Three Times More Homeless Die Under "Housing First" than "Shelter First" Policies, Data Show
It's time to shut down the open drug scenes
Over the last year I have been making a highly public argument against California Governor Gavin Newsom’s “Housing First” approach to homelessness. By diverting funding from homeless shelters to homeless housing, and not enforcing laws against public camping, Housing First advocates have inadvertently increased deaths from drug overdoses, homicides, traffic accidents, and other causes, I have argued.
Housing First advocates, including Newsom, have responded that shelters are not a solution to homelessness, and that it’s wrong to make people sleep in them.
Now, new mortality data released by the cities of New York and Los Angeles, first reported on by USA Today, strongly support the argument for New York’s Shelter First approach and against California’s Housing First approach.
USA Today yesterday published an analysis which found that three times more homeless people died in Los Angeles than in New York City between mid-2020 and 2021, despite the fact that there were 14,237 fewer homeless in LA than NYC.
“Los Angeles saw 1,988 homeless people die from April 2020 to the end of March 2021,” notes USA Today. “In a similar period – July 2020 to the end of June 2021 – 640 people died in New York, about a third of what L.A. saw.”
The reason for the difference is obvious: New York has built sufficient shelter for its homeless population whereas L.A., following “Housing First” dogma, has not. Instead, L.A. has, like San Francisco under Newsom’s leadership, diverted money from building shelters to building an inadequate supply of very expensive housing.
And by allowing open drug scenes — “homeless encampments” — to grow, by not enforcing laws against illegal public camping, Newsom and other progressive leaders are not only creating urban disorder, they are inadvertently killing homeless people.
Of the 1,988 homeless deaths in Los Angeles between April 2020 and March 2021, 715 were drug-related, 104 were from homicides, and 150 were from traffic injuries. Deaths from drugs, homicide, and traffic increased 78%, 49%, and 33%, respectively, from the prior year.
Of the 640 homeless deaths in New York over a similar period, 237 were drug-related, 22 were from homicides, and just six from traffic injuries. Deaths from drugs increased 81%, but deaths from homicides and accidents did not increase significantly.