Untangling Unsheltered Encampments: Home Is Where the Help Lies

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Joe Selvaggi: This is Hubwonk. I’m Joe Selvaggi. Welcome to Hubwonk, a podcast of Pioneer Institute, a think tank in Boston. The homeless encampments at the intersection of Massachusetts Avenue and Melania Cass Boulevard, nicknamed Mass and Cass, continues to vex Boston’s mayor and city council, local residents, and of course, the unsheltered people living on the street.

Joe Selvaggi: But our local encampment phenomena is one shared by many other cities across the country, from San Francisco to New York, provoking broad, stern calls for solutions that address both the threats to civil order and quality of life, and the needs and humanity of those in the encampments. While many see the unsheltered as an unmistakable call for publicly provided housing, those who study the issue more closely caution that for many residents of encampments, Living quarters with little or no requirement for wraparound addiction and mental health services can be, at best, an unused resource and, at worst, a deadly gift.[00:01:00]

Joe Selvaggi: What can be done to put an end to homeless encampments in a way that both serves the safety and quality of life of neighborhood residents, while also offering constructive care for our most vulnerable citizens? My guest today is a senior fellow and director of research at the Manhattan Institute, Dr.

Joe Selvaggi: Judge Glock, whose recent article in the summer issue of City Journal entitled End of the Encampments offers an outline of the range of nationwide policy responses to large urban homeless settlements. Dr. Glock’s research examines how encampments became a recent feature in American cities. What are the profiles of the residents of these sites?

Joe Selvaggi: and what remedies have been effectively employed in other cities to serve the civic needs of residents and the practical and therapeutic needs of the unsheltered. He will share with us his views on how cities like Boston could better address encampments such as Mason Cass in a politically feasible way.

Joe Selvaggi: When I return, I will be joined by Manhattan Institute’s Director of Research, [00:02:00] Dr. Judge Glock. Okay, we’re back. This is Hubwonk. I’m Joe Selvaggi, and I’m now pleased to be joined by the Director of Research and a Senior Fellow at the Manhattan Institute, Dr. Judge Glock. Welcome to Hubwonk, Judge.

Dr. Judge Glock: Thanks so much for having me.

Joe Selvaggi: All right. I’m pleased to have you on the podcast. Um, you work right for the Manhattan Institute. I’m in Boston. Um, uh, I don’t know if I speak for all, uh, Bostonians, but, uh, for me, uh, we have a, uh, a regard that’s bordering on reverence for New York and New Yorkers in that you have all the problems we have here in Boston and other smaller cities, but you have to solve them on a much, much larger scale.

Joe Selvaggi: Um, One of the issues that, uh, seems to trouble both New York and, and Boston is this issue of, of homelessness and more particularly, what seems to be a more recent phenomenon is the phenomena of homeless encampments, large groups of homeless, um, living together on the street. Um, uh, it’s an unfortunate feature of other cities, not just Boston [00:03:00] and New York, but San Francisco, Portland and New York.

Joe Selvaggi: Um, This from, from my eyes, someone who’s lived in a city for a long time, it seems to be these homeless encampments seems to be a relatively recent phenomenon. Is it so? And if so, why is it a phenomenon?

Dr. Judge Glock: It, it is a recent phenomenon and it is somewhat astounding. But unfortunately, I haven’t been able to find a lot on exactly when this became common or how it spread.

Dr. Judge Glock: I saw, I think one single report from the federal government that kind of looked at the rise of homeless encampments, but it was pretty sporadic. But yeah, anyone who’s lived in an American city for a number of years, or especially for decades, uh, looking back would really have to rack their minds to think of a large encampment, say, in the 1990s.

Dr. Judge Glock: Many of these cities, like New York, Boston, or Chicago, or Los Angeles, uh, may be being one of the few exceptions. didn’t have large encampments until very recently. The idea that someone who is homeless, [00:04:00] uh, could get together with a group of other people and set up large tents, large piles of their own possessions, and just occupy a public park or a sidewalk for months or years was somewhat forward to these cities again, even when they were kind of in the midst of an intense urban crisis in the 1980s and early 1990s.

Dr. Judge Glock: There we can talk about the combination of reasons that these encampments of spread, but one certainly is that many cities have just consider them acceptable in a way that basically no city in America would have 30 years ago.

Joe Selvaggi: So it’s a complex problem. Uh, so let’s try to unpack it and break it into its elemental forms.

Joe Selvaggi: Um, you know, there’s no sort of common homeless scenario. There are people are, are, um, homeless for many reasons, everything from severe mental health to someone who’s been evicted for missing a few rent payments. Um, do you have the numbers of, let’s say, when we think about homeless or, I don’t, you’ve gone deep on the homeless encampments, are those people [00:05:00] the sort of transitionally homeless or are these, you know, you know, severe cases of people who have severe problems?

Dr. Judge Glock: The people in encampments, it tends to be the latter. People with substantial long term problems. And so this is very important, what you pointed out, the distinction in general between the short term homeless and the long term homeless. The short term homeless are much more likely to be sheltered. In fact, when we think of homeless in our minds, we do think of the people on the street, but almost two thirds now I think the most recent number is about 60 percent of the homeless or in shelter, some sort of inside facility where there’s usually services there’s some amount of security.

Dr. Judge Glock: Uh, there’s uh, some amount of structure, uh, and it’s about 40 percent that are the unsheltered. That, the sheltered portion, almost half of those are, are families, largely single mothers with children. Uh, so, and a lot of them are in the shelters, depending on [00:06:00] which city you look at, for a few weeks or a few months.

Dr. Judge Glock: Sometimes they come back pretty frequently, but it’s often, you know, just a few weeks is, is the typical stay in a shelter. Now, if you look at the people on the street. Uh, the unsheltered or the people in encampments there. You’re talking about where large percentage and sometimes a majority have been out in the street are homeless for more than a year.

Dr. Judge Glock: Uh, when you also look at the sort of problems they report, they are usually orders of magnitude greater. than the people in the shelters. Now, one survey that the UCLA did of the unsheltered in a bunch of different cities found that about 75 percent reported having a severe mental health problem or substantial mental health problem, not necessarily schizophrenia or bipolar, which are usually treated as the two main mental health issues, but a substantial mental health problem.

Dr. Judge Glock: And about 75 percent also reported a substantial substance use issue. And a majority of both said that substance use or mental health was one of the [00:07:00] reasons that contributes the law, their loss of housing. These numbers were sometimes almost an order of magnitude lower among the shelter population. So, yes, people on the street.

Dr. Judge Glock: As most of your listeners or viewers would know, uh, do tend to have severe, uh, uh, alcohol or drug addiction issues and substantial mental health problems. A lot of the homeless more activist crowd will note the minority. And the majority of the entire homeless population has these problems, and they’re correct.

Dr. Judge Glock: But I think the important thing is to look at that difference between the long term and unsheltered and the more short term and sheltered. And right now, of course, uh, what we’re talking about in the most severe problem is among those unsheltered, especially those in encampments.

Joe Selvaggi: Good. I’m glad we define terms because, as you say, activists may want to complain.

Joe Selvaggi: Unfortunate homeless families who are temporarily and, uh, unhoused but sheltered, right? They have a roof over their head. They’re characterized as homeless. And the those in an encampment are homeless. There are two [00:08:00] different animals as well characterized in this in this conversation. I want to point again then to those people who are unsheltered who are on the streets.

Joe Selvaggi: But there’s two scenarios one let’s say the good old days, let’s say 10 years ago when those would be individuals on individual corners we all encounter them as. urban dwellers, uh, and those who are in encampments. In the abstract, do you host people when they’re concentrated? Let’s say, rather than being dispersed throughout a city, if they’re all concentrated in one area, let’s say permitted, allowed to live amongst each other, um, Does that the harm or the influence of their community get compounded, or is it minimized in a sense, you sort of contain the problem by creating an account encampment, where you might otherwise disperse that problem or is a net benefit or net harm when you concentrate these, as you say, you know, people with drug or mental health issues.

Joe Selvaggi: What’s your perspective.

Dr. Judge Glock: I mean, it’s hard to disentangle and certainly dependent on the place in the city. What we do [00:09:00] know. Is that cities with large numbers of unsheltered homeless, where usually in those cases they’re living in encampments. We’re talking especially about Los Angeles, uh, San Francisco.

Dr. Judge Glock: A lot of the ones on the West coast, uh, where the weather is nicer and there’s not a co, it’s not a coincidence. Of course, there is a very strong correlation between, um, average temperature and how many unsheltered you have in these cities. There is either a pull effect out of the shelters on the street or an actual pull effect from other cities and other states into those areas that do have a nicer temperature.

Dr. Judge Glock: For those areas that see, it’s not all again, the unsheltered and probably the majority are from the city itself when they’re in, but large Proportions and maybe, uh, in some cities, a majority, uh, are coming from elsewhere. So in those areas that have large encampments, we do see incredible rates of death.

Dr. Judge Glock: Um, what I often cite is the city of Los Angeles has now [00:10:00] seen over 2, 000 homeless deaths a year. Uh, that’s about four times what it was a decade ago, when the city used to have a stricter enforcement regime. For a long time, In the early 2000s, in fact, Los Angeles was known as a city that really done a sort of yeoman’s work reducing homelessness with a combination of enforcement and moves to shelter and alternatives and so forth.

Dr. Judge Glock: But in the last 10 years they’ve really uh, decided to allow these encampments to spread. You’ve seen an equivalent increase in deaths, uh, and, uh, one of the statistics I cite most frequently is that about a quarter of all murder victims in Los Angeles are homeless. Uh, that’s for about one percent of the population is homeless, so that should tell you everything you need to know about how dangerous these encampments are.

Dr. Judge Glock: We don’t have the numbers separated from the sheltered or the unsheltered or the encampments but overwhelmingly, these murders are not happening in shelters. They’re happening in these large [00:11:00] encampments. They’re spread over sometimes blocks or, uh, along city streets. And as we know from the overdoses, from the murders, et cetera, this seems to be incredibly dangerous for the people who are living there.

Joe Selvaggi: Indeed, you answered my, uh, my next question, which was, you know, are these encampments dangerous to the people who live in them? It seems intuitively obvious, but you’re citing numbers like 2000 a year. That’s six a day. That’s, you know, six human beings dying. Uh, where, you know, because those encampments are permitted.

Joe Selvaggi: Um, now I appreciate this issue can be very divisive. You’ve talked about being in front of activists and not coming to much of an agreement, but what surprises to me, for me, is that there’s no clear, let’s say, partisan or political divide, given that almost all cities, you know, from dog catcher to mayor, everybody’s a Democrat.

Joe Selvaggi: So you don’t have, let’s say, right left divide, but you have, let’s say, competing narratives as far as, you know, what you do about homelessness, right? You, you, you, uh, you have this problem. Everyone acknowledges the problem we hear in Boston. No, we have a problem, but there’s still [00:12:00] two different competing, uh, not two, but many, but let’s, let’s sort of try to simplify a little bit.

Joe Selvaggi: Um, what are the competing narratives as to why people are homeless and how you solve homelessness?

Dr. Judge Glock: Yeah. So the I would say the main current narrative, uh, is probably best encapsulated by the title of a book that’s received a lot of attention recently called Homelessness is a Housing Problem that homelessness almost by definition is the absence of a house so that we could quote unquote solve homelessness if we provided all of the homeless with a house often subsidized or government provided.

Dr. Judge Glock: Um, that model of solving homelessness is often known as the housing first model, which is, uh, especially focused on those at the streets. Those have been homeless for a long time, and the goal should be to give them a permanent house, uh, usually subsidized or free, uh, with no treatment requirements whatsoever, with the understanding there that that could deter people from moving off [00:13:00] the street and into the house.

Dr. Judge Glock: And once they are in the Activist vision are largely caused by the street itself by the absence of the house. So there are some issues with this vision. One, I would not disagree at all that there is a correlation, a connection between how high housing costs and rents are in a city and homelessness.

Dr. Judge Glock: Cities like Boston, like New York, like San Francisco and LA that have higher rents. Homelessness is one of the Many cities do tend to have higher homelessness that is pushing a lot of families and individuals would be on the edge into homelessness. But as far as we can tell, it seems to have a much larger effect on the sheltered in the short-term population than the long term unsheltered population.

Dr. Judge Glock: The reason some cities get very large encampments isn’t likely just because of rental costs. It is because of these other factors about enforcement about prevalence of drug use and mental health problems, [00:14:00] etcetera. Um, and importantly, I think it doesn’t seem to be substantially solved by providing a lot more of what’s known as the permanent supportive housing or these housing first units.

Dr. Judge Glock: Now, one of the simple reasons that I’ve discussed for why this isn’t a solution is because these people with substantial mental illnesses or drug addiction problems don’t necessarily get better in these housing units. Um, in San Francisco, one of the stats I also use often is that 11 percent of the entire homeless population, their last address.

Dr. Judge Glock: Was a subsidized housing unit. They were already put inside and because of their demons, the things they were continuing to wrestle with, they could not stay inside. They left and returned to the streets. Again, we also see death rates, unfortunately, in these in these units be incredibly high Boston. I actually did an [00:15:00] experiment, and they had a recent study came out that showed they put a lot of long term homeless in these housing first units.

Dr. Judge Glock: And after 10 years, almost half of died. Um, so these housing first no treatment units do not seem tend to be solving the problems in the city that try them, they don’t seem to. Um, there seems to be a very low correlation or connection between how much a city builds and how much homelessness drops. There seems to be very little.

Dr. Judge Glock: Cities like San Francisco have built enough permanent housing, subsidized housing for the homeless to house every single homeless person when they start. But the problem’s obviously only gotten worse. This means some people are going to track it from outside, some people that would have been housed otherwise are now staying in these subsidized units.

Dr. Judge Glock: And you don’t have, uh, the sort of long-term solution, uh, that a lot of those housing first advocates are gonna hope for.

Joe Selvaggi: I want, I want to drill down [00:16:00] because you’ve touched on a couple of major points that I think our listeners need to understand. First, you did a very good job of, of course, separating out what we were talking about, those in encampments with severe disabilities, be they drugs or mental health, and those temporarily, the sheltered homeless that we identified early on, and saying that housing first um, you know, whereas intuitively if you’re homeless and you get a house, you’re no longer homeless.

Joe Selvaggi: Uh, it’s not as simple as it sounds. You’re what you’re saying is that when a severely disabled, a homeless person, you know, with mental health or drug issues gets put into a home, uh, often it doesn’t work out. Well, as you mentioned a study in Boston, where 10 years after that home, they’re either back on the street or no longer alive.

Joe Selvaggi: Um, but I also think there’s something you didn’t point out, which is in my research on the, uh, the housing first, it seems that because they’re so focused on that house. They seem to, uh, elide, their solution elides all other, um, problems, which are, um, support for mental health, support for, um, uh, drug addiction, all the other [00:17:00] attending what you call wraparound services that, that could help someone in a long term way.

Joe Selvaggi: Meaning if, if your view is eclipsed, the housing first is eclipsed, eclipsing all other wraparound solutions, you really are throwing both ends of a rope to a drowning person, right? Say more about that.

Dr. Judge Glock: Exactly. And so, a lot of activists, I think, in my mind will correctly note that housing first does not need housing only and that ideally these permanent housing units are accompanied by all of these services.

Dr. Judge Glock: But just in practice, we know what happens usually is that the funding and the focus of the service providers is on creating the house and then the services get neglected. Now, the other side of that, though, is that a lot of people in the units, even if the services aren’t, are provided, they don’t take them up because, not surprisingly, people with severe mental health issues or addictions often either don’t know they need to get better or they don’t want to.

Dr. Judge Glock: There was a recent pretty [00:18:00] disturbing report in the New Yorker, an extensive article on one of these permanent housing programs in Brooklyn, and they celebrated supposedly in this article all of the things that the housing was supposed to do to get the people better. But then they noted somewhere in that that 16 people had died over the course of just a few months in the unit, largely from overdoses, um, that most of the people in the building were avoiding the services provided.

Dr. Judge Glock: And the caseworkers who were supposed to connect them to it had to chase them down and that they would, the inhabitants would run away again because they often wanted to, um, if they were mentally ill, didn’t know they needed help, or they’re addicted, they wanted to continue in their addiction. Uh, and, and finally, one of the things that I think is underestimated here is that the way these units are currently provided, these housing first units, is that addiction is considered a disability for many of them, [00:19:00] in that if you are staying clean on the street, and you are trying to get your life together, you will not, uh, you often cannot get one of these units.

Dr. Judge Glock: If you can prove that you are injecting heroin, uh, if you are doing methamphetamines, you will then be eligible for the units. The main character in this New Yorker story, in fact, they noted that she was only eligible for this free apartment, a very big gift in New York because she did heroin, uh, which is exactly the wrong message.

Dr. Judge Glock: You should be sending someone on the street who’s trying to get their life together. Uh, you know how to get, how to get into a housing unit continue doing heroin. If you’re clean, you’re not going to get ahead. And that’s unfortunately, that message has come out into the streets and people are aware of it.

Joe Selvaggi: That, that’s incredible. Although it undermines my next question, which was to say, uh, there were some studies were talked about these housing first units being built. Let’s use round numbers. There were a thousand, uh, um, homeless, unsheltered homeless. They built a thousand homes. They had a thousand [00:20:00] residents in those thousand homes and magically they still had a thousand homeless people on the street, which suggests those people are coming from elsewhere.

Joe Selvaggi: Um, which, you know, in contrary to your last statement, you can imagine there’s very low criteria for, for one earning a free house, meaning you. You know, the application can’t be too elaborate, uh, you don’t want to screen out the most needy, so, uh, to the surprise of no one, the people who take those quote unquote free homes in very expensive cities are often people who were otherwise not homeless.

Joe Selvaggi: Can you say something, you know, does that undermine your last remark?

Dr. Judge Glock: Well, not that they weren’t necessarily homeless, it’s people that either would have recovered on their own, or they were often coming from elsewhere, uh, so it, it depends on the city you look at. But you have places like Seattle that found that in one study a few years ago that a majority of the homeless in the city were from outside of Seattle.

Dr. Judge Glock: It’s not uncommon in places like Austin, Texas to have over a third coming from outside the city. [00:21:00] And again, if you separate that into the unsheltered, which we don’t have the great numbers on. We’re likely talking about a larger majority because the sheltered again tend to be more local and tend to be, uh, more families and so forth.

Dr. Judge Glock: Uh, so you have that that attraction effect of it and you have the fact that some people who maybe we’re going to get better on their own were going to move outward and then you also have the unfortunate effect and it’s there I admit it’s very hard to disentangle and to understand how these things contribute but you have the effect of more people are attracted into the homeless system and will remain in it if they have the opportunity to get one of these, these housing units, or if they have substantial benefits from it.

Dr. Judge Glock: And precisely if the homeless system is encouraging This sort of behavior we’re supposed to ideally be treating, uh, that’s going to just increase the number of people, those problems increase the number of people who would need help. Uh, I mean, I’ll mention in one of my articles I mentioned, [00:22:00] uh, for your viewers and listeners in Massachusetts, I found a Massachusetts.

Dr. Judge Glock: point system for how they determined who was most in need to get these free housing units. And the point said you got four points towards a house if you were currently abusing drugs and not in recovery. That was down to one point. If you had been recovery for a year, so it’s much harder if you’ve been in recovery for a year, but you’d get a bonus two points if you’ve overdosed in the past 12 months.

Dr. Judge Glock: Now, again, for anyone sensible outside the system, this seems mind boggling. You were literally telling people the more you overdose. The more likely you are to get a house. And, uh, that’s obviously when I say sending the wrong message, it’s actively incentivizing people to both be homeless to be on the streets and to abuse drugs, which is exacerbating the very problems it’s trying to solve.

Joe Selvaggi: Indeed, that sounds like Government Incentives 101, uh, very, very crazy. So, um, you mentioned [00:23:00] Boston, uh, you actually, I was pleased to learn that you actually wrote a piece for a local policy magazine, it’s called Commonwealth Magazine for our listeners. It’s an interesting publication, uh, with our, with our colleague at Pioneer, uh, Charlie Chippo about, um, our problem.

Joe Selvaggi: We call it MAS and CAS, it’s the, uh, encampment, our local encampment here at the intersection of Massachusetts Avenue and Melania Cass Boulevard. We call it Mass and Cass. Uh, you, you offered some new, uh, some ideas. This was back in 2021 and then we had a new mayor. We still have, Mayor Wu, uh, with ideas on how, uh, we could, um, let’s say deal with the challenge of Mass and Cass?

Joe Selvaggi: This was at the peak of COVID, so perhaps there was some, uh, permission structure around being outdoors during, uh, uh, during lockdowns. Um, what can you say about your analysis back then? And I don’t know if you’ve revisited the issue and looked at Boston since then, but, how did you see it, uh, you know, as a, as a Boston specific issue?

Dr. Judge Glock: Well, I mean, one of the things I, I [00:24:00] remember looking into that issue back then is that around 2020, you had seen a substantial reduction in the number of shelter beds in Boston, and that was not uncommon in a lot of the United States in 2020, 2021, as you mentioned, COVID was, uh, an over issue right. Then now, one of the little noted side effects of the CDC, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at the time, uh, when they were involving themselves in all sorts of, uh, aspects of American life in terms of where we should go, masking, uh, evictions and so forth, is that they recommended, uh, extreme distancing, social distancing in shelters, uh, at the time.

Dr. Judge Glock: And… We know a lot of cities and shelters took them up on this and reduce, they reduce the increased social distancing by reducing the number of shelter beds, which to my mind was the classic CDC problem of them, [00:25:00] uh, focusing only on the narrow issue of COVID and not considering all of the other problems that were prevalent at the time, perhaps for somebody who I had the alternative of living in a shelter or living out in the street, uh, had bigger problems than just getting COVID, uh, and throwing someone out on the street for the danger they can get COVID seemed to me like a bad idea.

Dr. Judge Glock: Uh, so one of the things I suggested is making sure that those, um, the shelter capacity was there. You’ve, making sure, I don’t know where Boston’s at now, but a lot of cities have not returned to their full shelter capacity since COVID and that would be necessary. Um, clearing. The Mass and Cass encampment, like other encampments, will involve enforcement.

Dr. Judge Glock: That means the police telling some people that you cannot live and you cannot stay indefinitely in a public space that is made for everyone and not just for one group of people. As it’s been enforced, that similar sort of enforcement pattern has been in use in many places. Ideally that’s done with minimal arrest, [00:26:00] that’s done with referral to services and shelter, and if there is insufficient shelter available, finding some place for people to go.

Dr. Judge Glock: I’ve been an advocate in extreme situations of Sanctioned campsites with, uh, with shelter, with services, with security, um, minimal shelter, perhaps just a roof, uh, to protect from the heat or the sun, and where people can bring in their, their three Ps as they’re known, the pets, possessions, and partners. Um, you know, for, for people who don’t have anywhere else to go and who need an alternative streets.

Dr. Judge Glock: That’s not ideal, but it is better than the current situation, which is a totally unsanctioned, unsupervised, unpoliced encampment, uh, in broad public daylight affecting not just them, but the entire city that surrounds them. Uh, the activists who claim that you cannot do that enforcement and claim that we merely have to wait, uh, for until we have enough free housing for everyone, to my mind, [00:27:00] have never sufficiently answered the question of, well, what do we do in the next decade or so until that happens?

Dr. Judge Glock: Forgetting the question for a second of whether or not that free housing is actually going to solve the homelessness out in the streets, partially because people again leave them often or die in them, um, or partially because it attracts people into them. But even the most optimistic advocates of the housing first admit often, hey, this is a program that’s going to take 10 years, 20 years, 30 years.

Dr. Judge Glock: And if their solution is, well, we have to let these massive encampments exist and these incredible rates of death continue for a few decades until we do something. I think to my mind, that’s just clearly not a compassionate or feasible solution, but it’s the one many activists continue to cite, uh, to this day.

Joe Selvaggi: It seems, of course, we focus on, I think, rightfully, the people who are actually in those encampments. It’s not, uh, good for them. Uh, but of course, the communities that they’re in, we often, uh, ignore when we talk about incarceration rates and the plight of the incarcerated. We ignore the fact that, uh, the community that they’re in, uh, [00:28:00] suffers greatly from their, uh, the crime or the, you know, just the human waste on the street or, you know, again, imagine this, uh, encampment in front of your house.

Joe Selvaggi: It’s an unpleasant, uh, experience for everyone. You mentioned police. I imagine if, if you have rules, you have to enforce rules and some people refuse that. So, uh, there’s some intervention. What role does let’s say some sort of institutionalization have here? Let’s say someone, as you say, someone who’s a drug addict or, um, um, mentally ill doesn’t.

Joe Selvaggi: you know, there’s no way out. So one, uh, compassionate society perhaps might intervene. Now I say this as a sort of a, uh, uh, uh, with libertarian, um, leanings, I’m suspicious of government intervention, but here I’m saying. Can we imagine it? Let me bring up something I just read about in our very, very blue, uh, California, Governor Newsom talks about characterizing some people as I think it’s called gravely disabled, where you would, in a sense, have [00:29:00] permission to intervene on behalf of the state and say, Look, this person is so disabled because of drugs or mental illness that we must institutionalize them.

Joe Selvaggi: Where is that story in your imagination?

Dr. Judge Glock: Uh, the one the individuals with severe mental illness, and I’m talking again about a very narrow subset now, not just those with substantial other issues, but basically with bipolar disorder, schizophrenia or to some extent, uh, advanced depression. Uh, those individuals are a substantial minority of the homeless populations.

Dr. Judge Glock: Everyone knows, not the majority, even of the unsheltered likely, but those with the very severe, potentially committable Mental illnesses. That’s a substantial minority of the population. Now, if you I think everyone agrees, from the bluest to the reddest, the most libertarian to the most interventionist, that if somebody is schizophrenic and literally is running naked in the streets into traffic, uh, we can’t just let that person eventually be killed by his or her mental illness, uh, uh, before we do something.

Dr. Judge Glock: We don’t [00:30:00] have to say that this person is screaming, uh, and saying they’re going to set fire to everybody and thinks a demon is talking to him, uh, before saying someone needs to step in. And. help that person get better. Even that person, usually in a different state of mind will then say, of course I needed help to get to this point in my life.

Dr. Judge Glock: I’ve been an advocate for increased mental health commitment, uh, expanding the number of, uh, of psychiatric beds available to stabilize people. Most, uh, most definitely. A lot of people have kind of an image of the one flu over the cuckoo’s nest where it’s, uh, you know, someone’s put in the institution for decades and decades.

Dr. Judge Glock: And that’s really not what the few remaining psychiatric beds in America do. They’re a way to get people for a few months, ideally. To stabilize to make sure they’re taking their medication to make sure you know how to treat them and then ideally putting them, uh, back in a better situation with some amount of medication in therapy help.

Dr. Judge Glock: So increasing the ability of the government to do that, uh, to get those people in [00:31:00] that, uh, that severe state is going to help reduce homelessness because without that you’re going to have the person who is moved into that housing unit and two months later is out on the street again because they’re scared of their neighbors, they’re scared of the, of being confined, etc.

Dr. Judge Glock: And that has to be part of the entire homeless solution. Because there’s no, uh, feasible solution for a lot of those people outside some sort of, sort of structured commitment.

Joe Selvaggi: Now, in your analysis of all cities across the country, some perhaps Boston sized, let’s set aside, as you mentioned, those who perhaps ought to be institutionalized owing to severe mental illness.

Joe Selvaggi: What about for those people who can be rehabilitated, perhaps it’s a drug related issue or just they fallen out of the workforce. Are there, uh, cities that are successfully helping to reintegrate people either with, um, through nonprofits who are doing either, um, drug rehabilitation or, uh, job training, or, [00:32:00] you know, it could be anything from a nonprofit, maybe even a faith based nonprofit to heal the mind, body and soul.

Joe Selvaggi: You know, help people find their way back into let’s say, uh, reintegrate into a society. Is there anyone doing it right across the country that, you know, sort of is, is actually saving these, these people?

Dr. Judge Glock: Uh, yes. And I, I just had one more thing actually about the mental health before I move on to that, just to say that.

Dr. Judge Glock: Ideally, a lot of what mental health commitment today is known as assisted outpatient treatment, where they’re not inside an institution. Again, maybe they’re stabilized in there, but they’re outside where a judge supervises their treatment regime, makes sure they take their medication and so forth. Uh, therefore you don’t necessarily have to have everyone or shouldn’t have everyone in these, these institutions.

Dr. Judge Glock: But in terms of the drug treatment, yes, frankly, there, there are a lot better ways. And to my mind, again, the worst one is just putting a heroin addict in a house and telling them, “hey, if you want treatment, it’s downstairs” and kind of crossing your finger and hoping for the best. Uh, [00:33:00] what we’ve seen is, is a lot of what’s known as recovery housing.

Dr. Judge Glock: It seems to be fairly effective. Uh, groups like Oxford house, they get a lot of a few people and let’s say half a dozen and a small suburban style house, house, all of them trying to recover from an addiction, they support each other, they have to work, uh, they try to help each other move to the next stage of life, and that social support and sobriety is very essential.

Dr. Judge Glock: Uh, you have a lot of places, like, um, to my mind, one of the most amazing is, is Salvation Army, uh, which, uh, their adult rehabilitation has short term residential stays for people, where your life is very structured, where you have to stay clean, where condition of you staying there is that you Uh, stay clean, and those seem to be very effective, even though, of course, you see a lot of people cycling in and out of them, and it’s tough for the addicts to stay in there, especially their, their first time.

Dr. Judge Glock: But for those who go through, you do see incredible reductions in addiction, uh, those have real trouble getting funding now, precisely because the [00:34:00] Homeless Housing First model is zero requirements on treatment, and I emphasize that, I’ve already emphasized that, but then you cannot, the, the typical homeless money does not go to something like the Oxford Recovery Housing, uh, house, uh, model.

Dr. Judge Glock: Uh, even though Congress passed a bill in 2018, a bipartisan bill to try to fund a little more of that. But the typical homeless funding doesn’t go to that precisely because hey, they, sobriety is part of the requirement. Uh, but to my mind, that’s exactly the best thing you can do. If you have a house available, you’re trying to get someone together, use the house as an incentive to help people move their life on as opposed to just.

Dr. Judge Glock: A new place to do heroin or something else, which is again is not helping. Uh, those people that get put in and does your research at all again?

Joe Selvaggi: We’re gonna wrap this up. Um, we talked about the sheltered those people on the edge. We say there’s a correlation between the housing prices and homelessness. Do you see sort of again?

Joe Selvaggi: Maybe this isn’t your area of expertise, but we’re an advocate here on hub [00:35:00] long for, um, let’s say looser zoning requirements whereby uh, less expensive home housing can be built so that there are places for people who don’t make a lot of money but still live and work in Boston or in the city. Uh, is, is there anything that you’ve read that suggests, um, more houses means fewer homeless?

Dr. Judge Glock: Yes, uh, and, and actually, ironically, this is probably more of my focus than, than homelessness, even, uh, it, my, my dissertation, uh, in grad school was on the history of the U. S. mortgage market and how housing policy is, has been, uh, uh, messed up in so many different ways in America. And that includes, of course, excessive restrictions on building in America’s cities.

Dr. Judge Glock: Yes, and, and, I am 100 percent agreement with those activists and others who point out that increasing housing prices is going to increase homelessness. And the only way to reduce housing prices over the long term is to increasingly allow more building in places that’s going be the only thing that reduces those rent prices in general.[00:36:00]

Dr. Judge Glock: Now, again, that will affect a lot more of the short term sheltered and so forth than the people with the most severe mental health and drug addiction problem. But it is going to help more people get inside in general, and that’s also going to some extent help those people from falling off that bottom rung of the ladder to the point where they’re out on the streets and all those other problems are exacerbated.

Dr. Judge Glock: So yes, improving the housing market, allowing more building is going to be an essential part of the whole puzzle to reduce homelessness. Not the only one, I’ll definitely emphasize, but an important part.

Joe Selvaggi: Well, this is a complex issue and you’ve written extensively on it. I hope our listeners, uh, again with, with winter coming, uh, this is Boston.

Joe Selvaggi: We want to, uh, talk about this before, uh, before people are freezing in the snow. Where can our listeners who, from who you’ve piqued their interest about this topic, where can they learn more about your research, your writing, your work, uh, and they want to learn more?

Dr. Judge Glock: Uh, well, you can just look at, uh, me up at Manhattan Institute’s website or, or look at a lot of my writings on this have been for, uh, City Journal, Manhattan Institute’s, uh, [00:37:00] policy magazine.

Dr. Judge Glock: So either place would be a great, uh, uh, way to look at some of the things I’ve written.

Joe Selvaggi: Wonderful. I love City Journal and Manhattan Institute. I appreciate your writing, your work, and all the work the, uh, the, uh, think tank does. So thank you for being on Hubwonk today, Judge. Uh, you’ve been a great asset and I’m sure our listeners learned a lot.

Joe Selvaggi: Thank you. This has been another episode of Hubwonk. If you enjoyed today’s show, there are several ways to support Hubwonk and Pioneer Institute. It would be easier for you and better for us if you subscribe to Hubwonk on your iTunes Podcatcher. It would also make it easier for others to find Hubwonk if you offer a five-star rating or a favorable review.

Joe Selvaggi: We’re always grateful if you share Hubwonk with friends. If you have ideas or comments or suggestions for me about future episode topics, you’re welcome to email me at Hubwonk@pioneerinstitute.org. Please join me next week for a new episode of Hubwonk.

Joe Selvaggi discusses the challenges posed by homeless encampments, like Boston’s Mass and Cass, with Dr. Judge Glock, the director of research at the Manhattan Institute. They also explore policy alternatives aimed at addressing the needs of both the community and the unsheltered individuals.


Dr. Judge Glock is the director of research and a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, as well as a contributing editor at City Journal. Previously, he held the position of senior director of policy and research at the Cicero Institute, a nonpartisan think tank based in Austin, and served as a visiting professor of economics at West Virginia University. His writing primarily delves into the intersection of economics, finance, and housing, with insights drawn from his extensive work in economic history.

Dr. Glock’s work has garnered attention in various prominent publications, including National Affairs, Tax Notes, the Journal of American History, NPR, the New York Times, and the Wall Street Journal, among others. He is also the author of the book “The Dead Pledge: The Origins of the Mortgage Market and Federal Bailouts, 1913-1939,” which was published in 2021 by Columbia University Press. He earned his PhD in history, specializing in economic history, from Rutgers University.