Journalist poses as homeless person on San Francisco streets
City Journal contributing editor Heather Mac Donald gives a new name to investigative journalism — her most recent story had her buying fentanyl on the streets of San Francisco.
In “San Francisco, Hostage to Homeless,” Mac Donald — who is also a national political commentator and the author of several books on politics, including 2018’s “The Diversity Delusion” — described day-to-day life for a homeless person on the streets of San Francisco to expose what she sees as the city’s failure to address a crisis.
“The homeless advocates developed a narrative in the 1980s that has been absolutely invulnerable to the truth, saying that this is simply a problem of heartless capitalism,” she said.
To prove that it is actually a substance abuse problem rather than an economic one, she went undercover for three days as a homeless person on the streets of San Francisco, talking to drug addicts and dealers. She even bought a fentanyl pill for $16 in the Tenderloin.
“The sense that things were completely out-of-control there made me want to go do some on-the-ground reporting to, once again, try and rebut this false narrative … that these are people who just happened to have fallen on challenging economic times, and that this is an involuntary condition,” she said.
Many of the people with whom she spoke told her that they had been offered housing and treatment on multiple occasions, but they that turned these offers down. Allowing people who refuse help to stay on the streets is the definition of enabling, she said — and it is hurting people.
“We are enabling a lifestyle that is extraordinarily destructive to the participants, as well as destructive to the life of the cities,” she said.
Solutions for San Francisco
The answer, according to Mac Donald, is to declare certain behaviors — public defecation and urination, the sale and use of drugs, and leaving drug paraphernalia in public places — illegal, and to enforce these laws. Right now, she said, the trend is to legalize everything rather than tell people not to commit crimes in the first place.
“We have to recover our faith in a single standard of behavior for all people,” she said.
If not, she said, the consequences could soon turn from feces and needles on sidewalks to violence on the sidewalks on a daily basis. Mental illness on its own does not carry a higher risk of violence, she said, but this changes when drugs enter the picture.
“When you combine mental illness with chemical abuse, chemical addiction, substance abuse, the risk of violence goes up enormously,” she said. “And it is appalling that we are allowing this to happen.”
Even San Francisco is not the worst example of homelessness run rampant in the country, though, according to Mac Donald. That award goes to downtown Los Angeles.
“San Francisco, Seattle, do not hold a candle to the Boschian hell that is Skid Row,” she said. “And I was told by the participants there that word is out across the country — people are coming from Iowa to Skid Row because they know they can party without impunity.”
She is not the only one to make this observation. In KOMO 4’s “A Tale of 3 Cities,” released this week as the sequel to “Seattle is Dying,” Los Angeles and San Francisco are presented as the future of Seattle if the Puget Sound does not change its policies. L.A.’s Skid Row is referred to in the report as “the worst man-made disaster in the country” and “53 blocks of abandoned people, who are really left to die.”
Another polarizing issue that Mac Donald sees as joined to homelessness is illegal immigration. She noted that she bought her fentanyl pill from one of the many Honduran drug dealers populating San Francisco.
“It is an absolute abomination, and a betrayal of the public trust, that police chiefs in these sanctuary cities like Seattle, like Los Angeles, like San Francisco, are not availing themselves of the much more efficient tools of immigration enforcement to rid their communities of these vultures,” she said. “Instead they believe that it’s more important to protect illegal aliens, violent and other types of criminals, from immigration enforcement than to protect their own communities.”
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