Homeless Sweeps are Costly, Ineffective, and Immoral

Cities across the United States are taking the wrong approach to a crisis.

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Housing Matters (“Homeless Encampment Sweeps May Be Draining Your City’s Budget“):

Amid rising inflation and lack of available, affordable housing, homelessness has been increasing to crisis levels in the United States. According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness, between 2016 and 2020, there was a 6 percent jump in rates of overall homelessness.

During this period, unsheltered homelessness rates increased by 20 percent. Unsheltered homelessness was especially prominent on the West Coast and among women, Black and Latinx people, and people not experiencing chronic homelessness.

Though the reasons for recent increases in unsheltered homelessness are well researched and documented and include the rise of the cost of living, lack of affordable housing, and a lack of resources for people experiencing homelessness, many of the most common responses to homelessness encampments are implemented by law enforcement and fail to address the root causes—while costing cities substantial amounts of money.

People who experience unsheltered homelessness are more likely to have interactions with law enforcement (PDF), such as through homeless encampment sweeps. This contributes to the revolving door of homelessness and incarceration and other legal system involvement, which places immense financial burdens on communities.


In urban areas, homeless encampment sweeps, in which law enforcement officers or sanitation workers remove entire communities, are a common response to unsheltered homelessness. Sweeps reduce the visibility of homelessness, but evidence shows they only further displace unhoused people and do not address its root causes.

Sweeps exacerbate negative outcomes for people experiencing homelessness while straining city budgets. A United States Interagency Council on Homelessness report showed that responding to homeless encampments cost Houston, TX $3,393,000 and San Jose, CA $8,557,000.

There’s quite a bit more to the report which, admittedly, is from an activist group with an agenda.

I’ve seen several news report headlines from across the country on the issue in recent days. Here’s one from The Providence Journal from earlier in the week:

Residents of a tent encampment along the Blackstone River awoke on Wednesday to warnings they had a half-hour to pack up their possessions and leave before the site would be cleared.

“People lost tents. People lost sleeping bags. People lost clothes and food,” said Michelle P. Taylor, vice president of social health services at Community Care Alliance. 

Advocates for unsheltered Rhode Islanders said they spent the day scrambling to find emergency shelter for the nine or so people who made the state-owned site on Truman Drive their home. At least one man has lived at the site for more than a year.

The dismantling of the encampment came at the direction of Department of Public Works Director Steven D’Agostino, town officials said.

D’Agostino said that workers noticed some broken tree limbs and downed trees in need of clearing and warned people “weeks ago” that they needed to move.

“Obviously, it’s unsafe if you are going to be clearing trees. They were given options of different places to go. It’s not a surprise,” D’Agostino said.

“In case anyone didn’t notice, it’s winter. No one should be [living] outside,” he continued.

He observed that there are several nonprofit organizations operating in the city. “Maybe they should be doing better,” he said.

Those comments didn’t sit well with the people working on the ground with the unsheltered community.

“The state of RI is experiencing a housing and homeless emergency; we have yet to come to grips with this fact. The people most impacted are families with children struggling with poverty as well as people with serious mental illness, addiction and other health related concerns. … Bulldozing homeless encampments is not a solution, it only creates additional trauma. Without sufficient local shelter and supportive services, this approach does nothing other than to disperse people to other nearby locations,” Benedict F. Lessing, Jr., CEO of the Community Care Alliance, said in an email.

Lessing said his organization has been pushing for months for additional shelter resources In Woonsocket.

“Unless the state and local municipalities work in collaboration with nonprofit organizations to develop more shelter, we will see more deaths and overdoses as we have recently. It is time for the governor and the General Assembly to declare this situation an emergency and work to resolve it in a comprehensive and dignified manner,” Lessing said.

I don’t live in a downtown area, so homelessness is not a hugely visible problem in my daily life. There is the occasional person holding up a cardboard sign panhandling at intersections; whether they’re actually homeless, I don’t know.

It’s certainly a noticeable problem in DC proper, where I used to work and still visit with some regularity. And it was a huge issue in Philadelphia on a visit a few months back. The public parks had been turned into homeless encampments and someone was sleeping on the sidewalks just about every block. And the whole city smelled like piss unless it was obsured by the weed.

The impulse to clean up the problem is understandable. It turns public spaces into private ones, depriving taxpayers and tourists alike of their full enjoyment. And while, as a 220-pound man, I feel reasonably safe, that’s presumably less true for women, children, and the elderly.

It’s not just minor inconveniences, either, as these headlines from around the country, all within the last few days, suggest:

  • King County homelessness authority feels ‘urgency’ to address Capitol Hill encampments” – KOMO News, Seattle
  • Owner Closing Manchester Day Care After Nearly 20 Years, Citing Nearby Homeless Encampment” – NBC10 Boston
  • Fire at homeless encampment in downtown Chattanooga under investigation Friday” –NewsChannel9
  • City Attorney Blasts Judge’s Ruling Banning Homeless Encampment Sweeps, Says It ‘Defies Logic’” – SFist (San Francisco)
  • National Park Service aims to clear out DC homeless encampments by late 2023” – Fox News
  • People From Growing Homeless Camp Are Scaring off Seattle Church Parishioners and Ordering Amazon Packages to the Church” – BestLife-YahooNews (Seattle)

But criminalizing the problem is immoral and breaking up the encampments and forcing them to settle elsewhere not only shifts the burden to other areas but makes it even harder for the homeless to get on their feet.

Housing Matters suggests some alternatives:

Again, let’s acknowledge that this is an activist group (part of the Urban Institute) with an ideological lean. But it seems obvious that providing people with housing or housing subsidies (depending on their circumstances) along with whatever mental health and other counseling support they need is a more effective and humane response to non-criminal activity than incarceration. That it’s also cheaper wouldn’t surprise me but I’m a bit skeptical on that score. It’s certainly more expensive than harassment but, again, that’s immoral—both in terms of the homeless person and the new recipients of the problem.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Tony W says:

    Homelessness is probably the most complex issue we face. It is caused by so many different things, all working together, that there is no single, silver bullet.

    Further, it is encouraged and exacerbated by corporate interests who see the homeless as a convenient warning, a shot across the bow, to any middle-class kid who thinks there’s an alternative to studying hard in school to become an FTE in the future. “That could be you” is a serious, and effective, threat against those who would step out of line.

    Until we have universal health care – including mental health, free education for anybody able to maintain their grades, early educational assistance to level the playing field for students who have troubled home lives, and the sort of governmental support system found in Europe for new mothers, families, and people with temporary financial issues, we will continue to see homelessness grow and grow.

    I personally will volunteer to pay higher taxes if it means that more people in my community have a stake in my community. People who are hopeless, aimless, and transient are a threat to the community and to themselves.

    As usual, America only uses punishment to solve problems.

  2. Mikey says:

    @Tony W:

    As usual, America only uses punishment to solve problems.

    Well, if these were good people, God would have blessed them and they wouldn’t be homeless, ergo the fact they’re homeless means they are bad people and the most we should do for them is roust them out of the park and arrest them if they resist.

    (Sarcasm, in case it wasn’t clear.)

  3. grumpy realist says:

    The intertwining of mental illness with homelessness also makes the situation difficult to solve. We’ve got people with mental illness/personality disorders who can’t find treatment for their illnesses, people with mental illness/personality disorders who refuse treatment, and people who develop mental illness due to their years on the streets. Groups 1 and 3 can possibly be helped from the outside; group 2 is doubtful.

    It used to be that even in “rich” cities there were cheap lodgings. The downside of most of the cheap lodgings was that they were typically vermin-and-flea invested firetraps. Now? Regulations (for the most part) control that aspect unless the lodger is a hoarder, but make it much more expensive to be a landlord. Not to mention that the land under the dwelling makes it much more lucrative to sell the location to developers, hence poof! cheap lodgings.

  4. Sleeping Dog says:

    If the encampments were simply benign tent communities where the residents had a place that served as a home base, then an argument can be made for allowing them to continue. But there is a pernicious secondary effect that the camps quickly become a hive of criminal activity. The drug use quickly leads to drug dealing, not just to the camp residents, but to the steady stream of cars pull up beside the camp and a drug deal ensues. The camps also become magnets for human trafficking that all too frequently is centered around minors.

    As @Tony W: points out, homelessness is a complicated issue, with dozens of inputs and as many potential treatment options. The low hanging fruit include getting families and the working poor who find themselves homeless off the streets and into housing, even if the entry is a transitional location like a motel room.

    Dealing with the mentally ill will require a huge expansion of supportive living environments and importantly, a change in the civil commitment standard. Generally the judgement on civil commitment hinges on two questions; are they dangerous to others, and are they dangerous to themselves. Yes to the second question has been distilled to be that they are at risk of suicide. The dangerous to themselves question needs to be expanded to are they capable of caring for themselves.

    Last spring I was up in Portland wandering around taking pictures on the street. I stopped for lunch at pizza place on the north end of Commercial St, near where the old train sheds are. As I sat down, I noted a few tents along the fence that separated the roadway from the Port Authority terminal, that wasn’t unusual. Almost immediately a young woman appeared, peering into the restaurant, noticing that I was watching her, she told me that she was looking for a friend and wouldn’t bother me. Then she disappeared. When my lunch arrived, I noticed her by the tents, engaged in an animated conversation with someone only she could see.

    This woman, still a girl really, was maybe 20, but most likely 18-19. I had noted that her clothes appeared clean, as she did, her hair recently washed. My guess is that she was a fresh discharge from what was likely her first psychiatric commitment. Why she was so quickly on the streets, I can’t answer. But I knew that if she weren’t being sexually trafficked already, it was only days before the lizards would find her and her life in hell would begin.

  5. We have a pernicious view in the US that punishment deters behavior we don’t like, so if we would just punish enough, everyone would behave as we want them to (see, e.g., the drug war or, really, the criminal justice system writ large).

    This is not an efficacious a route as we think it is and it would be rather keen if we were willing to explore other policy options.

  6. MarkedMan says:

    The people most impacted are families with children struggling with poverty as well as people with serious mental illness, addiction and other health related concerns.

    The fact that he led of with families with children struggling with poverty tells you all you need to know about whether the speaker is really interested in getting to the roots of the problem. I’m not speaking from ignorance here – I live in the heart of Baltimore city and pass by homeless men and women panhandling or sleeping on the streets on a daily basis. I occasionally volunteer at a men’s shelter and my wife worked for several years at one of the few women’s shelters for recovering addicts that also accepted young children.

    Families with children, or even single people who are unhoused because of unemployment or underemployment are such a different category than the mentally ill and addicted that putting them together makes no sense. For the families, getting money in their pocket, a roof over their heads and help with childcare and finding a job will go a long way towards meeting their immediate needs, although I’m not minimizing how difficult that can be. But the addicted and mentally ill are completely different categories, and different from each other. If you give money to an addict, alcohol or drugs, it gets spent on alcohol or drugs. It may make you feel good but it sure as hell isn’t doing them any good. Although it may help reduce crime in the neighborhood, since it lessens their need to steal to feed their habit, so I guess there is that.

    The mentally ill are yet another category (although long term addicts have usually done quite a bit of damage to their brain, so there is overlap.) I think it is unconscionable that we leave these people on the streets. They should be involuntarily committed and provided with as clean and warm and supportive environment as possible. But most are not capable of living on their own in any type of unsupervised shelter. Ironically, we do have medications that can help many of them. If they were provided these medications for free and could stay on them they could live in unsupervised or minimally supervised environments, and many could even hold a job, especially if the intervention happens early enough to prevent the trauma and brain damage done by the hellish life in the streets. The cruelest thing though is that the side effects of these medications lead the people taking them to want to cut back or wean themselves off. Once they do that long enough they are once again in the clutch of mental illness and will firmly believe they don’t need those drugs, or even that the people trying to get them to take them are trying to poison them. Here’s a column from a family member struggling to keep their mentally ill family member alive in NYC (no subscription needed). If you read it, ask yourself: “If we could have explained to the woman before she became mentally ill how that illness would affect her ability to make decisions and therefore her life and her loved ones, would she have preferred to be committed to a supervised environment, or to be given “freedom” to walk the streets of NYC unprotected and uncomprehending of what was happening?”

  7. Slugger says:

    I agree with others who see this as a complex issue. Who are the homeless? What are the demographics, what’s the prevalence of disease and drug abuse? They must have an economy of some type; how does that work? There a thousand questions to answer before a meaningful intervention can take place.
    I have a homeless distant relative who lives on the streetsin a Midwestern city (yes, in winter). His immediate family is financially stable and has rented an apartment for him that he refuses to use. The brother of an acquaintance lives in a place that the brother provides but never moves from the couch in front of the TV. The good brother has a serious health problem. Will the bipolar brother wind up on the street when the caretaker brother declines?
    I read German. There are five to ten thousand “dachlosse” i.e. roofless people in Berlin most of them are like the bipolar people I described above.

  8. Modulo Myself says:


    I find it difficult to conclude from that piece that we need to involuntary commit anyone who is mentally ill in order to save them from their disease. Plenty of people with extreme mental health manage to survive and have lives which may come across as different but which are safe and meaningful to them and are far superior to being imprisoned. The idea that anyone will select imprisonment instead of hope is ridiculous.

    But life doesn’t offer that choice. Thankfully, I think. American society seems to be stuck in a zone of no imagination or possibility. Simply have the government build enough housing for everybody would so many problems, and that’s a concrete solution. It has nothing to do with like how to survive as a person.

  9. Mimai says:

    Expanding evidence-based* mental health services would benefit society in general and chronic homelessness specifically. That said, we would do well to keep our expectations in check.

    Mental health services — even the most evidence-based and comprehensive — have a moderate (at best) effect size. And for some of the most important (from a societal perspective) outcomes re homelessness, the effect size is rather meager, despite being statistically significant compared to standard care.

    I say all of this not to discourage efforts to expand such services. But rather to note that such efforts, even if successful, are likely to only make a small dent. As others have noted, chronic homelessness is a terribly difficult problem.

    *Too often, this is given lip service but no action.

  10. Modulo Myself says:

    I don’t care for the radical thinking of the 60s and 70s re: mental illness as a liberation or whatever from capitalism. But the way people are spooked by everything in our world now that makes me understand where that was coming from. Someone whose insides are bleeding so much sadness that they need to take in 45 stray cats makes more sense to me than the person who needs an easy solution to people sleeping in tents in park. The world has always been tents in a park. It’s always been sadness and 45 cats. The real solutions of the 20th century were communism and fascism, neither of which turned out well. If you want to do something about mental health, go to school and study to become a clinician. If you want to help the homeless, have the government build homes. Otherwise don’t go through life trying to engage in a battle of wits with the mentally ill people you see on the street.

  11. Sleeping Dog says:

    Sadly, the easiest and most efficient way to begin addressing homelessness among the mentally ill is if they would just take the medication that is prescribed to them.

  12. MarkedMan says:

    @Modulo Myself:

    The idea that anyone will select imprisonment instead of hope is ridiculous.

    What does that even mean, “imprisonment instead of hope”? As for ridiculous, if I knew that I had a deteriorating illness that was going to result in my being unable to maintain a roof over my head, unable to maintain a relationship with those who love me, convinced that “they” (aliens, the CIA, my family) are pursuing me and trying to poison me so I have to keep constantly on the move, and that my family and loved ones would have to go through so much pain and heartbreak trying to help me, then I would chose to be committed, “imprisoned” today, if those were the only choices presented to me.

  13. MarkedMan says:

    @Modulo Myself:

    Simply have the government build enough housing for everybody would so many problems, and that’s a concrete solution.

    That would solve the problem for those of sound mind and unaffected who are unhoused and simply need a hand up. And yes, we should do that. But giving houses or rooms or apartments to addicts and the mentally ill and leaving them unsupervised and uncontrolled is just going to result in crack houses. The mentally ill will be unable to maintain the place and it will quickly fall into ruin. Yes, there are a few miraculous exceptions to that, but not many.

    The people at the Men’s and Women’s Shelters that I’ve interacted with are, in a way, the elite of the addicts. They all are sincerely trying to turn their lives around. They have all tried, many times, to rid themselves of their addiction on their own, and it hasn’t worked. They want to quit so bad they have voluntarily decided to live in a place where every minute is filled with either mandatory activities or a limited number of optional ones.

    And every counselor will tell you that it’s impossible to include the severely mentally ill in this unless they are taking their meds consistently and responding well to them. Left in medicated they would quickly create a fraught and frantic environment, full of paranoia, accusations, outbursts and even attacks. In other words, exactly the opposite environment they need to make progress. Yet these “elite” addicts, in a very expensive, clean and supportive environment, who really want to get better? Most fail and wind up back on the streets or dead of an overdose.

  14. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Mikey: Sarcasm by you, for sure. But, I’ve heard a guy I know in county government similar things in all seriousness.

  15. Modulo Myself says:


    Mental illness is not terminal cancer. Not everyone who suffers ends up on the streets. They aren’t guaranteed survival, but mental illness does not automatically result in losing one’s home any more than it automatically results in suicide.

    And as far as housing goes, giving people a guaranteed place to live no questions asked as a baseline of existence is something unheard of in America. Are there people out there who do not fit into any standard of normal life? Probably. But normal life in America tends to fuck you over big time if you can’t fit into some of the standards, especially if you’re already poor. Those are the people who will be helped by having housing. And it’s impossible how many who can’t fit into any part of normal life ended up that way because they had no chance in the first place.

  16. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @MarkedMan: “As for ridiculous, if I knew that I had a deteriorating illness that was going to result in my being unable to maintain a roof over my head…”

    Because we’re sooooooooo good a predicting these situations ahead of time. 🙁 Not (really) intending to beat up on you, just to suggest that your hypothetical may be more of a unicorn than you imagine.

  17. MarkedMan says:

    @Modulo Myself:

    mental illness does not automatically result in losing one’s home any more than it automatically results in suicide

    Of course. But here we are specifically talking about those whose mental illness led them to be homeless.

  18. Modulo Myself says:


    Again, life does not allow you to perceive the future. There’s no choice to be made for anybody suffering from mental illness regarding the eventual outcome. It’s not like electing to go into hospice rather than undergo chemo again just to fight the inevitable.

  19. MarkedMan says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker: I was about to say, rarer than a unicorn, but then I thought about the people I know who have been affected by dementia and realized it’s more common than I thought to know you have a disease which has a high probability of leaving you unable to care for yourself and that will create a tremendous emotional and financial burden for your family. It’s usually a very narrow window for when you know that’s a possibility and when you are beyond making any rational decision about it. But if I was in that window, and there was a clean, safe place that I could voluntarily enter but could never leave until dementia and death took me, I would do so in a heartbeat, and spare my family the pain.

    But yes, for mental illnesses such as schizophrenia that window probably never occurs.

  20. MarkedMan says:

    @Modulo Myself: Obviously true. My point was that, given that I will be unable to make a rational decision like that were I to descend that far into a mental illness, I would want my family to make it for me, without guilt or regrets. But that is not an option. As a country, and in every state and city within, we decided in the 70’s and 80’s that everyone deserves freedom and dumped all but the most chronically violent onto the streets to fend for themselves.

  21. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @MarkedMan: Worse than that for dementia. One study that I read indicated that somewhere along 80% of all people over 85 get dementia of some kind. Talking to the neurologist the other day, I noted that both of my parents had Alzheimer’s when they died and she asked when it came on. My comment that it came on in their late 70s early 80s caused her to reply that their’s was ordinary Alzheimer’s not the genetic kind.

  22. Skookum says:

    Discussions like this always upset me–everyone has an answer based upon the facet of the problem they have personally observed, either with compassion and lack of judgment or with the belief that simply providing tiny houses with solve the problem for the “sick, lame, and lazy.”

    My personal brush with homelessness comes from concern for close family members. One was emotionally unable to interact socially after Viet Nam, yet 100% confident in his mental health, although he was unemployable. Fortunately he did accept the love and support of his family, and although he is still an introvert with few social connections, he is married and earning a small retirement pension.

    The second relative was addicted to alcohol and had always been a lovable misfit. He had an early brush with the law that landed him in juvy, and he eventually settled into street life after periods of trying to live a “normal” life. In his later year, we provided him a home that he could afford on his minimal income, but he left it trashed and returned to the streets. What we did not realize at the time is that our beloved family member, who had a hard time with cleanliness and sobriety, found that street life provided him with social connections that living alone in a small house could not offer. Occasionally he was able to hold down a job–but the key ingredient in his jobs that he held is that he had a social connection with his co-workers despite his unpleasant quirks.

    Last year I read about a housing situation set up by a non-profit managed by and for Native Americans. Based upon my experience, it seemed like an approach that might have been helpful for my two relatives. First, it provided community housing for social interaction and the means to eat, bathe, and feel safe. Second, it provided medical, addiction, and mental health care. There were no religious demands.

    Oregon passed a measure to provide drug addiction treatment and decriminalize drug use. Unfortunately, amid the COVID crisis, the drug addiction program was not funded. I sincerely pray that the program will be fully rolled out this year, as I do not believe the criminalization is a deterrent and people who are addicted–and are willing to receive treatment–need help. And they will continue to need treatment as relapse is part of this terrible disease. But for now, people are saying the new law is a failure…and, sadly, I have to agree.

  23. MarkedMan says:

    @Skookum: Your experiences highlight the complexity of the problem. There isn’t one solution needed but rather dozens of different ones. And they need to be staffed and run by caring people willing to work with very difficult people who are not often going to thank them.

  24. Modulo Myself says:


    The problem here is that nobody commenting here, including me, has any real experience in treating people with mental health problems. That runs for therapists to psychiatrists, from the normal blahs of people like me to their therapist to paranoid schizophrenia. If the country was serious about mental health, there would be at least an interest in hearing what professionals might know or think or why the policies these people have created are as they are.

  25. grumpy realist says:

    @Sleeping Dog: And that’s if you get to the level where they have actually seen a doctor to get some medication. A lot of them refuse to admit that they even have a problem, and there’s no way to force people into therapy.

    The number of people with personality disorders who end up meandering into homelessness is high, especially as they get older in life and burn more bridges with members of the family and friends.

  26. Gustopher says:

    We need more housing. Homelessness rates closely match the cost of housing in cities.

    It’s not a silver bullet that fixes every problem with the homeless, but the leading cause of homelessness is economics. Build enough housing that there are cheap apartments, and fewer people who have a major blow to their life end up living in their car and starting the downward spiral. It will reduce the number of new homeless.

    Homelessness is a trauma for the person experiencing it. Trauma creates incentives for drug use (to escape), and trauma creates mental health problems. A lot of the crazy, drugged up people on the streets didn’t start that way.

    I’m not going to pretend I know anything about anywhere other than Seattle, but Seattle has a lot of the city zoned for single-family housing with minimum lot sizes, and this is constraining housing growth in the city. The city is zoned for a maximum population, while population is growing.

    The recent interest rate increases are not helpful. They make it more expensive to build, and cut the potential payout for building (if the buyer’s mortgage payments remain the same, and interest rates rise, the builder/seller just gets less money).

    We need modest increases in allowed density. I would also adjust property tax rates to make them higher in the single-family, minimum lot zones, so a lot of the NIMBYism comes with a very real price that can be measured in dollars and cents.

    Right now, rents are skyrocketing in a lot of cities. I remember an article from about 6 months ago that average rents in Miami were up 30% year over year. People can’t absorb that. I think it’s going to be a massive crisis before long.

  27. Sleeping Dog says:

    @grumpy realist:

    Every journey begins with a single step. Virtually all the MI living on the street have been though one or more likely, many hospitalizations, so prescriptions exist for these individuals. But yes, they need to get back into treatment which is why it is important for the civil commitment standards to change.

    When appropriately medicated, most will live successfully at some level in the community. It maybe independently or with assistance. It might be in a supportive living environment that provides varying levels of support. But they won’t be on the streets living tents and boxes and dumpster diving for dinner.

  28. MarkedMan says:


    Homelessness rates closely match the cost of housing in cities.

    This is an important and true fact about homelessness. And that, oddly, is wonderful news, because economic homelessness is the easiest to fix but, paradoxically, the least likely to be seen.

    My sister used to volunteer with her Catholic Church delivering food and clothing to the needy. One of her neighborhoods was a wealthy suburb of Chicago, with homes that cost significantly more than the hers (in a nice working class suburb). She would discreetly deliver cardboard boxes of dry goods into the hands of mothers living on the edge. Looking past their shoulder she could see that there was no furniture in the house. Whatever the story was, the people she was supplying most likely lost that house a few weeks or months later and probably had nowhere to go.

    The most visible homeless are the drug addicted and the mentally ill, which is pretty much what I see every day on my downtown Baltimore streets. I just came back from a walk to my local brew pub (Checkerspot, named after the Maryland state butterfly and oh so highly recommended) and as I left I saw a man standing in the middle of the street, having a conversation with no one and weaving intricate patterns and signs in the air with his right hand. Drugs? Mental illness? No idea. All the cars I saw made it around him but the only traffic on that road was coming from or going to bars or event spaces where they served alcohol, so, definitely not a good street to be standing in and behaving erratically. Pointing that sad individual towards a free apartment is not even going to come close to ensuring he is safe for the night, and while Baltimore isn’t Minneapolis, it will get down to 33 F tonight.

  29. Just nutha says:

    @Skookum: Luddite? Are you posting as Skookum now, too? I’m asking because the story sounds really similar to ones I know about in your situation.

  30. Mimai says:

    @Modulo Myself:

    The problem here is that nobody commenting here, including me, has any real experience in treating people with mental health problems.

    [raises hand emoji]

  31. Skookum says:

    @Just nutha: No, I am not Luddite. Just Skookum.

  32. anjin-san says:


    I have a lot of experience caring for someone with profound mental health problems. Things will not get better without a dramatic increase in political will and funding for our mental health system. Here in the 6th wealthiest county in California, our underfunded, understaffed, and under-motivated mental health system creaks along, functioning at a level that is not even a holding action.