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Wealth & Poverty Review The New Favelas

A West Coast experiment with sanctioned homeless encampments has proved disastrous—and Covid-19 might make it even worse. Originally published at City Journal

Progressives routinely denounce economic inequality, yet the nation’s most liberal cities offer the most dramatic illustrations of it, with tech-driven wealth at the top and addiction-driven homelessness at the bottom. In the past five years, some streets in Berkeley, Oakland, San Francisco, and Seattle have started to resemble Latin American favelas, or shantytowns, with thousands sleeping in tents, shacks, and packing crates. One United Nations official recently compared West Coast encampments to the slums of New Delhi. California governor Gavin Newsom has declared homelessness a “state of emergency.”

And yet, as the coronavirus pandemic persists, West Coast cities have legalized and provided services to these encampments, rather than enacting emergency shelter and moving people off the streets. This reckless decision follows a disturbing trend. Last year, Oakland began supplying 22 officially sanctioned homeless encampments with services, sanitation, and supplies. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, “the camps, which were once largely confined to freeway underpasses and the warehouse district . . . have now become a common sight on city streets, in parks and even in residential neighborhoods.” Activists organized one homeless encampment in accordance with the principles of the Occupy Wall Street and Standing Rock protests, declaring it a radical experiment in proving that “curbside residents” have a “right to exist.” The media touted the 77th Avenue Rangers, an encampment that permits children as residents, as exemplifying compassion, safety, and self-governance.

Continue Reading at City Journal

Christopher Rufo

Former Director, Center on Wealth & Poverty
Christopher Rufo is former director of the Discovery Institute’s Center on Wealth & Poverty. He has directed four documentaries for PBS, Netflix, and international television, including his latest film, America Lost, that tells the story of three "forgotten American cities.” Christopher is currently a contributing editor of City Journal, where he covers poverty, homelessness, addiction, crime, and other afflictions. Christopher is a magna cum laude graduate of Georgetown University, Claremont Institute Lincoln Fellow, and has appeared on NPR, CNN, ABC, CBS, HLN, and FOX News.