Homeless: Where there’s Law without Order

One simple fact — homeless people have nowhere to go — continues to befuddle public officials everywhere and has led to the wasteful expenditure of billions of dollars. Thus it is that while homeless camps may appear to disappear after government-ordered sweeps, the presence of small groups and individual homeless people continues to increase. Sweeps don’t make them go away; they just force them to another location.

One day here, the next there, and the following day dispersed throughout the same general locale — albeit in smaller groups — homeless people gathering in camps represent the universal human need to form communities, especially among vulnerable people who fear for their safety.

Orders to “move along” — the default tactic for managing homelessness — don’t just represent failed government, they’re also examples of a mass public psychosis about homelessness. Years of baseless memes about “choosing” to be homeless and not wanting help have enabled public acceptance of failed tactics and clueless government officials who continue to mistake a humanitarian crisis for a case of loitering.

Mono Park Modesto April 2023
We moved them from here…

Instead of learning from previous failures to chase people away from homelessness, many citizens and authorities are now calling for criminal penalties for the disabled, destitute, sick, and working poor, who’ve been forced into homelessness by the simple physics of rising costs, static incomes, and failing systems of care, especially health care. Anti-camping ordinances have become more popular in places like Los Angeles, despite the 2018 Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that punishing people with nowhere to go is a violation of the Eighth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

Modesto Airport District Winter 2022
…to here

Calls for more draconian law enforcement amount to a criminalization of poverty, and will almost certainly be met with litigation on behalf of defenseless people whose ongoing harassment is more accurately described as an act of bullying than justice. In many places, authorities try to avoid consequences of the Ninth Circuit ruling by claiming, “We have beds for anyone who wants one.”

The patent sophistry of such claims in places like the City of Modesto and Stanislaus County generally goes unchallenged, if only because homeless people have few advocates and even fewer resources. Nonetheless, the over 1500 homeless people in Modesto far outnumber the available beds, a fact no one contests. Local officials get around the discrepancy by repeating the canard, “They don’t want help.”

In one classic example of failed policy, Modesto and Stanislaus County closed a city park that had become a gathering place for homeless people. Some campers moved less than a block away; few moved more than a quarter mile. Instead of a local campsite, city and county officials now had a sprawling panorama of tents and tarps around almost every nearby corner or alleyway.

Airport District Modesto April 2023
…to here

Confident that almost no one will challenge their definition of “help,” local authorities work harder to make the help they offer inappropriate and unattractive than they do to actually manage the growing homeless population. Offers of help almost invariably consist of a bed in a shelter that also serves as a warehouse for the mentally ill and physically disabled who can’t find shelter anywhere else.

People who do go into the shelters can expect to be talked down to, lectured about their moral failings, and compelled into routines that can include mandated church and prayer sessions, evening curfews and forced morning exits — not the help any of them want or need. Many are enticed into shelters with promises of housing. Those with the fortitude to hang around can spend years waiting for an apartment or room; no wonder the great majority prefer the streets.

Even the most avid anti-government ideologues will usually agree that one legitimate government function is to provide law and order. Today, with a tiny few exceptions, government provides more law than order because state and local officials remain unable to admit that housing shortages, inverted costs to wages ratios, collapsed systems of care, the punishing effects of a pandemic and the economic forces of automation, computerization, and robotics have been far greater drivers of homelessness than “bad choices.”

Airport District Modesto April 2023
…to here

Blaming the victim has become a major factor in the failure of state and local governments to manage homelessness. Calling for harsher penalties is just another way to ensure more law without order. The help homeless people need most is a safe place to lay their heads, toilets, and access to food and water. Order won’t be restored until we face these simple facts and provide real help in the form of safe camping and transitional housing.

Eric Caine
Eric Caine
Eric Caine formerly taught in the Humanities Department at Merced College. He was an original Community Columnist at the Modesto Bee, and wrote for The Bee for over twelve years.
Comments should be no more than 350 words. Comments may be edited for correctness, clarity, and civility.


  1. “and will almost certainly be met with litigation” which results in no shows on court calendars, empty warrants for arrest, 3 hour book and release events, and new court dates. Rinse and repeat. So we toughen the law which will almost certainly be met with litigation…

  2. Being homeless is not a choice.it could happen to anyone expecialy when you least expect it.iam a resident of Modesto,ca. I have worked most of my life and lost my job due to automation of the downtown garages. It’s not easy to find another job and it gets harder every day. I’ve been trying for a few years now but to no avail. I do odd jobs for people so that I can survive but it’s getting harder ever day. When it comes to the housing no matter how much work I do I can’t afford to rent a place not even a motel room. Most people that are homeless is because they lost their job and then their house. When that happens most people start looking down on you and no longer treat you like a human being. I just wish people would take the time to understand the persons situation instead of judging them and treating us like we’re dirt under their feet . When someone winds up on the streets we try to help them any way we can even though we don’t have much are selfs. That’s why we make our little communitys so that we can try to stick together and be like a family to help one another and to try to stay safe.so please try to help some one else who needs it without judging them for what they don’t have instead of what little they do have. We thank God very day that we wake up to live another day

    • Sam,
      I hear you, understand, and feel your message. Huggs, my friend! 💯💜
      NO ONE should look down on people for sex, color of skin, sexual orientation, religion, handicap, beliefs, financial status, ETC…

  3. I agree whole heartily, I seen first hand what happens to the homeless and how they are treated, and looked down upon. I experienced this through working at a program called DST which stands for Downtown Streets Team. I picked up bags of trash and litter all around Modesto for a year. Thankyou signed once homeless. Kevin C.

  4. I agree I also worked with the down town street team picking up garbage and worked with the out reach care teams and know first hand how the homeless are treated and it can’t get better if people don’t give e them a chance at a real job and help them secure housing thank you for how you said it Sara and I also once was homeless.

  5. This is a comment to the article.
    I know that Stanislaus county did not follow their planned budget for specifically for the Homeless being it received billions of dollars for fiscal year 2020- 2023. I read the whole things myself. it’s in the Salida library for anyone to read. The work of planning the next budget for fiscal budget for 2024-2027 specifically for the Homeless is beginning soon.
    Here’s where that money did not get utilized to or for a lot of the homeless which and whom are in fact INDIVIDUALS WIT NO CHILDREN. This is not to say families shouldn’t receive help I’d they are homeless. There is a reason this factor of no children is crucial and important that no changes are really happening are obvious. Let’s go back to MOE’s aka Tent City and Kansas House. All the money was intended for the Homeless and so made sense for The Housing Authority to so it’s job’s being the agency is as its name “housing”. So with that said . I do t honestly know what the final contract or agreement was between the City and the Housing Authority in regards to Kansas House. What’s going on with that Project? Haven’t heard much since the sale and purchase right? After that was Finalized, the Housing Authority handed that over to the local CSA Ofc (Community Service Agency aka DSS) . When you walk into the CSA Ofc the first sentence on the wall of services it offers to those in need states, “If you are Homeless please let a worker know. We can help those INDIVIDUALS and INDIVIDUALS WITH FAMILIES if you are homeless. So I did tell them this. The response was in 2019 and still is to me, single no children I receive medicaid and SNAP benefits no cash I work a 1 day a week part time job I report as I’m supposed to my income etc. Their response per Federal Regulations Criteria which is law the CSA must follow especially cash assistance to me and individual with no children or home is ” you have no children or dependents we can’t help you because their is no linkage to services only General Assistance loan program ( you sign a promissory note) which I was told would be pointless because of my employment which I gross less than 400dollars a month I would only receive 100 dollars in financial assistance. We can only help individuals with children.”
    So the agency (CSA)must follow and abide by and enforce their rules, EVEN ID THE FUNDING IS SPECIFICALLY ONLY FOR ALL HOMELESS INDIVIDUALS & FAMILIES I read the grants pertaining to Kansas House , Housing Authority grant funding for the Homeless in this county.
    Handing over for the CSA Ofc changed that VERY IMPORTANT KEY FACTOR (SINGLE PEOPLE WITH NO CHILDREN) which in fact most homeless people are single persons no children.
    It’s not the CSA THATS AT FAULT they are doing their job per the federal law. What’s left? Who is taking accountability for the single individual HOMELESS people, human being persons with no children? Themselves! Back to being homeless in the streets, in and out of shelters, couch surfing cars, alleys, side of buildings etc.
    So now what do the homeless do? I am registered I guess with HAT Team since February I check in over the phone every 3 weeks o. A Friday to a voicemail never get called back, just went to update my phone number 2 weeks ago and ask what’s going on nobody calls me back. The young lady very helpful says oh I’m sorry someone should call you Monday latest Tuesday. Still no call from them. Now when I registered with them followed their process. And completed that process I left there being told “you’re paper ready she said meaning we have everything we need from you now just keep checking I. Like I said call the number so we know you still need housing assistance ok”. And I have yet since 2 weeks ago and from being “paper ready” nothing back from them. It’s now April. I’m still going to call and empty unmanned voicemail, so all I did was give them my birth certificate social security number name date of birth authorization to my mental health record & income is what they asked for, to now wait for? To not have any services or housing assistance from CSA no kids and put in limbo with the HOUSING ASSESSMENT TEAM through Behavior Health. It is not easy walking to look for job when your $$ is limited and you run out for the bus or ride share and must walk 5 or 9 miles to work so you keep your 1 day a week job I have had since 2017. It isn’t healthy to struggle this way because I don’t have you g minor children?
    So for whomever is making the rules or passing the buck or just plain NOT DOING THEIR JOB! with the specifically HOMELESS FUNDING FOR HOMELESS INDIVIDUALS AND INDIVIDUALS WITH FAMILIES w/CHILDREN,
    Thank you for keeping me homeless and struggling you are doing a fantastic job assisting HOMELESSNESS INCREASE!

  6. Great story on this subject, one, if not the best you have written. The word morality came to mind as I read to possibly understand why we have this long standing problem of a lack of community involvement at a personal level. After all, at some level, we all need and strive to obtain and maintain relationships. Why can’t the ‘haves’ and have-nots’ then have a meaningful relationship so at least the have nots aren’t treated as outcasts and shunned? Even worse, they are criminalized and pushed further down the socioeconomic ladder. Why do we do this??

    Looking for a good articulation of morality, I came across the one below. I ask you all to read and see if you can identify what has failed.

    “Morality refers to the principles or rules of behavior that guide individuals and societies to distinguish right from wrong. It involves a system of beliefs, values, and judgments that help people determine what actions are ethical or not. Morality is typically shaped by cultural, religious, and philosophical traditions, and it can vary across different societies and individuals. Some common examples of moral principles include honesty, fairness, justice, compassion, and respect for human life and dignity. Morality is often considered to be a fundamental aspect of human nature, and it plays an important role in shaping personal identity, social norms, and legal systems.”

  7. What persons in their right mind would not get tired and worn out trekking back and forth daily to the shelter to find out if a bed is open? It is an exercise in futility. PEOPLE OF ALL MINDFULNESS ARE NOT TO BE EXPECTED TO PLAY THE GAME OF “LOCAL GOVERNMENT EXCUSES.”

    Last I knew men who went to the shelter on Yosemite could only stay so many nights on, then, so many nights off. To give others an opportunity to get a bed. Then what? Criminal charges for vagrancy?

    Same with the motels. Not allowed to stay a full month (if could possibly pay for that long anyway). Stay 3 weeks, and, 1 week off, atleast, prior to registering back in. Motel managers say it is policy. Whose?

    Are the Local cops, city, county, aware of all the inconsistencies the houseless are thwarted with? Will they believe the houseless when they take the time to explain? Will Local government take the time to listen?

    I was shocked, even now, at this late date, to hear that Kansas House is still a no go. Shame on all involved on that senseless stall. Get people all excited then punish them when the Locals fall short.

    These places that say people are paper ready, then hang them up for ever, are putting the houseless through the grind, simply so the office stays open and jobs stay filled. Otherwise there would be empty commercial space, upset commercial land lords, one more people out of work, then, out of homes. They are not fooling anyone. Again, shame.

    As for ID’s to get paper ready. Social Security will only give out a certain total of duplicate Social Security cards. How do those houseless manage to keep a copy of their SS card from being swept, stolen, wet with moisture from rain, and/or, otherwise destroyed or lost?

    Excellent post, Eric, and, excellent replies, everyone who contributed.

    I hope others share, here, all of the poppycock, frustrating barriers that have been in their way leading to, and, keeping houselessness the BIG INDUSTRY it is.


    When we get done with the Locals they are going to be sorry they did not rush to house the houseless, and, set up camps in the meantime. Barrage the Locals with legitimate complaints, also, and be sure to list the law they are skirting, Eric, added it in this post.


  8. I’ve been homeless for years now I have a full time job only apartments I have been able to afford have been low income which they all have a massive waiting line for upcoming apartments . Anyhow I finally came up for an apartment at the avena bella ll apartments and mind u I’m a mother of a 12 year old being as patient as possible for the last several years while I wait for the moment to finally come up for an apartment so I go in do my paper work pay the 45 dollar application fee which isn’t much but when ur trying to survive with no steady home and a son who’s in 6th grade who is going to be going to 6th grade camp which makes it one of the most expensive years to attend school for a struggling parent. I do all the paper work and that’s back in Dec. I was told I should b moving in to an apartment in January well now here we are April and for the last 2 months I’ve been completely ignored by the avena bella ll site managers their offices are never open to public unless u call and are able to contact someone, my emails have gotten ignored and my hopes on getting into a place seem hopeless homeless and all even being that close. So it appears to me stanislaus county and their way of dealing with ppl aren’t very kind and so the point behind this is they ain’t trying to help no one it seems basically they robbed me of 45 dollars and ghosted me leaving me in the same situation 45 dollars shorter which could of helped me out with gas to get to work a shower for my son and I or a place to stay for the night. I have learned to make 45 dollars go a long way with my hours i work staying at any shelter isn’t even an option and in the end even getting into a place seems impossible wit ppl managing an apartment complex who discriminate on ppl and chose to ghost them with out any reason knowing how excited my son and I were. They are very heartless most ppl in charge of things like low income apartments they should b fired. There was no fairness here nor compassion and how is that even legal? We need more effective ways to help homeless not all are homeless due to drugs or lack of work or any mental illness I am sane not on drugs full time employed wit a child trying to make things work out but it’s not my end failing us it’s the system the way certain things are being ran by certain ppl who shouldn’t have a job at such places cus they probably pocketed my money while I still sit here struggling and they get their paycheck.

  9. Homelessness is hard get out of I think the city of Modesto should never have closed down Moe’s or at least if they couldn’t keep the location relocated it to a better location. I have been
    Homeless for about 22 yrs and the city had a hold on it all the arson all the drug parephenalia and trash in our streets and parks was stopping until they closed Moe’s and now is gotten worse since they closed it.

  10. Couldn’t of said it better! You want to talk about it happening in the blink of an eye…. 4 months ago I got fired from my job of 3 years, I had a car,place,food, and could buy what ever I needed when I needed it and I worked and sweat for a company who fired me for no reason. I collected 2 months of unemployment before they found a way to take away my benefits, got kicked out of my place and was set to move closer in Modesto but didn’t receive my last payment so I didn’t have to the funds and since then I’ve been living in my car with no catalytic converters and back tagged, I don’t know where my next meal is coming from and I’m completely alone. I’m living proof it can happen overnight to anyone. I see local law enforcement and there bully tactics on the ones who need help the most. Nobody is better than anyone and I see it being more common more and more in neighborhoods and communities and it’s really heartbreaking. I just wish every government/state/county/city employee would spend 1 week on the street trying to survive with just the clothes on there back and see if that don’t change there perspective

  11. Hello So I have lived here at the Kansas House since its partial opening in August 2020. This place had good intentions; however I am living everyday for the past 3 1/2 years that the county falling short of there agreement all while holding the ones living in this squander accountable whether we had control in the situation or not. The Stanislaus Housing Authority and STANCO (Stanislaus County Affordable Housing Corp) have done nothing but put me in a far worse situation than I was in when asking for the help in the first place. When are the ones in charge of making any decisions in regards to this poor excuse of living be held accountable for their actions that are ruining lives. I had gained full custody of my daughter in 2017 and was left what turned out to become a toxic unhealthy abusive relationship in 2019. I was in a predicament as I now staying with friends here and there however I was working and due to that I made too much money to qualify for the homeless program in which I was to be receiving TANIF(cash aid) . So I make to much for the help needed but not enough to live life! Well when the Pandemic shut us down March 16th 2020 I had only been working at that job about 3 months almost. So now I have no income no house and I should meet requirements for the homeless program. I have never been on any kind of housing aid before this and I come from a good upbringing. I was approved for the homeless program where I was placed in a motel and what normally would be 16 nights voucher program I was lucky and stayed 3 months due to the severity of the pandemic. That is where I learned of the Kansas House and applied for a unit. This place was intended for the people who wanted of the streets and lived in tent city. Well COVID opened up several units to out side resources so that is where I with food stamps and cash aid come to play. Rent is based off income in which when I applied I was on unemployment with the extra $300.00 that President Trump signed. However when moving into this place unemployment claim I had reopened when we closed the doors had ended and I filed new claim and a drastic difference of monthly income when I moved here. NOW I DID EVERYTHING I WAS EXPECTED TO DO REPORTING CHANGES VIA WEBPORTAL AND DID IT WITHIN THE 10 DAY PERIOD. I would ask the only 2 people I had any contact with the onsite manager and the STANCO employee onsite and both would say no updates. I did everything in my power to not be in this situation I am in now which is a black hole of back rent $8,000 I called the housing authority back then a left messages on every employee in the directory no one still 3 years later contacted me. Now I just got today a letter stating that I have 14 days to pay $5,502.00 or I will get a 3 day pay or quit. I also during my time here at the Kansas House never was informed of the fact that this is assisted living for severally mentally ill people. I nor my daughter had mental health history or nothing of the sort. Now tho after 3 years of enduring the daily constant never-ending chaos we both now have mental health services that is what you will get with living here at the kansas house. No one has tried to help me as I did everything and then some. so with the back rent bill I am not in good standings and am unable to transfer my section 8 to move out of this hell on earth. The things I was promised never happen and the ongoings and management of complex is a joke. Its like high school all over again better be in the click to get away with what you want. It is not safe for anyone who lives here especially with children. My daughter only 13 when moving here and she had no idea of the world she is so familuar with now when people out in the open doing illicet drugs you name it, it happens here. I dont even let her go to the garbage can alone. I thank god that she was staying at a birthday party when I was awoken to a strange man in my house that I did not know! I was frozen with fear at first and thank god that I was able to take the upper hand in this and get him out with out being harmed. What was alarming was his comment as I was yelling at him to get the Bleep out of my house. His response when first seeing me was “ooah where’d you come from, you weren’t here a minute ago.” Sadly I believe that he was having a mental break himself. Once he was on the other side of my door I called 911 on 2 times that night and no one came to my aid. No one has followed up nothing. I would be dead today if this was the type of person I watch on my crime tv shows Due to this incident and trama I endoured I ended up losing my County job as I am now constantly worried living with anxiety in your home when that is to be your safe place. I have now been diagnosed and am in the very start of mental health services which I am not to hopeful for. I want you all to know that at one time prior to this housing crisis I once was a very independent confident full of life, a people person loved to talk and do things. I was hopeful and believed that the county was going to do what they said and be only one year and Its home sweet home. I now am non of these things! I am on edge depressed overthinking everything living in hopelessness and despair trying everything to get out of here only to be slapped with the reality that you are stuck. I have always said that I am grateful to have a roof please understand that I know there are some who would trade places in an instant as they are cold in winter etc. I am feeling like I am fighting a losing battle as the reality of my situation is sinking further in my conscious and I have 14 days to pay an amount of money that I will never be able to do. So I have fought to live in filth and squander and now be faced with the fact that the ones placed to help are the problem and nothing gets resolved or heard so I am at the deepest rock bottom of my entire life and I did my end and still how am I the one to have to pay when my rights have been violated multiple times everyday not to mention discriminated against due to being placed in a stereotype of my social status which my rate of pay does not define me. When is enough going to be enough America? Our system failed and to every person who was involved in my case you all had a moral responsibility to do your job and now have ruined my families lives in such a profound way that I don’t think I can ever bounce back from. It would have to be a hand of God to have a positive outcome. I am a believer in the Almighty and Im having a hard time with my faith not in him but to ever have faith and believe people do what they say and say what they do. I have this and so much more to say however you get the point. I would have to say that I would not be surprised if I was to watch the news and find out that someone who is running the Kansas House being arrested for embezzling or something corrupt like that. I feel that as a whole the County of Stanislaus needs to stop blowing smoke that they have the resources they promise people. To knowingly give people false hope that they still have a shot at a some what good life from what most have gone through that live here is just down right wrong and unethical. I think it is time to contact an attorney in this matter as to my violation of rights civil and what have you. Lastly to me “WE THE PEOPLE” means we as in all of us our vote matters when electing you but the very people you say you are going to help you look down on as if we are less than you now that you have your elected seat how our voice isn’t heard all of a sudden. We the People of the Kansas House have had enough already as I am not the only one willing to come forth and blow the whistle with me. I feel that the ones who are in charge are nothing but bullies who take advantage of the mentally ill uneducated and I will be the voice for the ones who don’t know that they should have a voice. I am educated and I know that the corruption with in the Kansas House and those involved will be exposed soon enough as I am not afraid of you I have nothing left to lose that you haven’t taken already so Game on I have all documentation all in black n white to back up what I am saying not to mention vast majority of the Tennent’s who reside at the Kansas House all have something to say about the on-goings and shortcomings of this program that was donated a huge amount of money from the federal government along with so many others who saw potential in this place. I have sent my story to every news station in the Central Valley and Northern California along with city council office and also submitted a complaint to the civil rights office for violation of my rights. May God guide my way. I hope that this is one of those sayings one door closing makes another door of opportunities open up. I only have the rest of this year and next year and my daughter graduates high school and I would love to at least give her some sort of normal life as she enters the world of being an adult.
    Thank you,

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