Some thoughts on the ongoing debate over Anaheim’s recently adopted anti-camping ordinance.

For starters, it was good to see the City Council unanimity on the matter. This really isn’t a complicated issue: there is a homeless encampment in La Palma Park which has a deleterious effect on the life of neighboring residents and is effectively denying the use of a public park to the public.

Opponents of the ordinance criticize it by asking where the city proposes that the homeless campers go? The underlying assumption is that by squatting in a city park, homeless individuals thereby obligate the city to provide them with someplace else to live. That is a poor precedent to set.

First things first. The City of Anaheim’s primary obligation is to those residents who live near La Palma Park, and to members of the public who use it for its intended purposes.  They work, pay their mortgages and rent, pay their taxes and obey the law. They have raised or are raising their children by the park. They shouldn’t have to take their children to their neighborhood park and worry about hypodermic needles on the playground, illicit activities in public restrooms, and other dangers. A day in the park is supposed to be relaxing and enjoyable, not fretful and anxious.

The city’s first duty is to them. Restoring a city park shouldn’t have to wait until the problem of homelessness is “solved.”

The “Criminalizing Homlessness” Canard
The ACLU claims ordinances like the one adopted by Anaheim amount to “criminalizing homelessness.”

“Criminalizing homelessness” is a classic example of  left-wing language manipulation. The ACLU uses it to put opponents of its agenda on the defensive, to make them feel as if they are hard-hearted and lacking in compassion because they don’t want to live next to an illegal homeless camp.

This is a tried-and-true tactic of the Left, akin to how left-wingers tendency to package their policy demand du jour as a “civil right,” enabling them to depict anyone who opposes their demand as being “against civil rights.”

It’s hogwash, but it’s effective hogwash because most elected officials are too timid to call them out on it – and it doesn’;t help when the so-called responsible is abetting this language manipulation. Last week, PBS SoCal’s David Nazar straight-out adopts this loaded term in this Voice of OC article on the ACLU’s agitation on the homelessness issue:

While the typical solution has been to criminalize homelessness with strict enforcement of trespass and loitering laws, the ACLU says the real crime is not providing a way off the streets. [emphasis added]

That’s like saying parking regulations “criminalize” parking. Last time I checked, homeless people aren’t the only ones obligated to obey laws against trespassing and loitering.

The Road to Utopiaheim
Government cannot solve the human condition. The belief that it can is the well-spring of the government gigantism that we confront today. Natural, compassionate impulses have led to decades of destructive public policy when married to an unlimited vision of what government is responsible for and capable of. Government can make a positive contribution as long as it acts within its limited sphere of competence. However, when dealing issues such as homelessness, we need to get away from the mindset that first asks, “What is the government going to do about it?”

Speaking at Tuesday’s council meeting, one opponent of the anti-camping ordinance employed the shopworn trope “If we can send a man to the Moon, we can end (fill in the social ill).” Sending three astronauts to the Moon and bringing them safely back was essentially an engineering problem. An expensive and dangerous one, but an engineering problem the federal government could solve. And in an real sense, one can say its easier to send a man to the moon than to get a homeless alcoholic or drug addict to become and stay sober; or convince someone who prefers to be homeless to become a productive member of society.

My point is it is important to recognize the very limited ability of government at any level “solve” homelessness. Government has probably spent more than trillion dollars since the 1960s trying to solve poverty, and to little effect. Does anyone really think government can solve homelessness?