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Richard Rider

A solution to the California “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 CA 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, and the bums (these are usually overlapping categories) — those who have pretty much given up on — or are incapable of — improving themselves. In their present condition, they are 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. 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 controversial but sensible suggestion:  Government (or more likely private) agencies should actively try to match these employable “unhoused” people with other states that would WELCOME workers — even low skilled workers.

These programs in much lower-cost states should financially assist these homeless people in their move to these states — with a “quick match” job program and affordable (Spartan, private, unsubsidized) rental housing waiting at the other end of their journey.

Of course, the public somehow thinks that’s a “heartless” policy — preferring massive, unending welfare programs and growing homelessness to this practical alternative — so don’t expect California governments to implement this policy.


As of February, 2024, the CA unemployment rate is 5.1%. Here’s the unemployment rates by state — updated monthly by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

I would suggest this program should concentrate on transfer programs to WILLING states with 3% or less unemployment — the states most likely to welcome low income/modestly skilled workers:

Currently (Feb, 2024) there are 15 such states. All these states have three things in common:
1. Full employment.
2. Far lower housing costs than California.
3. Much less hospitable weather for those wishing to continue living on the streets.

Sadly, some of California’s 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.  Today’s 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.”

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