Everyone in the political spectrum agrees there is a homelessness problem in Arizona and across the country.

Dedicated public servants have devoted untold hours and spent billions of dollars to help mitigate and reduce this dire situation for the nation’s most unfortunate.

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Leaders like Arizona Mayors Kate Gallego, Regina Romero, and Corey Woods who have committed to reducing the number of homeless and promoting affordable housing.

Yet, the problem still persists for a variety of reasons.

The causes of homelessness are numerous ranging from individuals and families who, thanks to increasing rates, can no longer afford to live in an apartment or house to unfortunate veterans and others suffering from post-traumatic stress and other debilitating illnesses who, largely because they can not afford the prescription drugs needed, are unable to fend for themselves.

A small portion of the homeless population, despite what fringe Trump Republican groups would have people believe, are deranged criminals. In those situations, the guilty should be tried and if found guilty, incarcerated or institutionalized.

However,  Most studies show that the homeless are the victims of crime more than the instigators of it.

Unfortunately, there are political opportunists like Arizona Trump Republican Gubernatorial Nominee Kari Lake who see the homeless population as useful scapegoats that demonstrate the foolhardiness of government programs, idealistic public servants who sacrifice law and order in favor of helping the down and out, and liberal-moderate minded judges who believe in social justice.

Ms. Lake reintroduced her plan to tackle homelessness last week near a homeless camp in Phoenix. The event gained more attention for her verbal attack on Channel 12 News Journalist Brahm Resnik than on the actual policy proposals.

When one delves into the details, while Ms. Lake has mostly identified the causes of the homelessness problem and has offered some solutions that make sense (with a price tag of between $50 and $100 million dollars) like the expansion of shelters,  housing assistance, and investments in permanent housing facilities (which Arizona Mayors like Gallego, Romero, and Woods are already doing,) her emphasis is on playing the homelessness as pawns, depicting them as vile-criminal interlopers/aliens that threaten communities and residents.

Lake conveys this sentiment in the opening remarks of her attacking homelessness plan on her website where she states:

“People have a right to walk into a store without being accosted or harassed. Mothers have a right to take their kids to the park and let them play without fear that they’re going to get stuck with a dirty needle. Families have a right to be safe on their streets and in their homes. Citizens deserve protection and safety from the state and cities they pay taxes too.

Right now, they are not.

I don’t accept that this is the way things need to be. We do not need to accept rampant violence, blight, and property crimes. We don’t need to allow homeless encampments destroy our neighborhoods and open spaces. We don’t need to treat people who are making life miserable for everyone around them with kid gloves. It’s time for some tough love.

As Governor, I will give the people who are choosing this drug and alcohol-fueled street lifestyle a choice: get treatment, go to jail, or get going. There are plenty of blue states willing to indulge their destructive behavior. Under my leadership, Arizona won’t be one of them.

We will have compassion for people who need and want help. We will do everything we can to get them off the street and back into society. But we won’t keep doing it on the backs of our citizens.”

We’re going to get them off of our streets, one way or another.

Readers should note that there is not a lot of compassion in the above remarks from Ms. Lake. Note how she preys on people’s fears by referring to the homeless as people as the source of violent and property crimes that are alien to the community by alluding that they are not citizens and calling these unfortunates “them.”

Even some of her ideas seem punitive rather than preventive.

For example, Ms. Lake would offer substance abuse treatment for the homeless but only after they are arrested.

A program that would help people readily get treatment at affordable prices before they are living on the street would solve the issue before it becomes a problem. Ms. Lake and her fellow Trump Republicans do not seem to get that.

She would also go after judges who do not rule against members of the homeless population when they are involved in cases brought before them.

So much for social justice.

In Kari Lake’s worldview, it is a truly Social Darwinist one where the unfortunate (again called “them” by her) are discarded and carted off to jail.

Arizona Democratic Gubernatorial Nominee Katie Hobbs has condemned Lake’s prescription to tackle the homeless problem, saying in a statement for Blog for Arizona:

“We’re all witnessing Arizona’s homelessness crisis, and the last thing we need are more empty promises from talking-head politicians like Kari Lake who are clueless when it comes to tackling our state’s toughest issues. Homelessness is a tremendously complex problem that requires a leader with experience and vision to solve. I have decades of on-the-ground experience as a social worker, and my first job out of college was working with homeless youth in Phoenix.

“We have to tackle this problem from all sides. My Affordable Arizona Plan would provide much-needed relief for everyday Arizonans facing the crushing weight of inflation so that Arizonans can afford to stay in their homes or keep up with rent. But another large problem exacerbating this crisis is the work of corporate bad actors. Almost one in three homes in our state are bought by investors, not by Arizonans who want to live in them, which is driving up our housing costs. As governor, I will crack down on foreign buyers and large corporations who cause prices to skyrocket, and I will provide home improvement tax credits for those who live in the home they own.”

When Arizonans voters select their next Governor in November, they need to consider who has the right approach to tackling the homeless issue.

Is it the former social worker and state legislator who has a record of working to lift people up or is it the candidate that brands the homeless as scapegoats to suit her fringe political ends, “them” and non-citizens?

This should not be a tough decision for voters 84 days from now on November 8, 2022.

 

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