Some of the nation’s politicians who are the most ardent believers in catastrophic man-made climate change are in charge of the dirtiest localities. These same proponents who are pushing economically and socially disruptive solutions to address future, theoretical climate change, do so while presiding over present-day homeless and pollution crises on their own doorsteps.

Those public officials have their priorities backwards.

If we must address climate change by reordering society, should we not begin with the streets of major cities that are plagued with chronic homelessness and the squalor, drug needles and other filth left behind?

There were nearly 553,000 homeless people in the United States in 2018, according to the latest annual report on the subject by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development. Of this total number, more than one-third were in “unsheltered locations,” that is, living on the streets, alleyways or abandoned buildings, while most were staying in emergency shelters or transitional housing programs.

Nearly 25 percent of homeless people are in New York City and Los Angeles. California, with the nation’s largest state population, has four of the seven urban areas with the most homelessness.

These two states have public officials who are some of the biggest promoters of extreme environmental policies, including California Governor Gavin Newsom, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.

Mayor de Blasio is a staunch supporter of a national Green New Deal, and successfully pushed a New York City version last spring. But, he also has presided over growing homelessness and ongoing deplorable conditions in public housing, documented by the City Comptroller.

Mayor Garcetti just launched his own L.A. version of a Green New Deal, while the city’s growing homeless crisis is resulting in diseases thought to be eradicated, including at least 124 cases of Typhus and fears of a return of bubonic plague.

While L.A.’s homeless population was climbing and rare disease spreading, the mayor received a “Climate Protection Award” by the U.S. Conference of Mayors, given to him at the organization’s junket last year, held in Honolulu.

Gov. Newsom last month attended the United Nation’s Climate Action Summit in New York and proclaimed he was “embarrassed…[and] absolutely humiliated” by the Trump administration’s refusal to embrace climate alarmism. Evidently, the governor feels no such embarrassment or humiliation over his state’s tragic human suffering from homelessness, pervasive litter and piles of human excrement in some of its largest urban areas.

It has gotten so bad that  officials in the greater Los Angeles area last week demanded Gov. Newsom declare a “state of emergency” to enable public funds be diverted from natural disaster relief to address the homeless crisis.

Mitigating and solving homelessness is complicated, but hardly impossible. It takes strong leadership and focus to tackle the myriad of issues that contribute to homelessness, including removing such victims from the streets. This may require expanding shelters, drug treatment and mental health wards. It also requires reversing the relaxation of criminal penalties for “non-violent” drug dealers and enforcing anti-loitering laws.

Dealing effectively with homelessness further entails increasing housing capacity by removing restrictive zoning and rent control laws, the latter of which provide disincentives for private construction of affordable housing. These restrictions, especially rent control, lead to dilapidated buildings and raise rents of buildings outside such controls. Nonetheless, both New York and California recently approved statewide rent control laws, which likely will restrict housing development and worsen homelessness.

Fixing the homeless crisis in New York, California and so many other places would provide real, immediate benefits to people, starting with the homeless, but also the residents and tourists trying to avoid them and the accumulated garbage.

Unfortunately, too many politicians would rather spout climate alarmism, promise to face down a theoretical “existential threat” to the planet in the distant future, and propose grandiose, unwarranted, and counterproductive policies. This is all rhetoric and vapid promises that help no one – especially the present-day homeless population suffering daily in the streets of progressive cities.

Author

  • Peter Murphy, a CFACT analyst, has researched and advocated for a variety of policy issues, including education reform and fiscal policy. He previously wrote and edited The Chalkboard weblog for the New York Charter Schools Association, and has been published in numerous media outlets, including The Hill, New York Post and the Wall Street Journal.