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  • Writer's pictureAction Idaho

Law Enforcement and Treatment First Will Address Homeless Problem (Part 2)

A “Treatment First” program must replace the failed, uncivilized Housing First policies of Mayor McLean.

Housing First, federally-funded low barrier housing, fails to address the underlying causes of chronic homelessness: drug addiction and mental illness, as we showed in Part 1. Prevention services that address root causes and provide individualized solutions to address each person’s needs and addictions and/mental issues reduce homelessness, save more lives, and help more people return to lives as productive and healthy citizens.

What are the solutions and alternatives to Boise Mayor McLean’s failed Housing First program?

First. adopt high barrier housing models. Any solution must begin with stopping the stuff that promotes chronic homelessness and attracts mass influxes of the homeless. The State of Idaho itself and Boise in particular should ban any and all low barrier housing, either rejecting federal funds or through demanding exceptions to federal programs. Legislation should ban investment in low barrier housing and only allow high barrier, high standard shelters in Idaho. This would include banning tent cities, tiny homes, villages, and sanctioned encampments the federal government recognizes as a solution.

Idaho should instead favor short term rental assistance and high barrier temporary shelters with rules and access to services.

Second, police must enforce laws. This might just contradict prevailing law in our section of the country. Boise should trigger the Supreme Court to revisit the Ninth Circuit’s disastrous Martin v. Boise from 2019. And the city should defy the Ninth Circuit until the Martin decision is revisited. Martin makes civilized life impossible, because it prevents law enforcement from taking the homeless into custody. Martin is based on the assumption that people can sleep and encamp where they want, whenever they want, especially if there is only high barrier housing options around them. High barrier housing is seen as a limit on the freedom of the homeless. A civilized policy cannot be built on the foundation of no enforcement and low barrier “no rules” shelters.

Enforcement will mean arrests for those who break the law, who camp in public, who take private ownership of our public spaces, and/or who refuse shelter and services that available. Drug courts should point those arrested to mandated programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous or to public facilities with all the services that the drug-addled or mentally unstable homeless people need. No one wants the homeless simply housed in jail though, so law enforcement should coordinate with agencies that provide “Treatment First” rehabilitation and Drug Courts.

Decline is a choice--and part of that choice is choosing not to enforce the law.

Third, “Treatment First” not Housing First. Once the homeless get into the system, the county or city or state should provide "wrap around" services, at homeless facilities on the outskirts of town, to provide treatment for substance abuse or mental illness. Courts should order those guilty of violating laws related to homelessness to facilities with complete treatment programs. The homeless need to dry out. They need help in order to do so. An excellent model is the Haven for Hope program in San Antonio, where the goal is to cultivate personal responsibility so that people can provide their own housing within a year.

Some of the homeless might need assistance from one of Idaho’s mental health facilities, where they can receive inpatient treatment and continuous counseling and access to outpatient treatment and medication. So be it. That is precisely why Idaho has built such facilities. In lieu of inexperienced staff that work in low barrier shelters, without expertise and/or degrees, Idaho should only invest in facilities led by and staffed by professionals with knowledge, skills and experience and credentials working with mentally ill and chronicically addicted patients.

Fourth, “Treatment Second” too. Seriousness about treatment means providing venues for ongoing check-ins, continuous counseling and other “wrap around” services. Drug testing should be part of the decent plan, as should ongoing efforts to ensure that people are on the right path to self-sufficiency.

Fifth, Integration and Job Training. Too often we consider job training a matter of acquiring skills necessary for a job. This is not the problem with most of our homeless population. For most, job training is about showing up, about doing a sufficient job, and then managing their money with prudence. The skills are punctuality, industriousness, and focus—giving them a sense of accomplishment and independence. Integration into the workforce makes demands on time. It means abiding to a schedule. It means adapting to the demands of the work place and rules. On the job training will suffice to help people get out of the homeless cycle and build confidence, while also relieving the burden on government supportive services.

Each of these goals are compassionate. Leaving a mentally ill and/or drug induced addicts on the sidewalk with no hope is evil and cruel. Liberals must give up their soft-heartedness and easy-going relativism. Conservatives must recognize the place for government services in helping the homeless.

Idaho must solve this problem before Mayor McLean creates an unmanageable problem for us all. Unlike other States, like California, Idaho can and should lead the nation in its approach to the crux of homelessness. We can and should do better!

See Also:

The Housing First Failure: If Boise Builds More Housing First, The Homeless Will Come (Part 1)

And our five-part series

Boise's Approach to Homelessness Threatens the Whole Treasure Valley: Part 1

Homelessness Policy and the Threat to the Treasure Valley: Part 2

Mayor Lauren McLean Abets Homeless Empire: Part 3

Mayor McLean Finds Allies to Build a Homeless Empire: Part 4

Stopping McLean's Homeless Empire Means Reversing Course: Part 5

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