibility over the care of his Alzheimer’s stricken mother for over 20 years, I can attest for how mentally difficult that is. However, I see no connection between that and homelessness. I know homelessness. It’s all around me and I have lost my sense of pity for these people. More than 95% of them are there because of decisions to live a life of drug abuse. Most of them are hopeless, particularly the meth heads. Of the other 5%, it’s a mix of a lot of things with mental illness being one.

    I really don’t care about these people anymore. I am sick of them. Most of them come from out of state attracted by the lax law enforcement for their ilk. They need to be taken off of OUR streets and sent back to where they come from. The rest need to be institutionalize, either in prison (so many of them are criminals) or mental institutions. They are not “unhoused citizens” down on their luck. They are a plague on society and need to be removed from the streets.

Congress just banned imports of Russian oil/natgas. Problem for CA since they are the biggest Russian customer and doesn’t have the infrastructure to pipe in replacement from the US. This would be a good topic for Shellenberger to pounce on today.

    MattMusson in reply to Pasadena Phil. | April 7, 2022 at 3:22 pm

    In Schellenberger’s book APOCALYPSE NEVER he specifically says that if Greens force an end to fossil fuels by rushing into unreliable Solar and Wind generation, things will go very bad. He quotes the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change saying there is no scenario where Climate Change is an existential threat. And, he personally comes out in favor of Nuclear Energy.

      MattMusson in reply to MattMusson. | April 7, 2022 at 3:23 pm

      He also advocates for coal power plants in the developing world to get people off of burning trees.

      jagibbons in reply to MattMusson. | April 8, 2022 at 8:38 am

      All of which is scientifically accurate. Real science that is based on evidence and testing, not today’s type of science which is based on religious zealotry to Marxist principles.

daniel_ream | April 7, 2022 at 2:00 pm

They can’t function on their own, but don’t know how to survive on their own

There’s a very real challenge to a society predicated on individual liberty: what do you do with people who cannot be helped? Not won’t be helped, because that’s a choice and appropriate consequences can ensue; but cannot be helped.

Historically, such people have simply been left to die on the streets.

    henrybowman in reply to daniel_ream. | April 7, 2022 at 3:10 pm

    Now, contrast that realization with this;

    “Shellenberger is not against the idea of going to other states and/or the federal government for financial help if California attracts homeless people from elsewhere due to success.”

    Not just no, but hell, no. Attracting them is trivial. Curing them is next to impossible. Making California a ward of the federal government (pun fully intended) is another road to cultural and economic suicide.

    I’m sorry, but failures gotta fail. That, too, is the Circle of Life.

      diver64 in reply to henrybowman. | April 7, 2022 at 5:03 pm

      His point, if you listen to the podcast, is to have the homeless persons home state pay for their care. One of his solutions is to ship them back to the state they came from after helping them clean up.

        henrybowman in reply to diver64. | April 8, 2022 at 12:01 am

        First he needs to prove, using people fro his own state, that he can succeed at all.
        Boom, brick wall right there.
        Then he’ll ask for federal money because not having enough was why he failed.
        Someday we’ll be smart enough not to bit on the same scam over and over.

        M Poppins in reply to diver64. | April 9, 2022 at 9:48 pm

        the real solution is to separate the mentally ill from the addicts. Institutionalize and treat the schizophrenics. Arrest the addicts and deposit them at an unused military base for 30 days until they’re no longer addicted. Then put them on workfarms for five years to learn a trade, at minimum wage. When they’re released give them the wages.

    henrybowman in reply to daniel_ream. | April 7, 2022 at 3:53 pm

    Will the web software allow ANY comment to this thread? I’ve tried four times and nothing shows up, yet I’ve been told I’m making duplicates. I’m wondering if the physical thread has somehow gotten unthreaded.

      henrybowman in reply to henrybowman. | April 7, 2022 at 3:55 pm

      (OK then, let me try once more, appending the comment to my own comment, instead.)

      Now, contrast that realization with this;

      “Shellenberger is not against the idea of going to other states and/or the federal government for financial help if California attracts homeless people from elsewhere due to success.”

      Not just no, but hell, no. Attracting them is trivial. Curing them is next to impossible. Making California a ward of the federal government (pun fully intended) is another road to cultural and economic suicide.

      I’m sorry, but failures gotta fail. That, too, is the Circle of Life.

    M Poppins in reply to daniel_ream. | April 9, 2022 at 9:49 pm

    the real solution is to separate the mentally ill from the addicts. Institutionalize and treat the schizophrenics. Arrest the addicts and deposit them at an unused military base for 30 days until they’re no longer addicted. Then put them on workfarms for five years to learn a trade, at minimum wage. When they’re released give them the wages.

Finally!! How refreshing to have someone openly acknowledge homelessness is not just due to lack of homes! Until I moved last year I lived with the homeless around me in South San Jose. During Covid they moved to my neighborhood in droves and the mental illness was so apparent. Like watching a shirtless man box and shout at an unseen assailant at my local grocery store. Or, people standing alone in the median arguing loudly with invisible demons. The homeless slumped by store entrances talking to themselves, walking into local houses declaring they are the owners or ringing doorbells at all hours of the night is wrong. And the drugs. Property crimes skyrocketed because drugs cost money. I don’t know the answer but free and easy access to drugs is not it. The city of San Jose providing tiny homes but no other services is not helping.

I left.

Some of these people can be helped to overcome their addiction or untreated mental issues but many can’t. The question is will we as a society be willing to:
1. Pull these folks off the street
2. Triage the issues
3. Deliver the care and services they need
4. Institutionalize those who demonstrate they simply will not be capable of adherence to continuing out patient treatment

So far the mental health community has refused to do so. As a profession it seems they would rather treat middle and upper class people who claim anxiety or mild depression than the very difficult types of patients this group would represent. In my own work with other Veterans I can state it is rare to find a mental health provider willing to work more difficult or pronounced patients.

What we, as a society, have been doing for the past four decades clearly isn’t solving the the very real needs of these people. As unfashionable as it may seem long term care in an institutional setting will likely be the only way to solve this. We must be cautious not to be overbroad or hasty in a return to more frequent use of involuntary commitment to prevent abuse. A balance must be found that delivers assistance to these folks, secures our communities while also guarding against making it too easy.

    henrybowman in reply to CommoChief. | April 7, 2022 at 3:48 pm

    “In my own work with other Veterans I can state it is rare to find a mental health provider willing to work more difficult or pronounced patients.”

    Because it is economically unjustifiable. Asking government doctors to take this on is like recruiting commandos at baristas’ wages. Where is the party to whom rehabilitating these people is advantageous… especially to the point of being worth the extreme effort it would take? Especially when the individual actively resists treatment.

    Taking care of people in this situation is what family used to be for. Some families today can’t be bothered. Also, many of these people are avoiding their family above all.

    We don’t have a big homeless problem in our small, rural, Western town. Until recently, we had a pair of guys who lived under the bridge since at least the time we moved here 20 years ago. One was clearly not sane — wouldn’t accept handout food or items except from men; wouldn’t accept fresh clothing unless it was practically identical to the clothing being discarded, and generally shunned contact and communication. Wouldn’t accept any “help” beyond handouts. DIdn’t seem to have a booze or drug problem, thank heavens. Went by Vincent, a name the community had to make up for him. A couple months ago, the shopkeepers who used to see him around regularly noticed he wasn’t there; he was found ill under the bridge. With some effort, he was bundled into an ambulance and sent to a hospital, where they made an effort to identify him via fingerprints. The match was instantly successful, His brother in Scottsdale had been looking for him (or news of him) for over 20 years. Vincent was reportedly not overjoyed about the reunion — justified or unjustified, who can say?

    (The other “homeless” fellow, Hal, was odd, technically a true hobo. Perfectly sane, well educated, lived the life by choice. When he died, he astonished the townspeople by leaving a quarter million dollars to the town, to set up a “Have Fun Foundation.” One of the codicils of the will was that part of the money had to be spent on a permanent restroom in the tiny pedestrian park next to the bridge where he and Vincent lived, primarily for Vincent’s benefit. The town council ensured the money was well-spent (or at least all spent) by redoing the tile in the restroom three times to get it Just Right.
    (Vincent entirely refused to use the restroom.)

      CommoChief in reply to henrybowman. | April 7, 2022 at 4:20 pm

      Family responsibility is a very important point one that is too often missing from these discussions. The return to mass institutional care might be avoided if there was an option, in some cases, for a sponsor to step forward. In the case of Veterans the VA does a poor job in delivering healthcare overall and especially so with mental health. The VA still lacks the staffing to meet demand and many, not all, civilian providers are loath to take on the hard cases of Veterans. Instead they are deferred or denied care. Two stats to show the severity:
      Since 2001 over 114,000 Veterans committed suicide.
      Since 2006 the suicide rate of male Veterans from age 18-34 has increased 86%.

      As you note our society has turned disposable into a virtue. We have incentives to do so; built in obsolescence and buy a new and improved model is the norm. Replace not repair has bled over into how we treat each other. The ever expanding govt has replaced the role of family members to care for each other.

      There is a looming crisis in the divorce rate, declining marriage rate and birth rate. Who will be doing what what spouses and adult children have traditionally done in caring for each other and their parents as they age? Should the govt step in? Why exactly, as these folks have made deliberate decisions with upfront benefits? Why should they be sheltered from the long term adverse consequences? It isn’t as if they were promised that the govt would care for them.

Johnny Weissmuller | April 7, 2022 at 4:37 pm

They are living their preferred lifestyle.

When the weather warms up, people move out of govt housing & reservations to set up outdoor encampments.

https://youtu.be/w-o79czcfKE

Listen to the entire podcast like I did. I sent him $10. He is a Libertarian who seems to have his head screwed on straight.

A lot of people think you’re not allowed to kill bald eagles, but you are. You just have to pay $53,333 for each one. And you have to make sure you kill them with a wind turbine. Because it’s necessary to kill eagles to save them from climate change. https://t.co/AHAEkVZWMj

— Michael Shellenberger (@ShellenbergerMD) April 6, 2022

Most of this comes from misunderstanding the drug issue, which has been clouded by the left for almost a hundred years – it’s a VICE, not a disease. Responding to it as a disease has only caused it to proliferate.,

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