How Much Spending Will It Take To End "Homelessness"?

Bill de Blasio, when he ran for Mayor of New York in 2013, made "homelessness" one of his big issues.  Prior Mayor Bloomberg had had what City Limits here described as an "incredibly ambitious" program to tackle homelessness; but somehow after twelve years in office and dramatically increased spending, homelessness had only increased.  In December 2013, after his election and on the eve of taking office, de Blasio was quoted by Think Progress on the subject of homelessness as saying, “We are simply not going to allow this kind of reality to continue.”

On taking office in 2014, de Blasio immediately started implementation of all the policies on homelessness that the progressive advocates had been advocating for years:  more funding, more shelters, more permanent "affordable" housing.  He even appointed as Commissioner of the Human Resources Administration one Steven Banks, formerly of the Legal Aid Society, and the lead advocate for years of the forces demanding more government money as the solution to the homelessness problem.

On November 20, 2016, Josh Dawsey in the Wall Street Journal had an article summarizing, after nearly three years, how de Blasio's efforts were doing at solving homelessness.  The headline is "New York City's Homeless Spending Surges to $1.6 Billion":  

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration has increased spending on homeless services by about 60% since he took office nearly three years ago, reaching a historic $1.6 billion this year.  At the same time, the population in city shelters is up by nearly 20%, raising questions about whether the spending has been effective in combating homelessness. Last week, more than 60,650 people, including about 23,800 children, slept in a city shelter.

The $1.6 billion includes all direct spending on services to the homeless, which is more than just the shelters.  According to Dawsey, in addition to spending about $1 billion per year on the shelters, there are these additional categories:

$350 million a year on rent for those who they believe could become homeless or are leaving shelters. . . .  $79 million annually on street outreach, $62 million on legal services—up 10 fold from Mr. de Blasio’s predecessor, Michael Bloomberg—and $190 million on shelter security, up by $90 million. 

And yet somehow the numbers of homeless people just keep increasing:

When Mr. de Blasio took office in 2014, the city shelter system had a budget of about $1 billion and a population of about 50,700. . . .  Last week, more than 60,650 people, including about 23,800 children, slept in a city shelter.

And the $1.6 billion does not include plenty of other spending supposedly to solve the problem of homelessness, most notably subsidies to existing low-income housing and additional subsidies in the form of tax breaks for new "affordable" housing.  For example, the New York City Housing Authority alone absorbs about $2.5 billion of subsidies from federal and state governments every year.   

Funny how this works, isn't it?  It kind of reminds you of the results of government efforts to solve the problem of poverty:  When the War on Poverty began in 1966, the government's "poverty rate" was about 15%.  Then government spending to combat poverty began, and by the 2010s had been ramped up to some $1 trillion per year.  Yet somehow, by 2014, the poverty rate was still 14.8%.  (The government did report a drop in the poverty rate by 1.2% in 2015, to 13.6%, but that change was the result of a change in methodology engineered to assist Hillary's campaign, as discussed by me here.)  Meanwhile, the population of the country nearly doubled between 1966 and 2015, such that the number of people said to be in "poverty" had increased from under 30 million in the mid-1960s to over 43 million, despite the huge amount of spending.

It's as if these people have no idea that a gusher of government spending attracts people who try to get in on the handouts by defining themselves into the right categories.

But don't worry, Commissioner Banks is sure that the spending is actually working (without all the spending, the problem would have been a lot worse!), and moreover the next round of increased spending is going to turn everything around and solve the problem once and for all!

“The [shelter] population is significantly lower than it would have been had the administration not took the actions it took,” Mr. Banks said. “The additional investments are going to bend the curve back in the other direction.”

Sure, Steve.