As cities and towns across the country continue to grapple with the issue of homelessness, excuses for why our public spaces are overrun with those in need seem to abound. But it's time to move beyond these tired justifications and start taking real action to address the problem.
This was made all too clear to me when I recently visited the library in Centralia and saw firsthand how the open space outside could one day resemble the infamous Blakeslee Junction encampment.
And it's not just Centralia. The library in nearby Chehalis is also experiencing its share of problems, particularly after dark. In fact, a fire at a vacant restaurant in Centralia over the weekend, allegedly caused by an individual named Christopher J. Jackson who Centralia police say is homeless, highlights just how urgent the situation has become. It's time for our communities to come together and find real solutions to this pressing issue.
The government has a responsibility to ensure that its policies do not incentivize harmful behavior. Unfortunately, when it comes to the issue of homelessness, many of the cities, state and federal policies are doing just that.
One of the primary ways in which the government incentivizes homelessness is through its provision of social welfare programs. While these programs are meant to provide a safety net for those who are struggling financially, they often end up creating a culture of dependency, in which individuals become reliant on government handouts rather than taking responsibility for their own lives. Most of the private social welfare programs end up lining the pockets of poverty pimps and leads to more homelessness and makes it more difficult for individuals to get the help they need to get back on their feet.
Furthermore, the government's policies on affordable housing often do more harm than good. By imposing rent control and other regulations that make it difficult for landlords to operate profitably, the government disincentivizes the creation of new housing units. This, in turn, drives up the cost of existing housing and makes it more difficult for people to find affordable housing.
Additionally, many local governments have implemented policies that make it easy for homeless individuals to camp in public spaces or to set up makeshift shelters. While these policies may seem compassionate on the surface, they actually do more harm than good. By allowing homeless encampments to proliferate, the government is sending a message that it is acceptable to live on the streets.
Our government should instead focus on policies that encourage personal responsibility and self-sufficiency. This means providing job training programs and other resources that help people acquire the skills they need to find work and support themselves. It also means removing unnecessary regulations and barriers to economic growth, so that businesses can create jobs and provide opportunities for those who are struggling.
Our mental health facilities must be given the tools they need to help fight this problem. Too many people are being left to die because we don’t have the courage to provide them the help they can’t ask for.
Finally, it means adopting policies that discourage, rather than encourage, homelessness. This may mean cracking down on homeless encampments and other forms of public disorder, and providing assistance to homeless individuals to help them get back on their feet and become productive members of society.
In conclusion, until the government stops incentivizing homelessness through its policies, the problem will only get worse. Personal responsibility and self-sufficiency are key to helping individuals overcome the challenges they face, and that policies that encourage these values are the best way to reduce homelessness and help people get back on their feet.
Some might note I left out Lewis County in the opening line of this column, and it wasn't because they have no more work to do, but because they are the only ones who have done anything with regards to passing legislation.
The county’s efforts have been led by Commissioner Sean Swope, who continues to take arrows from a loud minority for doing what he feels in his heart is right. Have mistakes been made? Sure, but show me a successful person who has never made a mistake. Chehalis is trying to pass a camping ordinance with efforts led by Councilor Kevin Carns and I applaud his efforts, but it seems to be stalled somewhere in the process. I would encourage our local elected officials to reach out to Sean and Kevin and help them promote legislation that will keep our towns from looking like the off-ramps in Olympia.
Chad Taylor is publisher of The Chronicle and CT Publishing. He and his wife, Coralee Taylor, are the owners of The Chronicle. They can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.