At a recent Housing First training presented by CSH, it was proposed that addiction must be understood as a medical problem similar to diseases such as cancer or diabetes. From this proposition, the following assertions were made:

A. Addiction is a cognitive disease that manifests itself when a drug user has two types of risk factors are present; both biological factors and environmental ones.
B. Since addiction is a disease, clients with addiction need treatment comparable to the treatment given to patients with cancer or diabetes.
C. Clients with addiction don’t make good decisions not because of their own values or moral fortitude (or lack therefore), but because of neurological problems created by the substance use.
D. Due to the previous points, Housing First with the appropriate specialized care is needed to help homeless clients who are addicts.

While the sentimental, automatic response may be that assertion D is worthy of tax expenditures, these assertions have wide-ranging implications for the homeless and tax payer alike. Two such implications from the points above (with corresponding letters), for example:

C. Addicts have neither agency nor control of their lives; perhaps the cornerstones of what it means to be human beings.
D. Addicts who are homeless are entitled to housing without accountability to tax payers.

What other implications can we logically uncover? And what questions go unanswered? I propose the following:

A+B. If addiction is a disease, is it a disease that warrants subsidized care? Clients given Housing First permanent supportive housing cannot lose their housing if they abuse substances or refuse other services. This means that they can stay in subsidized housing as long as they live, however long that is. Is this medical condition one that warrants subsidized housing and medical care for potentially the entirety of a person’s life? If so, what other medical conditions also fall under this provision?

C. If a person with the disorder\disease of addiction lacks agency in their drug use, are they entitled to the same legal protections as other people? Children and non-human animals, for example, do not have the same legal protections as adults. This is because they deemed as lacking the essential qualities of a human being, with children being seen as human beings in potentia. Can it be argued that addicts temporarily lack these qualities as well? And if so, does this mean that they may become “wards” of the State? And do they end up “losing their rights” the same way ex-offenders do?

D. Housing does not inherently cure addiction. It can lay the foundation of healthy living, but it cannot cure it itself. To cure addiction, as a disease, the biological and cultural factors must also be treated. And yet, Housing First is conditionless housing; clients need not utilize medical or social services to retain housing. Is conditionless, subsidized housing warranted for people who refuse treatment for the illness that placed them in that housing to begin with?

While advocates of Housing First may mean well, they are indeed supporting a method of housing with not only demeaning implications about the homeless, but are also supporting the growth of the State at the expense of Liberty. They support protecting one group of people (in this case, addicts) at the expense of others (property owners and tax payers), all on the ill-considered notion that housing is a right (which it is not). At best subsidized housing is a gift or a privilege; one financed by involuntary taxation. But are there other options?

I propose there are other options, options that do not require theft (taxation) or the expansion of Leviathan.

I. Housing First advocates claim that their method saves tax payer money by reducing emergency medical spending. We can reduce this further, much further, by simply removing tax-funded medical programs such as MAP and by allowing the decision of payment to be left up to hospitals and clinics.
II. Housing First advocates claim that by putting addicts in housing, addicts are less prone to environmental stressors that encourage using. Private clinics and sober homes can do the same thing, and do not require tax-funding to be financed; they can find their own funding through voluntary exchanges.
III. Housing First advocates claim that by taking addicts off the streets, they are protected from police abuse and violence by dealers. This would be easily addressed by legalizing all drugs, which would solve the problem of police abuse and the dangers that come with prohibition.
IV. The CSH claims that addiction is partly environmental. While we cannot change the biological factors that lead to addiction, we can at least influence the environmental ones. If positive, life-affirming values can be instilled into people at the family level, then negative environmental risks can be diminished. And this needs no government action; it only needs less government. Faith-based schools, homeschooling, grassroots community service can aid in this endeavor, though they are often obstructed by governmental bodies telling people what they can and cannot do.
V. The CSH claims that addiction is partly biological. And while we can’t change a person’s genetics, yet, we can use our impressive medical sciences to help address the biology of addiction. Experimental drugs that curb addiction do exist. And yet bodies like the FDA only hamper scientific research, and governmental interference in the health care industry increases costs of goods. If the government is pushed out of health care and medicine, then experimental drugs and treatments can be more easily purchased by people who truly need them.

These points are not exhaustive, nor need they be. The government is not the root cause of homelessness, but it does often interfere with the choices we can make as individuals. While some people in social services mean well, they fail to see how their choices help some at the expense of others. Subsidized housing cannot create a good with the cost of a bad, and any discussion of subsidized care for clients must also include an evaluation of the thefts required to fund it. At the very least, I hope to show that there are other, unconventional ways of helping people that are not built upon a foundation of thievery.