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Richard Rider

A solution to the “employable” homeless problem

California is the nation’s epicenter for the homeless problem. But ask yourself this question:  IF today you found yourself without both shelter and the funds to rent a place, what state would you most prefer to be in to “live under a bridge”?  More specifically, what CITY would you rather be in?

Answer:  California — and specifically San Diego, my town. Best homeless weather in the nation.

Solutions to this growing problem are not easy, as California politicians (and their voters) vigorously support an intentional policy to keep housing high priced and scarce — high priced BECAUSE it is scarce, and expensive to build.  So what CAN be done to help these unfortunate people?

Let’s start by recognizing that there are two broad, sometimes overlapping categories of homeless people:

1.  The “helpless” — the mentally ill, the druggies, the drunks (these are also overlapping categories) — those who have pretty much given up on — or are incapable of — improving themselves, and are (in their present state) largely unemployable.  Yes, some DO rise from their despairing situation, and good for them — and thanks to those who offer “up and out” paths to those who want to make the considerable effort.  But sadly, this “helpless” category constitutes the overwhelming majority of our homeless, though reliable statistics are hard to glean.   I’ll not deal with this sad category in this article.

2. Those “normal” people who were living on the edge in our high housing cost state — employable folks who slipped over the edge through a rent increase, a traffic ticket, a lost job, or whatever.  Even if these people find new employment in lower paying jobs in California, the rent costs are so high (including a deposit) that they too often can’t afford Golden State housing.  It’s this category that needs our “up and out” help — help that is currently verboten in our “compassionate” society.

Here’s my verboten suggestion:  Government (or more likely private) agencies should actively try to match these employable street people with other states that would WELCOME workers — even workers making low incomes.  These programs should assist these homeless people in their move to these states — with a “quick match” job program and affordable (Spartan, private) rental housing waiting at the other end of their journey.  Of course, the public somehow thinks that’s a “heartless” policy — preferring massive welfare programs and growing homelessness to this practical alternative — so don’t expect California governments to implement this policy.

Here’s a list of states with August, 2017 unemployment rates of 3.5% or less:

Unemployment Rates for States, Seasonally Adjusted
State August 2017(P)



North Dakota

2.3 1


2.4 2


2.6 3

New Hampshire

2.7 4


2.8 5


2.9 6


3.0 7


3.3 8

South Dakota

3.3 8


3.3 8


3.4 11


3.5 12


3.5 12


3.5 12

For the full list of states and the current unemployment rates, go to:


With one notable exception, these 14 states have three things in common:

1. “Full” employment.

2. Far lower housing costs compared with California.

3. Much less hospitable weather for those wishing to continue living on the streets.

Of course, super-expensive, temperate Hawaii is the exception. We should not be encouraging our homeless to make that choice.

Sadly, some of these employable homeless will decline this option.  There are many reasons to want to remain in San Diego — and welfare programs make it easier to do so than in days gone by. During the Dust Bowl thirties, “Okies” picked up and moved to California for jobs, in no small part because there was no welfare to keep them in Oklahoma.

Welfare, however well-intentioned, has many unintended consequences.  The historically low rate of labor mobility (moving to where the jobs are) is one of these effects.  When it comes to government welfare, “we get what we pay for.”

Speaking of “we get what we pay for,” consider this excellent 10/12/17 U-T letter to the editor, challenging the paper’s superficially heartwarming story of a struggling homeless woman “who seems to be on the right track.”

Profile of homeless woman is disturbing

Crystal F. (“Street Art,” Oct. 8) was profiled in your paper as an example of a homeless person in San Diego. It states that although she is now homeless, “Crystal seems to be on a good path.”

It’s nice to know she is on a good path, but I wish I could say the same for her five children, none of which she is taking any responsibility for. Three of them are living with Crystal’s mother in New York and two are being taken care of by the government in foster care.

And then, as an unmarried homeless women, she became pregnant again with what would have been her sixth child, almost certainly another child she would turn over to someone else to raise and care for. What an uplifting, inspirational story.

Ronald Block