op-ed

This Holiday Season, Don’t Feed The Homeless

homeless guy Shutterstock/Andrey Bayda

Jennifer Grossman CEO, The Atlas Society

If you feed them, they will come — especially if you live in one of the most gorgeous places on Earth.

You’d think the people smart and industrious enough to have a big house in Malibu would understand that obvious maxim. But the spectacle of rich, largely liberal Malibu residents wringing their hands about the rise in the local “homeless” proves they’re oblivious to the basic tenets of Economics 101 and the consequences of indiscriminate handouts.

A recent LA Times story about the city pressuring a local church to curtail its twice-a-week buffet dinners for the “homeless” drew howls at the hypocrisy of Malibu — where Xanax prescriptions have quadrupled since Trump’s election — getting NIMBY (“not in my backyard”) when it comes to the practical consequences of lavishing largesse upon the lazy and incompetent.

If I didn’t live in Malibu, I’d be tempted to share in the schadenfreude.  But I do live here, and have for the past 15 years, watching, without much surprise, as the number of bums and panhandlers loitering in front of the supermarket or pushing shopping carts up and down the Pacific Coast Highway has multiplied.

Surely a coincidence, but as the LA Times reports:

“For 17 years, religious groups fed homeless people, and the city and private donors put up hundreds of thousands of dollars for social workers to find them housing and services.”

Shockingly, this has led not to a decrease in the Malibu homeless population, but an increase in the Malibu homeless population.

Whoa.

How could this happen?  Especially in a city that has overwhelmingly voted the Democratic Party ticket — from President Barck Obama to local dogcatcher — while this problem has grown?

Well, as the saying goes, when you tax an activity, you get less of it, when you subsidize an activity, you get more of it. It’s basic common sense.

More common sense came from one of the homeless men himself.  Chris Smith, who camps out on a section of beach known as Margaritaville, told the Times that the meals were appreciated.  “But,” he added. “the taxpayers don’t want to take a chance on crime, and I kinda agree with them.”

One of the church organizers of the meals, Kay Gabbard, who opposes the city closing down the free meal program does NOT agree:  “I just think we need to treat people like our brother and don’t look where they came from.”

But Chris Smith, her homeless “brother,” ironically has a more realistic view: “Some homeless people are good and some are bad.”

Gabbard is free to treat homeless people indiscriminately — good, bad, regardless of circumstance — invite them to live under her roof, and give them a job.  What’s wrong is to make others bear the cost for her altruistic mission.

What are these costs? The costs include not just an increase in the homeless population, but a totally different character of “homeless.”  One Malibu lifer put it this way: “The homeless used to mesh with the residents. Now they are gritty thieves.”

Costs include the rising home break-ins and car smash-and-grabs.  Costs include the diminished quality of local life, as your Sunday trip to get ice-cream with your daughter becomes a slalom through a hovel here, a half-dressed, wild-eyed man there, a cloud of pot-smoke permeating the air.  Costs include the anxiety felt by Shavronna, a check-out girl at CVS, who commutes from Woodland Hills, and wonders whether the transient aggressively badgering shoppers upon ingress and egress to the store for money, is what’s hurting business, and how that will impact her job.

For those Malibu volunteers like Kay who have become dependent on these twice-weekly homeless dinners for their shot of altruistic self-esteem, here are a few suggestions for what to do with your time and money.

Help people as individuals — not as a group.  Instead of feeding “the homeless,” help one person who is homeless.  Focus on the individual.  Get to know him or her.  Give that person  some work.

Bring back the antiquated concept of helping “the deserving poor.”  Not the underprivileged.  Not the economically disadvantaged. Not the needy. The poor.  The people whom  YOU decide deserve YOUR help.

Focus on helping those who work in your community. In Malibu, for instance, there’s Arthur, a 24-year old African American who drives an hour from Koreatown to Malibu every day to wash cars. And there’s Cindy, who drives an hour to Malibu from Oxnard to style hair.  The busboys and sales-clerks and housekeepers who work in Malibu are often one missed-paycheck or one broken-transmission away from dire straits.  Learn their stories, reward their industriousness, and, if nothing else, tip generously.

So this holiday season, residents of Malibu and citizens of America, if you want to “do good,” don’t feed “the homeless.” Do the leg work necessary to find individuals who most deserve your help.

Jennifer Grossman is the CEO of The Atlas Society and is a former speechwriter for George H.W. Bush.


The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.