Letter to the Editor: Publisher Off Base on Homelessness


Chad Taylor, the owner and publisher of The Chronicle, occasionally publishes a musings column in The Chronicle, the newspaper he bought.

In a recent column about homelessness, Mr. Taylor mused — incorrectly — that government funded social programs are responsible for homelessness. He claims that social programs make people dependent on the government, and that this dependency leads to homelessness.

Homeless people are, apparently, spoiled.

But homelessness is not caused by social programs. Here are three good reasons to think that Mr. Taylor’s spoiled brat theory is mistaken:

First, if homeless people were simply spoiled, then we should expect nations with more generous social programs to have higher populations of homeless people. But that’s not what we see.

Many countries with more generous social programs than the United States have less homelessness than we do. Meanwhile, many countries with less generous social programs have more homelessness.

Second, people who study homelessness for a living do not blame social programs. They consistently say that homelessness is driven by factors like the availability and affordability of housing.

In fact, last year, a large University of California study concluded that housing issues are the primary explanation for homelessness patterns in the U.S., finding that factors like addiction and mental health are relevant but relatively minor considerations as compared to housing.

Third, a homelessness study in Vancouver, B.C., found that unearned cash transfers help homeless people, not hurt them.

Researchers transferred $5,800 cash to homeless people. They found that people who received the cash fared extremely well, finding housing more quickly and spending less money on drugs and alcohol than their peers who did not receive the cash. The researchers also calculated that the project saved the shelter system more money than the cost of the cash transfers.

The study was too small to conclude that cash transfers would work across the board. But the results indicate that grace and generosity are more likely to solve homelessness than to cause it.


Dale Grauman

formerly of Lewis County