A former activist in the campaign against “mass imprisonment” says California needs to follow the model of cities like Frankfurt, Lisbon and Amsterdam if there is to be hope for solving the state’s homelessness problem.
Author and environmentalist Michael Shellenberger says that contrary to public opinion, most European cities have successfully reduced homelessness by using a combination of shelters, social programs and law enforcement.
“They enforced public camping laws, they enforced laws against public drug use, and they gave addicts the option of rehabilitation instead of jail, but they still enforced their laws,” he said in Sunday’s broadcast of NBC4’s “NewsConference” program.
Shellenberger’s new book “San Fransicko: Why Progressives Ruin Cities” is a sharp critique of state and city politicians who he says have misled the public by using “homelessness” as the term for a problem that European cities approached as “a medical addiction crisis “. and mental illness. “
Once Shellenberger was awarded a “Hero of the Environment” award by Time magazine, Shellenberger worked with Congressman Maxine Waters on drug decriminalization and needle exchange programs in the late 1990s, but says the goal was never to swap mass imprisonment with mass homelessness. .
“It was my understanding that we would make drug rehabilitation an alternative to prison,” he said. “Now, years later, there is no requirement for rehabilitation, for psychiatric treatment, for anything, even when people commit very serious crimes.”
Shellenberger says cities need to provide shelter for the homeless and programs to help restore their lives. He also argues that homelessness should be the domain of a single state program, “Cal-Psych,” which would reduce duplication of work and provide services that are currently lacking in many counties.
Also on NBC4’s “NewsConference” program was Los Angeles Congresswoman Karen Bass, who says the solution to the homelessness crisis is the root cause of her campaign as mayor. She agrees that more needs to be done to help those leaving prison to reintegrate into society.
“We need to look at the reasons why people become homeless and also prevent future people from becoming homeless,” she argued.
Bass discussed the restoration of the “safety net” for those experiencing homelessness, and said state lawmakers need to consider legislation regarding the “severely disabled” standard whereby someone can legally intervene on behalf of a person suffering from mental illness .
“I think it’s an extreme injustice to see people on the street suffering from mental illness and not being taken care of,” she said in the program.