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OPINION

The California Plan to House the Homeless in Hotels Was About as Disastrous as Predicted

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AP Photo/Jeff Chiu

Back in May, as COVID madness was sweeping through political offices across the country, California officials acted just about as imbalanced as many might expect. Wanting to maximize their newfound authoritarianism, San Francisco officials hatched a plan to address the problem of its sprawling homeless issue during a pandemic. Wanting to stem the spread on the streets, they looked to businesses that had been rendered dormant (due to, unironically, the policies of these same officials). A ‘’solution’’ was found.

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Initially, the plan was to be put in place to help alleviate the health care workers who were dealing with the surge in cases. Originally the Front-Line Workers Housing Plan was set up to lend support locations for those working in the first-responder fields or those in the health care industries. 

The SF Department of Public Health made the decision to house the homeless, some of whom tested positive for the virus, in hotels that stood empty as a result of fleeing commerce. More than a few officials had made the comment that this was possibly a way for the city to privatize the issue of public contamination by these denizens of the alleys; it seemed a way for San Fran to move the feces and needles problem on its streets into the lobby of the Marriott.

More than a lurch of public policy, the wildness of the program soon became evident. It was suggested that not only were the homeless being placed into suites but the city was also going to provide those with addiction problems with the very vices of their choice. You read that correctly alcohol, cigarettes, marijuana, and even methadone was being provided to those transplanted vagrants. Needles were also freely provided. This was confirmed by the municipal health department.

After initially claiming these vices were provided via private donations, it was soon exposed that the party supplies were indeed funded from the public budgets. Hotel accommodations and catering of their preferred intoxicants were all furnished on the government dime. I’d be willing to move to San Fran and then self-identify as ‘’homeless’’ in order to be granted an all-inclusive Hedonism Resort vacation like that! 

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Unsurprisingly, this was a recipe for fiasco. The oversight and controls on the program were already suspect, but now we have evidence that this led to some questionable results. The local sheriff’s department has done regular patrols at these sites, already dealing with overdose cases and persons in crisis. Those patrols ended in July, and now we get a report from a local news station things may be ramping up.

Police responded to a call at the Civic Motor Inn  one of the locations used in the SFDPH program and they quickly began evacuating residents. It was discovered that in one of the rooms, a meth lab had been established. Among the evacuees were a number of persons who had tested positive for the virus and had been placed in quarantine.

Hard to imagine how things could lead to this. Consider the policies that were instituted for the program, beginning with the way the homeless became recipients by designating them as ‘’healthcare workers’’ in order to have them placed into hotels. This was something of a surprise to area businesses, who originally thought cops and nurses were being granted rooms for relief efforts. Then, as detailed by one area journalist, Erica Sandberg, those working in these hotels were mandated not to report on problems.

Meanwhile, chaos is erupting inside and around the hotels. City and hotel workers are required to sign nondisclosure agreements and are forbidden from discussing what they’re seeing. Per the Mayor’s Declaration of Emergency, speaking out can result in a fine of up to $1,000, imprisonment with a maximum sentence of one year or both.

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This means that rather than address any serious problems, the local government is working to keep anyone from discussing said problems. The press has been blockaded from locations, yet problems are, as expected, commonplace. Says Sandberg: ‘’In one hotel, guests are given needle kits and are advised to call the front desk before shooting up; there have been four deaths in the last few days.’’ Again, this was a program set up to save lives.

To go along with the party supplies, the ‘’guests’’ receive all manner of luxury living. They are given three meals a day, their clothes laundered, linens cleaned, and they receive grooming products and cleaning supplies. This, all in the name of keeping these people off the streets and separated, in the name of safety. Meanwhile demoralized workers at these locations report that large segments of the residents spend a majority of their time outside on the streets anyway.

This means the city is housing the homeless in place of healthcare workers as intended, illegally providing them with government-funded vice materials, providing no safety oversight, and in the end the people meant to be taken off the streets are free to roam the streets. All at a cost double that of providing these same people with a one-room rental apartment in the same city.

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This is why California is regarded as a utopia. Unless, of course, you're a tax-paying resident.

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