92 Comments

This post, like the comment below by Lowcountry calm, displays cluelessness about homelessness and the unhoused. Homelessness is caused by forces in the housing market and abetted by the social ills of poverty such as drugs and mental illness (rich drug addicts and mentally ill with money are never forced to live on the streets but are treated in upscale programs). See, for example, https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2022-07-13/pregnant-homeless-tent-los-angeles-hollywood-mckenzie---or read Evicted by Matthew Desmond

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Terrific post. Unfortunately, the political class has created and funded a “homeless industry” in California. The beneficiaries are the government civil agencies and the nonprofits. Together they contribute, coordinate, and control who gets elected.

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For you to read, a ‘fellow traveler’?:

"American Ramble is a dazzling mixture of travelogue, memoir, and history. At times profound, funny, and heartbreaking, this is the story of a traveler intoxicated by life.

I couldn't put it down." - Nathaniel

Philbrick

A stunning, revelatory memoir about a

330-mile walk from Washington, D.C., to New York City-an unforgettable pilgrimage to the heart of America across some of our oldest common ground.

Neil King Jr.'s desire to walk from Washington, D.C., to New York City began as a whim and soon became an obsession. By the spring of 2021, events had intervened that gave his desire greater urgency. His neighborhood still reeled from the January 6th insurrection. Covid lockdowns and a rancorous election had deepened America's divides. Neil himself bore the imprints of a lona battle with cancer.

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Hi Chris,

Thanks for a great post. I live in San Diego, where there is also an increasing homelessness issue. I agree with you that drugs, and our aggressive culture (which, due to stress, can lead to mental illness and fosters drug dependency in the first place) are further aggravating the problem. Before moving here I spent some time living in the UK. There is a great, private-sector led community initiative that is supporting people to get out of homelessness. Here it is: https://beam.org/

Would love to hear your thoughts on it and if people here consider it is something that could restore that sense of community.

Thanks again for sharing--highly enjoyed reading more about different parts of LA, where people are doing their best and thriving away from the glittery tabloids.

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As a recently retired firefighter/Paramedic, I've spent a great deal of time dealing with 911 calls for drug abuse/ mental illness emergencies. 36 years half of which was in an ambulance or squad with a homeless person on a gurney in front of me completely disconnected from reality due to drugs and usually mental illness.

I don't know the answer. I know it's not simply 4 walls and a roof . I know it's not punishment. I know it's an un escapable problem that's in almost every city. I know some victims need to be institutionalized. I also know that I can't be the judge of who is redeemable. I've seen people pull themselves from rock bottom with the right help. I know when the person in front of me was 7 years old, they didn't aspire to be passed out on the sidewalk in their own shit.

Thank you for your read.

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My paternal grandfather was a blacksmith with Santa Fe from the late 1930’s till 1982. My maternal grandfather was a web press operator from 1940 to 1968. Both parent grew up in south el monte. Middle class laborers fleeing mid-west poverty. They raised their families, kids served in vietnam, raised families and worshipped God. It all went to shit after the 60’s. The solution to the drug problem is an atomic bomb. There is nothing left after you remove God from the center of civilization.

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The inevitable results of unfettered capitalism.

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Wrong, sir. Soviet Russia had incredible numbers of alcoholics. Communism destroys the soul and people just choose to die, or are shipped to Gulag where they die out of site The media is complicit in both their system and ours, either out of fear of reprisals or in our case, aligned fully with one side of the political spectrum

It isn’t just capitalism

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As someone who has lost too many friends to count over accidental fentanyl overdoses… I don’t do drugs anymore. I was in the club scene in SF in my 20s (I’m 32) and the popular sayings were “harm reduction!” “test your drugs!” “carry narcan!”, aka Do Them Safely. Unfortunately that seems like a fairy tale in a world where one line of coke can now kill you. It’s sad because politically I agree with harm reduction, but it’s a horrifying and tragic reality that has caused me to change my mind.

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Mar 18, 2023Liked by Chris Arnade

Great article. I agree with you that we need to stigmatize drug and alcohol use as well. I remember during covid, our grocery store had moved the small airline bottles from the liquor department to the entrance of the store. We are a country that promotes drugs, alcohol and medication instead of going outdoors and getting fresh air.

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Mar 18, 2023Liked by Chris Arnade

Outstanding journalism ‼️

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San Francisco here. I live on a lovely 3-block residential street in the middle of the city, and it is a rare morning that I go outside and don’t see homeless sleeping or passed out along with their garbage somewhere on this small stretch. Or just their refuse scattered about. This problem didn’t exist just 5-10 years ago, but now it’s an old story everyone is aware of. From what I can see anecdotally, if we took the drug addled out of the picture this would improve the situation by 80% and we could better address finding aid for those who have a good chance to re-enter society.

I am sorry for the addicted, but I am exhausted by their plight. Is it really an intractable problem? Meanwhile they demean this beautiful city’s reputation and badly damage business and tourism. As another commenter wrote, it is a national problem but there is no will by the federal government to combat it. Meanwhile, SF is throwing tons of money at it to apparently little avail.

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Very intersting. I didn't know about this east LA working man boom, but then again i know nothing about LA.. I'm generally all for stigmatizing drugs,, people especially need to see the connection between weed and mental illness,, something that is pretty much denied in our pop cultural mind.. But it seems like stigmatization works in some places and in others have little effect.. Sweden has a zero tolerance against drugs and yet you see full out drug wars there. It's depressing but drugs seem pretty damn unstopable.

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Mar 7, 2023·edited Mar 7, 2023

Thanks for walking around the ‘hood. Your foot-miles and pics are much appreciated. I’m late to the party because I was glad someone - especially you - made the effort, and I needed time to gather my thoughts and gratitude. I’m 62 and have spent most of my teaching career in South Central, starting at Edison JHS on 65th and Hooper. That was 32 years ago. While working there I learned my late mother had been a student in the school decades before. That added an extra dimension to the work. The brown and black kids seemed more like family; I’ve been rooting for them ever since, and hoping that whatever they got from their class time with me was something positive they could carry forward. More recently my teaching gig was at Watts High, aka Jordan High School, 103rd and Alameda. Something to remember it by: JHS is in select company, having graduated a Nobel-winning physicist (Glenn Seborg) and an Olympic star multi-gold-medalist (Florence Griffith Joyner). That’s enough to indicate the latent potential of the inhabitants of the south side, however unglamorous their native surroundings may seem to those who conflate LoCali with Hollywood and its dream factories. And you’re right about the homelessness and drugs. In these precincts it’s traceable to the bloody gang turf wars that boiled over in the 80s and early 90s. It’s no coincidence that they were preceded by the shuttering of the GM, Goodyear and Firestone plants that were once the industrial backbone of the LA area, as alluded to in previous comments. When the plants closed most of the good blue collar jobs disappeared too, and the street violence exploded. It has simmered-down some (still bad), but the human wreckage is now scattered across the cityscape like never before, in sidewalk tents. May we live long enough to see it go, replaced by a way of life less garish and dreary and stretched toward a breaking point. I’m not optimistic, but won’t quit hoping and praying for the best. Vaya con dios Walking Man. Thanks again for the word.

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Great writing that got me thinking as always, Chris. Reminds me of the political incongruence between modern progressives who have pushed for years to make drugs easier to get, and the older Hispanic women on the West Side of San Antonio who crusade against alcohol and drug use because they've seen firsthand the abuse and damage to lives that results. Both would be considered on the left, but those advocating for sobriety would get an eye roll from most young progressives...

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