Making Homelessness a Valid Lifestyle Choice is Wrong

By Betsy McCaughey Published on May 10, 2023

Americans must not surrender to the new normal of squalor and urban chaos — of tent encampments, public defecation, panhandling and shouting schizophrenics.

In the aftermath of Jordan Neely’s tragic death on a New York subway, advocates for the homeless and most Democratic politicians are demanding unfettered freedom for the homeless to live on the streets, even with mental illness.

Who Speaks for the Quiet Majority?

Advocates are taking over subway stations and dominating the mainstream media with their demands. Too little is being said about the needs of the quiet majority.

People who go to a job every day or operate a business or take their kids to school need safe sidewalks and public transportation.

Yet Democrats in the Oregon state legislature are pushing a bill to guarantee the homeless the right to sue for $1,000 if they are harassed or removed from a public space.

Democratic lawmakers in California recently defeated a ban on homeless encampments within 500 feet of a school, playground or youth center. So, it’s OK for kindergartners to have to step over syringes and navigate buckets of urine on their way into school?

The Loudest Voices Demand “Rights” for the Homeless

Even after Michelle Go was pushed to sudden death off a Times Square subway platform by a mentally ill homeless person in 2022, the New York Civil Liberties Union continues to say, “we must not lock people with mental health issues away in hospitals” and “allow police officers to simply sweep homeless people out of the subways so they are kept out of sight.”

New York Times opinion columnist Jamelle Bouie railed this week that “we are living through a vicious campaign of demonization and hostility toward the homeless” with “prominent voices” advocating “sweeping homeless people from the streets like trash.” Bouie is wrong. The opposite is true. The loudest voices are demanding “rights” for the homeless, but not for the rest of us.

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The National Coalition for the Homeless considers local laws against panhandling and sidewalk camping as violations of the constitutional rights of the unhoused.

What about rights for Pedro Morales, an Austin, Texas, small-business owner? A homeless encampment has popped up in the alley next to the building he owns. “I have to clean up somebody else’s mess,” he explains.

Same is true of Edy Perez, who owns an auto repair business in Los Angeles. The homeless have set up a sprawl of tents nearby. Once customers see that, they never come back, he complains.

Homelessness as a Legally Protected Lifestyle Choice

Urban homelessness emerged as a problem in the 1980s, in part because civil libertarians demanded that mental hospitals be closed. The number of patients living in state hospitals across the nation plunged from 535,000 in 1960 to 137,000 by 1980. The mentally ill wound up on the streets.

The problem worsened when the Obama administration and homeless advocates won a lawsuit to prevent Boise, Idaho, from outlawing camping on sidewalks and public parks. Obama’s Justice Department deemed homelessness a legally protected lifestyle choice. Ridiculous.

A person who “chooses” street living, instead of shelter or hospitalization, is exposed to hypothermia, disease and crime. On average, a homeless person survives only to age 48, losing 30 years of a normal lifespan. It’s worse for women.

Allowing that choice is neither compassionate to the homeless nor fair to the rest of society.

Speak Up Against the New Normal of Squalor and Urban Chaos

Kudos to a handful of Democratic politicians who are bucking their party to advocate for involuntarily hospitalizing the mentally ill homeless.

In New York City, Mayor Eric Adams is employing teams of EMS workers and health professionals to get the mentally ill homeless off the streets and subways and into hospitals. Predictably, the mainstream press are slamming Adams’ policy for violating the “civil rights” of the homeless.

In Portland, Oregon, Democratic Mayor Ted Wheeler is pushing to loosen the state’s involuntary commitment law, making it easier to hospitalize the homeless against their will.

Neely’s death is igniting a nationwide debate over homelessness — the only good to come out of the tragedy. If he had been hospitalized for mental illnesses, maybe he’d be alive today.

Seize this moment to speak up and denounce the delusional argument that street living is a “right.” It dooms the homeless to short, brutal lives, and the rest of us to filth, crime and chaos.

 

Betsy McCaughey is a former lieutenant governor of New York and chairman of the Committee to Reduce Infection Deaths. Follow her on Twitter @Betsy_McCaughey. To find out more about Betsy McCaughey and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

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