July 26, 2007
Should charity for the homeless begin at home?
(Page 2 - Previous Page)A 2005 head count of the homeless in L.A. County, conducted by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, found that 24 percent of respondents cited unemployment as the main reason for being homeless. The second largest group, 21 percent, said substance abuse drove them to vagrancy. Another 11 percent said it was a fight with a friend or family member, while 7 percent cited mental illness and another 13 percent could not or would not respond.
Nationally, according to the social scientist Thomas Sowell, a third of the homeless are drug abusers or alcoholics, and another third mentally ill. Of course these individuals would not be appropriate house guests, but nor were they supposed to be the population that would fill our local tent city. Or so the church promised.
It's that other third, the able-bodied, that interest me. With many of the homeless, neither illness nor addiction bedevils them, but rather the culture of socialism that makes it possible to live a homeless lifestyle rather than seeking help from family and friends. The same culture excuses those family members and friends from getting involved.
Private help doesn't seem to be an adequate response only because a liberal political environment has hypnotized us into thinking the government alone, or private charity backed up by government coercion, can provide for the needy.
David Klinghoffer is a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute. His new book, "Shattered Tablets: Why We Ignore the Ten Commandments at Our Peril" (Doubleday), will be published in August.
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