They just wanted to do the right thing. The small town of Middletown, Ohio, a town of 49,000 people, has opened all manner of homeless services. There is everything from soup kitchens and shelters that allow you to be high and drunk to rehab facilities to sober up.
And that’s the problem. You can come to Middletown to stay drunk and high and get three hots and a cot without having to do much.
Now the homeless are swamping the town. Residents who call Middletown home are shocked that “about 75%” of the homeless are from someplace else, according to the former police chief.
Of course they are.
Before retiring last September, Police Chief Rodney Muterspaw wrote a Facebook post that accused nearby towns of dumping their homeless and drug-addled in Middletown:
Good Morning Middletown,Wanted to tackle the elephant in the room, an uncomfortable topic that we deal with every day…
Muterspaw called the increasing numbers of homeless persons “the elephant in the room.”
“… I am here to tell you that probably 75% of our homelessness are not Middletown people. They are from other cities, counties and states. Nobody knows more than our officers, who deal with it daily.
… I simply don’t know of another community this size that does so much for people than this one.
… The problem is most of our homeless are not from here. We have a huge problem with other cities (they know who they are), dumping homeless people here because they don’t want them in their city. …
… I am sure most of you have seen these groups of young men on bikes with backpacks? A lot of them, not all, are stealing, breaking into cars, etc. Some are living under bridges, some are sleeping in tents in wooded areas locally. Our officers are finding out a lot of them are homeless and not from Middletown. Pointed to, dropped or dumped here by other cities or agencies. This trend has to stop. We can’t handle the overload.”
The Washington Post reports that Middletown has had to rob its street-improvement budget to pay for more cops to handle the trouble caused by the homeless.
There are a lot of cities and towns that dump their homeless. It’s one of the reasons why California is a magnet for more than 20% of the nation’s homeless.
I spend time volunteering at a Southern California transitional housing program. Some of the residents are actually from Southern California. Others were given tickets by other cities, such as New York, and sent to So-Cal because, as one guy told me, “it’s better to be homeless in the sun than in the New York winter.” True that.
But even if you’re in a less sunny locale, if there’s a chance of free stuff, you’ll go.
A cold winter a few years ago, a local Portland, Ore., TV reporter interviewed a couple waiting in line at the downtown mission. I watched them tell the reporter that they were sitting in their apartment in Houston and surfing the internet and saw that Portland had a “ten-year plan to solve homelessness.” They even had the nomenclature right. They came to get their free housing. They gave up their warm apartment with wi-fi to get a free house in freezing Portland. I used to play the soundbite over and over on my radio show. What’s one night in a shelter if you’re going to get a new house, right?
A couple of years ago I checked out the tent city on the grounds of the Orange County, Calif., courthouse. I approached a woman wearing an official-looking neon-colored vest and asked her what her job was. She was paid by the county to connect homeless people with services. Then I asked her what the homeless were doing there. To my shock, she honestly answered the question. She told me that most of the people there got government checks and would rather spend them on drugs than rent.
That encampment is now gone. The courthouse grounds look like an abandoned prison yard with chain-linked fences erected in an effort to keep the homeless from re-establishing the tent city.
California now attempts to deal with the homeless as a housing issue. Very little attempt is made to get and keep people sober. Folks are free to indulge in their vices and still get free stuff.
Now as I report on PJMedia, Los Angeles is building new condos for the homeless.
Helping the homeless requires a delicate balance. This is a fragile population of people. But there’s one thing you can bet on: if there’s free stuff and if it’s easy to get, they will come.