The official mantra is that the homeless crisis in Los Angeles, Seattle, Portland and a number of other blue cities is caused by housing prices.
Some people no doubt have been displaced by the rising cost of housing and a lost job, but they're not the majority or the real problem. The real problem is a population of mentally ill people and drug addicts living on the street.
This is the reality that the media has mostly been denying. Until this LA Times story.
Across from City Hall, a pregnant heroin addict leaned against a wall near where a meth user gyrated and twisted,...
Take her story and multiply by the thousands. Addiction and all its consequences are on full display in Los Angeles County, where the latest sprawl is measured in tents rather than houses. Drugs are a booming underground economy with open-air visibility, and nearly a third of homeless people report having either a serious mental illness, a substance abuse issue or both.
On Thursday morning in downtown Los Angeles, a 26-year-old brunet walked into a needle exchange program asking for help. She said she had spent most of the previous several weeks living in a car.
“I came here because I want to get clean,” said the woman, who told me she uses heroin and methamphetamine and had nearly died several days earlier from a fentanyl overdose. “It’s exhausting, trying to make money to do drugs, and then do it again and then get sick.”
The woman at the needle exchange told me she feels irritable, shaky and bordering on psychotic at times, and $5 can buy another hit of meth, which fixes everything. Until it wears off in a few hours, and the psychosis creeps back up on her. Several people told me they use meth because it keeps them awake at night, so they can fend off robberies and assaults.
The focal point now is apparently meth. And the scale of its usage among the homeless population is huge.
Mark Casanova of Homeless Health Care Los Angeles said it used to be that about 70% of the agency’s drug-addicted clients used cocaine; now 70% use meth.
A meth high can mimic the symptoms of mental illness. Psychiatrist Brian Hurley, head of addiction medicine for L.A. County’s Department of Health Services, said he often can’t tell whether someone is mentally ill, high on meth or both.
Chief Moore said that while he tries to knock down the supply, he needs the public health side to step up efforts to address the demand. He said chronic addicts shouldn’t be criminalized, but when California lowered penalties for possession, courts lost an opportunity to offer rehab in place of incarceration
Decriminalization of drug possession helped worsen the scale of the homeless problem and enabled addicts to destroy their bodies and their lives.