A Disappearing Act: Out of Sight, Out of Mind


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Robert F. Kennedy summed it up best: “I believe that, as long as there is plenty, poverty is evil.” The United States houses the most billionaires in the world, yet hundreds of thousands remain without shelter or homes across the nation. And disturbingly, instead of leveraging American talents and resources to provide long-term solutions to this problem, so-called progressive leaders are doubling down on failed policies of the past. In California and New York, new government programs use old tactics of policing, incarceration, and institutionalization in a failed attempt to disappear homelessness from public view.

In December 2022, New York City Mayor Eric Adams ordered NYPD beat officers to remove people they deem mentally ill from the streets and subways by involuntarily hospitalizing them. Only months earlier, Adams ordered the destruction of homeless encampments across the city, demolishing around 245 encampment sites, a policy shift toward homelessness that he continues to implement today. People targeted by the encampment sweeps lose what little personal items they own, including clothes, sleeping bags, and sentimental items. One person caught in the crosshairs of a sweep reported that he was thrown on his head, cuffed to a hospital bed, and later taken to jail. Prior to the sweeps, service providers could have helped address the root causes of homelessness by enrolling people in encampments in voluntary programs that provide medical services or food to eat. Now, their time and resources are instead spent in scavenger hunts for homeless New Yorkers forced to seek a new place to sleep daily to avoid arrest.

But New York is not unique in criminalization of the homeless, mentally ill, and other marginalized groups. In September 2022, San Francisco Mayor London Breed was sued by homeless city residents for her policy of brutal encampment sweeps. In July 2022, hundreds of people protested a Los Angeles anti-camping ordinance that criminalized sleeping in parts of the city. Reflecting a deeply entrenched hypocrisy, politicians publicly proclaim the need for a humanitarian approach to homelessness, but propose budget cuts to crucial social services that might lift people out of homelessness once and for all. Meanwhile, they quietly adopt inhumane policies like police sweeps and forced hospitalizations in an attem