The Homeless Industrial Complex: Making it Tough for Cops

By Steve Pomper

Ever since President Dwight D. Eisenhower coined the term “military industrial complex” in 1961, political activists have been using its paraphrase to scorn other institutions they revile. I just heard an anti-cop activist on the radio advocating for abolishing the police and the prison industrial complex.

I rolled my eyes at that phrase slithering out of his ignorant mouth. He was likely inspired by AOC’s tossing this latest bit of insanity against the wall. Just like her other stupid ideas, it won’t stick, but it gives sustenance to the radical leftists. The caller said he believes all cops are racist, and we are now living in a new “Jim Crow” era.

It seems leftist activists enjoy using this notion to deride institutions necessary to a free society and capitalist economy: a prison, financial, energy, real estate, etc. industrial complex. But it’s not only leftist who use the term but also conservatives are now using the paraphrase to describe a “homeless industrial complex” (HIC).

Though it is a national phenomenon, this burgeoning HIC is ruining primarily west coast cities. While I still cringe at the paraphrase, in this context, it makes sense to me especially as a retired police officer who had to deal with the HIC fallout.

Except for unfortunate business owners and residents ignored by city hall and beleaguered by vagrants and their camps, no one deals more with the “homeless” than cops. And as long as the HIC increases in scope, financial means, and political power, these cities’ law enforcers will have to deal with the negative consequences, intended and otherwise.

The left has conscripted and corrupted the term “homeless” to gain sympathy for their cause by describing as homeless people not traditionally thought of that way. But, semantics aside, this is the modern state of urban “homelessness.” An expanding taxpayer black hole.

So, what’s at the foundation of this perpetual “crisis?” A homeless industrial complex. It’s a situation where “non-profit” organizations slurp up taxpayer dollars, ostensibly, to “fix” the homeless crisis. But in leftist citadels like Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, and L.A. it never gets fixed, does it?

Nope! In fact, it only gets worse. Worse despite, according to bizjournals.com, places like the Puget Sound region, which includes Seattle/King County, spending more than $1 billion (yes, with a “B”) annually. As surely as that money comes in from hardworking taxpayers, it surely goes out to somewhere—to somebody, right?

And when we see the problem getting worse, don’t we have to ask where is the money going, how is it being spent, why isn’t it working, and should we be spending more of it? The money is going to state agencies and non-profits, which should be fixing the problem. But they’re not fixing it. That’s obvious, especially to the cops who have to deal with the deteriorating situation.

Instead, the HIC seems to be engaged in self-perpetuation—at least at the upper echelons of the “complex.” Some money goes to pay low and mid-level employees’ salaries, which, I’ll concede, helps the economy. But much of the money goes into high-priced salaries of those in administration and director positions and, probably, to leftist political campaigns.

According to Safe Seattle’s Facebook page the Low Income Housing Institute (LIHI) showed $10.6 million in revenue, $58 million in assets, a $177K salary for the executive director, and the next officer below made just shy of $130K. And that was back in 2014. And where can we find the LIHI’s executive director so often, these days? At city council meetings lobbying for issues that would pour even more money into LIHI’s coffers.

Which brings up this little tidbit, regarding another tentacle of the HIC. Last year I wrote an article about a Seattle homeless advocacy group, Share/Wheel. I recall some of their representatives used to shield run-aways and juvenile suspects from officers. The group also purportedly requires “clients” take part in demonstrations on behalf of leftist causes in exchange for shelter beds for the night.

Backing me up on this was a sane Seattle political activist (a rarity), Christopher Rufo. In 2018, Rufo had to drop out of the city council race due to an onslaught of leftist threats against his wife and children. He wrote, “Even worse, the organization that runs the Licton Springs encampment, SHARE, effectively uses taxpayer money to lobby the city for more taxpayer money. They operate their encampments on a system of ‘participation credits,’ requiring residents to attend political rallies, campaign events, and city council hearings.”

Rufo continues, “At last year’s city income tax hearing at the King County Superior Court, I spoke with a homeless woman who lived in a SHARE encampment who explained that if she did not show up to the court proceeding, she would be kicked out of the camp for one week.”

Add to that the perpetuation of the “homeless” crisis by the HIC-supporting mayors, city attorneys, and the trend of city and county councils decriminalizing crime, and you see how this excrement lands directly on the cops.

It amazes me that the individuals and groups that facilitate the HIC continue to lie about how the homeless crisis, as the left defines it, is “complex.” Solving the current “homeless crisis” is not complex. Any cop will tell you how: begin by enforcing the law. The problem was not as bad before local governments began banning cops from enforcing certain laws against certain people.

And the HIC refuses to do the very things that would address the problems. Support enforcing the law against everyone equally—equal justice and adherence to the rule-of-law. But the HIC doesn’t do that because it would mean the demise of their lucrative homeless industrial complex. Now, that equation is not at all complex.

Enforcing the law against anyone who breaks it regardless of his or her racial or ethnic identity or socioeconomic status encourages obeying the laws. Until we pay every human being the respect of being responsible for their actions, the Homeless Industrial Complex will continue to flourish, those they purport to help will continue to languish, and cops will continue to do a job that, in many ways, has become nightmarish.

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