DE-WAREHOUSING THE HOMELESS | 2002-04-06
When it comes to The Problem of the Homeless, every discussion leaves out how it got started. There was a court decision in which it was decided that you could not "warehouse" people because they were mentally incapacitated.
Just because a person could not take care of himself was no reason to provide him with bed and board on a permanent basis if he did not apply for it. You had to prove he was dangerous to institutionalize him.
The catch, of course, is that most people who are mentally incapable of caring for themselves are not likely to be the ones to show up, stand in line, fill out the right papers, go through the appeals and all the rest. They are in competition with people who have been professional welfare recipients for generations and who know all the ropes.
So civil libertarians won helpless people the right to freeze on the street and then made an industry out of raising hell about all those people out there freezing on the street.