Data and compassion should drive homeless policy, not ideology and political expedience

Crushed by the weight of human nature and the harsh light of reality, San Francisco—a city in a state that astonishingly contains nearly 50% of the entire U.S.’s street homeless population, while only making up 12% of the population – is finally waking up to the failures of its “Housing First” approach to homelessness.

Mayor London Breed announced a new initiative that would require homeless individuals to undergo drug testing and treatment in order to receive city services.

This abrupt reversal is a monumental admission that the Housing First model, long championed by left-wing politicians and activists, is fundamentally flawed.

The misguided notion that providing free housing with no strings attached would solve homelessness has been debunked time and time again. Cities like Austin have seen a surge in homelessness, despite liberal policies aimed at providing housing.

What these cities fail to address is the underlying issue – that homelessness is more often a problem of addiction and mental illness than it is of housing.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom said in 2008 when he was mayor of San Francisco, “We believe… shelters solve sleep, and that housing solves homelessness.”

San Francisco’s move toward requiring drug testing and treatment is a step in the right direction, mirroring similar policy shifts we’ve seen in other parts of the country. It acknowledges a brutal truth that many on the left would rather ignore: that you can’t heal someone by merely putting a roof over their head; you have to treat the root cause of their suffering.

The left’s narrative on homelessness has long been driven by a romanticized view of poverty, ignoring the reality of homelessness – a complex web of mental illness, addiction and personal accountability. This simplistic worldview has fueled policies that not only fail to solve the problem but often exacerbate it. As I’ve written before, the left is dead wrong about what homeless people really need.

By implementing drug testing and treatment as a prerequisite for receiving services, San Francisco is essentially adopting a more conservative, holistic approach to homelessness – one that balances compassion with accountability. This is not a novel idea. Programs that have implemented similar prerequisites have seen success in reducing homelessness and improving the quality of life for those on the streets.

Critics argue that this new policy is punitive or inhumane, but what is truly inhumane is allowing people to continue living in squalor and addiction without intervention. A society that turns a blind eye to the suffering on its streets, content with superficial solutions, is a society that has lost its moral compass.

It’s time to replace empty virtue signaling with effective policy.

The question now is, will other cities follow suit? Or will they continue down the path of failed ideology, refusing to adapt in the face of overwhelming evidence? Only time will tell, but San Francisco’s policy shift could be the domino that triggers a nationwide reevaluation of our approach to homelessness.

As we move forward, let’s hope that this marks the beginning of a new era – one where data and human compassion drive policy, rather than ideology and political expedience. It’s time to put the dignity and well-being of our most vulnerable citizens above partisan politics.