‘We’re Paying People’ to Be Homeless: Michael Shellenberger, Author of ‘San Fransicko’

By Drew Van Voorhis
Drew Van Voorhis
Drew Van Voorhis
Drew Van Voorhis is a California-based daily news reporter for The Epoch Times. He has been a journalist for four years, during which time he has broken several viral national news stories and has been interviewed for his work on both radio and internet shows.
and Jan Jekielek
Jan Jekielek
Jan Jekielek
Senior Editor
Jan Jekielek is a senior editor with The Epoch Times and host of the show, "American Thought Leaders." Jan’s career has spanned academia, media, and international human rights work. In 2009 he joined The Epoch Times full time and has served in a variety of roles, including as website chief editor. He is the producer of the award-winning Holocaust documentary film "Finding Manny."
October 26, 2021 Updated: October 27, 2021

Government subsidies for homeless Americans can be more hurtful than helpful, according to Michael Shellenberger, author of “San Fransicko: Why Progressives Ruin Cities.”

“We have a situation here where we’re literally paying people in the form of cash, welfare, housing, and other services to live in tents on the street, use hard drugs, defecate publicly, and commit crimes,” he said on EpochTV’s “American Thought Leaders” program. The full episode will be released on Thurs. Oct. 28 at 7 p.m. ET on EpochTV.

Shellenberger said the problem begins with the word “homeless” itself—calling it a “propaganda word” that doesn’t encapsulate what the issue is actually formed from.

He said since the 1980s, progressive activists demanded more subsidized housing, attributing the cause of homelessness to a lack of housing, expensive rents, or poverty— “and that’s not the case.”

The problem with using the word “homeless,” he said, is that it incorrectly combines two very different groups. It’s irresponsible to conflate mothers escaping abusive husbands, or people who are just going through some hard times, with people who are mentally ill, or drug-addicted, or both, says Shellenberger.

The term “homeless encampments” is another incorrect euphuism, he said, explaining that it’s often thought of as a homeless community where individuals are helping each other out; but in actuality, it’s an open-air drug market.

“European researchers … describe [homeless encampments] as open drugs scenes, where people live inside of open-air drug markets. Buyers and sellers are meeting there, but they’re also just living there because they’re so addicted,” Shellenberger said.

The failed European homeless encampments, which is being repeated in California, involves giving homeless drug addicts methadone (a heroin substitute), clean needles, and encouraging drug treatment, he said.

“The people said, ‘No, I’ll just stay here in the squalor and use drugs,’ because they’re suffering from a kind of mental illness, which is what drug addiction is,” said Shellenberger.

Epoch Times Photo
A homeless man sleep near tents in downtown Los Angeles on Nov. 18, 2018. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

People struggling with drug addiction need to be met with some type of intervention, he said, or they will very rarely have a desire to try to help themselves.

“We don’t allow people with dementia—such as our grandparents suffering from Alzheimer’s or dementia—we don’t allow them to wander the streets and live on the streets. … Why then do we allow people that are suffering from psychosis, whether from schizophrenia or from chronic meth use to be on the streets?” he said.

While an arrest after committing a crime or dealing with some type of intervention can be hard, it allows the drug-addicted to at least detox for some amount of time before going back on the street, he said.

“They need some sort of structure to keep themselves healthy and clean. It used to be that addicts would be arrested every once in a while and would find themselves in jail or prison where they would have to detox and kick their addiction, at least for a period of time. We’re not doing that now,” he said.

“You don’t necessarily need to arrest addicts and put them in prison, but they do need the intervention so they can they can get clean and move on with their lives.”

Drew Van Voorhis is a California-based daily news reporter for The Epoch Times. He has been a journalist for four years, during which time he has broken several viral national news stories and has been interviewed for his work on both radio and internet shows.
Jan Jekielek
Senior Editor
Jan Jekielek is a senior editor with The Epoch Times and host of the show, "American Thought Leaders." Jan’s career has spanned academia, media, and international human rights work. In 2009 he joined The Epoch Times full time and has served in a variety of roles, including as website chief editor. He is the producer of the award-winning Holocaust documentary film "Finding Manny."