Just about everywhere you go, you’re being encouraged to give money to an organization that needs it to operate and benefit people who are less fortunate than yourself. Our concept of helping is relinquishing our hard-earned money as a sacrifice for a greater good, which is a sacrifice we often gladly participate in.
However, for us, the line of responsibility ends when our dollar hits the bottom of the tin can, and we presume that the organization we just gifted to will use it effectively toward reaching the end goal they marketed to the public.
We can afford to be ignorant about how efficiently our $5 is going to be spent by a non-profit organization, but what happens when our government spends our tax dollars with the same mentality? It looks a lot like California.
California’s homelessness crisis has been one that people all over the country discuss because of its rapid growth over the past decade and its uniqueness in scale. The situation has grown to such a monumental amount that if you live in California, you can’t avoid its existence, because it’s seemingly everywhere.
California currently ranks number one in total homeless population and has more homeless people than the next five states combined, with over 171,500 homeless people residing in the state and Los Angeles County having over 50,000 alone.
With a legitimate humanitarian crisis afoot within the borders of California, the expectation is for the government to lead the charge in finding a solution. But the more money the government spends on solving the problem, the worse it seems to get.
In February 2023, the state’s Interagency Council on Homelessness, which oversees how California implements its guidelines for housing the homeless and where financial resources are being allocated, released a report exposing the exorbitant amount of money California has spent on homelessness between 2018 and 2021.
According to the report, the state spent nearly $10 billion between 2018 and 2021 and provided services to more than 571,000 people, with each year servicing more homeless people than the previous. Yet despite this tremendous spending, the majority of those people still remained homeless.
However, this report doesn’t address how the state could spend the money more effectively, nor was it asked to provide this methodology, because efficiency is rarely the objective of the government.
There may be politicians who truly want to resolve the homeless crisis in California, but they’re outnumbered by those who just want to be associated with passing a legislative bill with a massive dollar amount to provide the illusion of doing something, not actually fixing something.
This illusion simultaneously allows them a scapegoat for when the problem gets worse and to market themselves for their reelection campaigns, because at least they “tried.” To be a fighter for a cause, you only have to fight, not win, and that’s the expectation many Americans have of our elected leaders.
By refusing to follow the money or ask questions about its effectiveness, we’ve made it vulnerable to corruption and the gouging of tax-payer money by the many players involved in the homeless industrial complex.
For example, Los Angeles voters were sold on publicly funding “permanent supportive housing” for the homeless by voting for Proposition HHH, which enabled $1.2 billion in bonds to develop these housing units. However, according to a report by an NPR affiliate, after the passing of this proposition, the price promised to the public quickly skyrocketed to an absurd amount.
“When voters passed the bond measure, they were told new permanent supportive housing would cost about $140,000 a unit. But average per unit costs are now more than triple that,” the report stated.
Being fiscally responsible isn’t the objective of our politicians in government because it’s not their money they’re spending. Their objective is to remain in power by winning elections, and that doesn’t necessarily require becoming our society’s change agents but simply giving the illusion of providing change.
We must be willing to look beyond this illusion by asking necessary questions about the people we elected to represent us and rate them by their efficiency, not just their advocacy.
We can’t afford to continue to believe that giving money is the last step in fixing society’s problems instead of it being the first step.
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.