California Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom wants to fix California's homelessness problem. This is a noble goal, and an urgent issue in his state — nearly a quarter of homeless people in the U.S. are in California — and it's the top issue of concern to residents polled, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Newsom's proposed method of addressing the issue, and the mental health factors that often contribute to it, however, is questionable — and confusing.
"Doctors should be able to write prescriptions for housing the same way they do for insulin or antibiotics," Newsom wrote on Twitter on Friday. "We need to start targeting social determinants of health. We need to start treating brain health like we do physical health. What's more fundamental to a person's well being than a roof over their head?"
Mental illness can indeed lead to homelessness. Few people, if any, would argue that. But the governor's apparently serious assertion that the solution to that is for doctors to prescribe a home as a treatment for mental illness unfortunately doesn't seem to make much sense.
It doesn't take a medical professional to determine that someone without a home, whether they're mentally ill or not, needs somewhere to live in order to get their life together. The issue has always been how to accomplish that goal.
Part of the problem, suggested Assembly Republican Leader Marie Waldron, are the Democratic leaders who have controlled California for years, and the policies they've implemented.
"While poor policies in the past have gotten us here, it's time we look forward to address homelessness, mental health, substance use and incarceration issues one person, one family at a time," Waldron said, according to the Times. "The governor is right that building more housing is needed. Unfortunately, Democratic policies have stood in the way of housing production for years. That needs to change."
In his recent State of the State address, Newsom suggested that laws should be modified to make it easier to subject people deemed to be mentally unfit to care for themselves to involuntary mental health treatments, a proposal which some fear could infringe on civil liberties.
"What's the difference between that and a county jail?" Democratic state Sen. Jim Beall said, in expressing concern about that method.