Author Topic: LA Times: Mental Illness, Substance Abuse Far More Common Among Homeless Than Claimed  (Read 109 times)

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Online PeteS in CA

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LA Times: Mental Illness, Substance Abuse Far More Common Among Homeless Than Claimed

If you’ve followed the issue of homelessness up and down the west coast, from Seattle to Los Angeles, one of the most fundamental disagreements between ordinary people and activists is over the issues of drug abuse and mental illness. Typically, activists arguing for more housing for the homeless are quick to trot out statistics that show only about a third of people on the street suffer from these problems. Meanwhile, shopkeepers and business people who encounter the homeless frequently suggest the percentage with such problems is higher.

When the agency responsible for the point-in-time homeless count in LA County released its findings earlier this year, they seemed to fit with the claims made by activists. Here’s a slide from the presentation given to elected officials:
An analysis of the underlying data performed by the LA Times came up with dramatically different results. In fact the results are nearly the opposite of what was presented to officials:

The Times, however, found that about 67% had either a mental illness or a substance abuse disorder. Individually, substance abuse affects 46% of those living on the streets — more than three times the rate previously reported — and mental illness, including post-traumatic stress disorder, affects 51% of those living on the streets, according to the analysis…

The findings lend statistical support to the public’s frequent association of mental illness, physical disabilities and substance abuse with homelessness.
... (Farther down the article)
Advocates for homeless people tend to not focus their messaging on mental illness, disabilities or substance abuse out of concern that doing so unfairly stereotypes and stigmatizes those without a home.

In other words, the public isn’t crazy to think there is more going on here than a lack of affordable housing. In fact, the LA Times points out that a study published Sunday by the California Policy Lab at UCLA found even higher numbers for substance abuse and mental illness among the homeless nationwide. This chart represents their findings based upon a review of 64,000 homeless surveys:

I'm going to call partial BS on the "Advocates for homeless people" claims about stigma. There are two other, IMO more accurate reasons, for diminishing the % of druggees and mentally ill:

* Getting them off the streets could be accomplished by changing laws concerning involuntary commitment; that would not be trivial or quick, but getting 2/3-3/4 of the homeless off the streets would be a near existential threat to advocacy groups and bureaucrats;

* Representations of homeless people as perfectly capable but unlucky are used by politicians to hyper-regulate existing housing and new construction, which, perversely, chokes the supply of housing, resulting in higher housing costs.
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Think of the Press as Democratic Operatives with Bylines and it All Makes Sense - Glenn Reynolds, Instapundit blog

Modern journalism is all about deciding which facts the public shouldn't know because they might reflect badly on Democrats. - Jim Treacher

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