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Homelessness and Mental Illness

05/07/2019

This Seattle KOMO television news piece has generated considerable controversy in making a persuasive case that the homeless crisis in Seattle stems, not from lack of affordable housing, but from failure to address addiction and other mental illness. Not only do we see trashy encampments on public and private property, but police express frustration at the futility of arresting offenders only to see them return to the streets in a few days with no prosecution.
The same colleague who introduced me to the KOMO piece had previously shared this video of Johann Hari describing the approach taken to a similar, if not identical, problem in Swiss cities.
Instead of attempting to solve the problems with a "war" on drugs (really a war on people suffering from the disease of addiction), the Swiss have provided pharmaceutical grade drugs for use with medical supervision in safe settings.
Not only does this approach result in cleaner, safer cities and reduction in spread of diseases like AIDS and hepatitis, but many have taken advantage of treatment resources allowing them to live productive lives. The net result has probably also produced a dramatic decrease in cost to society, starting with law enforcement and the criminal justice system. Prison cells lie empty.
Who does this approach hurt? The cartels and the rest of the black market in drugs would suffer most. Demand for their products would drop precipitously. 
Could Seattle benefit from this approach? Not by itself. Those who want such services will move to where they find them, quickly overwhelming the cities that provide them. The entire U.S. must implement this approach for it to work.
Let’s do it.