Home Letter To The Editor The Homeless Issue: Time For An Intervention

The Homeless Issue: Time For An Intervention



For the last several months my family and I have been treated to the almost daily vision of people in various states of undress and levels of intoxication soiling themselves and their immediate environment as people pass them by – mostly without a second look.

You have featured other letters regarding this issue in the past but rather than invoke the usual, vainly satisfying appeal to our humanity I would rather ask if we are ready to actually take steps to solve the problem. I ask this because no one seems willing or capable to taking the steps needed to stop the endless drain of resources and cyclic proliferation of misery caused by the root problem of this issue: drug addiction.

That’s calling a spade a spade and I don’t know if this bastion of liberalism is ready for that but I have been raised to believe that you must take action to prevent something bad from happening and something bad is definitely happening and increasingly so in our neighborhoods.

Instead of repeating the “Homelessness is not a crime” Mantra I would call for the steady but fair intervention of police, courts, and cities looking to curtail this endless cycle of addiction, crime, homelessness and more crime as our resident addicts scramble for their next shot of meth or heroin. This will take a concerted effort at all stages of our system but should deliver results, I believe, as other states have tried it with success. It calls for the tough but far application of street policing our officers are well prepared to implement but which they cannot for fear of repercussion from well meaning but clueless politicians.

I would ask for actual sentences for those convicted of drug related crimes with diversion programs along the lines of those used some Eastern states to offer a different course of behavior to the addicted, rewarding them for staying clean and making it much easier for them to access the drugs (naloxone, methadone, etc.) to help ease and eventually phase out their dependency on heroin, methamphetamine and cocaine.

Completion of programs aimed at getting people off these drugs would be rewarded by family visitation, job training, and counseling needed to ensure the cycle is not repeated.

The efficacy rate for similar programs currently in use by other states has been in the area of 95 percent, with people leaving the streets and staying off the drugs that got them there in the first place.

Right now, in my opinion, we are condemning users to the treadmill of addiction and crime and that is a crime in itself.


Mark Hansen/Walnut Creek


  1. I agree. Well said.
    Yes, it is time for a different course of action, as the philosophy and what has been done in recent years is clearly not working. The ‘politically correct’ way has backfired and has not helped the individuals, nor society.

  2. This post is a day late and a dollar short, as they say. Contra Costa County is currently in the second year of a five-year program known as Drug Medi-Cal Organized Delivery System (ODS). This program has shown a marked increase in obtaining treatment for addicts. With respect to the original poster’s well-intentioned comment, the truth is that rehab costs money, and diversion programs cost money. I have never heard of anyone describe this county as a “bastion of liberalism,” and I’ve never encountered anyone who is in favor of addiction or related problems. In November 2018, California voters also passed proposition 2, which uses Mental Health Services Act funds to assist in ending the cycle of homelessness and addiction for the mentally ill. Bottom line is, voters have addressed these issues and have budgeted for them. But it will take time for these programs to show measureable results.

  3. Using the police and the courts to deal with the homelessness problem is both expensive and futile– proven out by the fact that this has been our primary approach up until just recently. BTW, addiction is not a choice for most people, it’s more like a disease. The truth is that the wealthiest country on earth spends less on its social safety than almost all comparable countries– that’t why we have this problem and all of those other countries have far far less of this problem. Most homeless people are not addicts– that’s old outdated info– most are homeless due to a sudden job loss or illness (only in the USA can getting sick lead to bankruptcy or homelessness). You want to help with these problems– stop blaming the victims while you whine about your taxes. Compassion is a far more cost effective approach than punishment and condemnation. So check your facts before spreading around more booshwa like this.

    • If you want more Californians to elect Republicans then I suggest your implore your Party to accept things like science as a basis for policy again. They appear a bit kookie to a more educated populace, and their belief in cutting taxes and regulations as a way to prosperity for all hasn’t worked out too well for most people Their belief in punishment as the cure for all of societies ills– like homelessness– has been the dominant policy framework all over the country for the last generation– again– hasn’t worked out very well.

      • My husband and I are Registered Independents, and former Democrats. I’ve never been a Republican, but I’m right leaning when it comes to crime. I typed this same comment on the death penalty overturned thread.

        My husband and I have advanced degrees, and we live in Orinda. Prior to that we lived in La Jolla, and we held onto our home.

        Most Americans are MODERATES of any party, and to assume someone’s “political party” is ridiculous.

        I’ll conquer this with humor. Do you have any money we can borrow?

        • Are you aware that crime rates in the US, nearly everywhere, have been on the decline for nearly thirty years now? That’s a fact. I’m only guessing, but I suspect that you and your husband, who I can tell have worked hard for your lifestyle, came from a decent middle class working family background and not the streets, and not from a trust-fund. You can research these questions and you’ll see a very clear and stark trend in the US that explains much of what bothers you about your surroundings– homelessness, crime, etc.

  4. I agree that kindness and compassion is a more effective approach, but kindness and compassion should be left up to churches. The laws and programs need to be tougher, or they’re ineffectual.

    Even liberals I know say that homelessness is caused by “poor choices in life.” Except for mental illness, or domestic violence, it’s true.

    • Economic insecurity is not caused by bad choices for most people. By what facts do you base this belief upon? Are you aware that social mobility in the US has been in steady decline for going on forty years? Are you aware that the leading cause of bankruptcy in the US stems from unpaid medical bills– by those WITH insurance? Are you aware that according to a Federal Reserve study nearly half the country is unable to find $400 spare to pay an unexpected expense? Show some facts to backup your rather unsympathetic position that the main cause of homelessness is “bad choices”. The actual cause is well documented– especially in California…

      • I’m in my fifties, and I’ve been volunteering with people in need (including the homeless) since I was a teenager in the 70s. It’s through our church. The homeless don’t bother me (I’ve typed several supportive comments on other “Letters to the Editor” homeless threads.

        I’m basing this on my own experience. Christians can be very effective in helping the homeless, but they have to want help. Homeless people (especially men) tell me their stories, and it breaks my heart. So many of them don’t want help. “Bad choices” would be burglaries (prison sentences) shooting up and selling drugs (prison), prostitution (women – no prison), etc.

        Perhaps you’re referring to people who aren’t “chronically homeless.” Most people who are homeless are homeless for a very short period of time. Unemployment, divorce, rent increase, etc. They’ve fallen on hard times, and it could happen to anyone. They couch surf, etc. and get their life back on track. The chronically homeless – most of them are dealing with severe mental illness or substance abuse Or both. Substance abuse can be overcome, but severe mental illness is a hinderance. Have I had people tell me they really messed up their life? I have. I’m a good listener, and I remind them that we’ve all made mistakes, and said and done things we regret.

        I have no idea what the stats are – I’m going with over 40 years experience as a volunteer. While I was away at college in Los Angeles I helped former gang members make “positive choices through the grace of God.” Do I enjoy it? I do! Do they like me? Well, I was invited to “smoke weed in People’s Park” after CA voted in marijuana. Bill and I laughed, and he asked me about our kids.

        Lastly, women (or men) can’t be “too easy” or we’ll get taken advantage of. My husband and I have gotten people off the streets by offering a “hand up” not a hand out. It’s not easy, but it’s very rewarding.

        If you’d like to share any stories on how you’re helping our community, I’m a good reader. Volunteering is very important, and my husband I will always fit it into our busy schedules.

        I guess I could leave less comments online, but it’s “cathartic.”

  5. The streets of San Francisco and Oakland are a case study in what happens when you enable tent cities, open drug use and people defacating on the sidewalk all in the name of tolerance and compassion. Its a complicated process to help the homeless and improve our communities at the same time, but a good start would be to acknowledge that what we are doing know is clearly making the situation worse.

  6. Have any correlations been drawn between street crime and the homeless? It seems to me that just a few of that population are responsible for most of the currest rise in property crimes we are ALL seeing at the moment. I know we are cautioned not to classify homelessness as a crime but we are foolish to think that some members of that population are not responsible for the lions share of crime downtown. Are we concentrating on these people?? And by the way – good letter and follow up posts. Learning some things here.

  7. Abuse of drugs and/or alcohol may be a common denominator among the homeless, but I don’t think it is the root cause. As a percentage of people who drink and/or use drugs, almost none are homeless. We should be generous with resources for those who are willing to accept help and work hard to turn their lives around. For those who are not so willing, I don’t have a problem with forcibly relocating them to areas where they will be less disruptive to the lives and businesses of people who made better choices (and/or are not suffering from mental illness).

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