Guest Column

Throwing Money at Homelessness Does Not Fix it

We need to make decisions that work toward resolving this issue, not making it worse!

By Brad Krantz

We moved here to the Flathead Valley from Seattle in late 2021. We seek to be part of the solution to the problems our community and state face. 

I remain committed as a Christian to the admonition of, “blessed is he who is generous to the poor,” being balanced with the biblical mandate, “If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat.”

Again, homelessness is an ever-increasing issue here in the Flathead Valley. The local media is not helping, instead it seeks to simply point fingers, play to emotions, and provide zero in the way of meaningful solutions. 

The Seattle homeless situation: The number is now reported at some 53,000. Seattle is completely off-base in their pointing to the cause. Building more homes is not the solution. If you build it, they will come. This is well documented. Utterly failed policies have led to this crisis that is likely beyond fixing in this, the 18th largest city in the U.S. 

My own former hometown of Burien, Wash., which I visited in early August, has become part of the proverbial dumpster fire. A city of some 49,000 that is spending 1.1% of its budget toward the homeless, $485,000. The problem has increased, not decreased. Throwing money at the problem does not fix it. 

Homelessness is a multi-faceted problem. I think we can all agree on this. Mental health and drugs are the two of the most obvious elements that contribute. We need to address these substantively. These people need help. But laws must be enforced and arrests made of individuals who break laws. Law enforcement must be enabled and supported to do their job.

Three aspects of the issue: 

1. There is also the significant number who simply have chosen homelessness as a lifestyle. They want to be off-the-grid, have no responsibility and receive handouts. These must be dealt with tough love. This cannot be tolerated and encouraged and/or rewarded by providing shelter and/or food – as well intentioned as this may be. If you build it, they will come. I would disagree with public statements that “lack of purpose” is the cause. I think that is a statement, not based on fact, but ignorance. Ignorance being a lack of knowledge. How do we quantify “lack of purpose.” Then, how do we deal with it now, not later when we might see the results? 

2. Legal rulings: I firmly believe that many so-called “well-intentioned” legal rulings – such as in Seattle – have been completely counterproductive, making matters worse. Whether it’s repealing public property trespassing ordinances, lowering drugs crimes from felonies to misdemeanors, calling the former “unconstitutional” or ruling that tents and shelters set up on public property used for habitation are protected from unreasonable searches under state constitutions. These have proven – empirically – to exacerbate the problem. They are adding fuel to the fire. I don’t intimate or advocate that homelessness is a crime. It’s not! But laws must be enforced. Trespass, vagrancy and drugs cannot be allowed to flourish and call it “progress.” It’s not.

3. The homeless “industry” with the creation of housing and homeless partnerships by counties (such as King in Washington), or police departments (such as Burien) creating Crime Reduction Units, it’s pertinent to ask, are these resources – redirected or otherwise – actually paying for themselves? Are they helping or sustaining the problem? Or, are they rather creating ongoing bureaucracies that simply drain more and more taxpayer monies by seeking ever bigger budgets, creating non-ending money pit? We need to ask this critical question. Does everyone deserve a safe and stable place to live? Is this a fundamental right? If so, where is the legal or constitutional basis for it? Is this a proper function of government and its agencies? How do we seek fiscal accountability from our government on this? And, lastly, at what cost? 

We need to make decisions that work toward resolving this issue, not making it worse!

Brad Krantz lives in Somers.