Have you noticed that the old media standby story of the homeless has not been pursued much in the last four or five years? Some may remember how the media constantly bemoaned the state of the homeless during the Reagan and H.W. Bush years in office, and how the media constantly used this tale as a club with which to beat those two Republican presidents over the head. Folks like Rush Limbaugh, I recall, noticed how this standard media go-to story disappeared once Clinton became president and postulated that it would fast return once G.W.Bush took the Oval Office. But, the homeless has not made much of a media come back. In fact, that meme has virtually evaporated as a major media focal point. And there is a reason for that. Under the Bush administration, homelessness has actually decreased by 12% per year between 2005 and 2007.
David Frum of NRO found the lack of media attention of interest as it does us. He notes that this report of the amazing improvement of homelessness, due to the hard work of Bush appointee Phil Mangano, has generally been absent from the media. Saying, "I'll be very curious tomorrow morning to see where and how this story gets placed," Frum wonders if the story will make much ehadway in the old media. He notes that the story didn't make the Washington Post, but that The New York Times did pick it up (and I'll note the AP story as linked above, too).
As Frum says, praise and credit is due both Phil Mangano as well as president Bush himself for appointing Mangano and for allowing him to pursue his transformative program to affect change in the fate of the homeless.
We cannot yet say that Mangano has succeeded. But we can say that as with conservative ideas on crime in the 1990s, the Mangano approach to homelessness has transformed a situation once seen as hopeless by discarding orthodoxies once seen as unquestionable. He and the administration he serves deserve immense credit.
But, as the story develops in the media, there is little doubt that a negative spin is being placed on this welcome news. So far, I've seen two stories (Channel 5, WCVB in Boston, and the Associated Press) that carry a negative take on the news that will most likely become the media's theme. Here is the snippet in its simplest form from the Channel 5 report:
The report doesn't take into account the effects of the foreclosure crisis and recently slowing economy, which could increase the number of homeless families.
This isn't news. It's conjecture, if not an outright claim. But we will see it in every story, I'm sure.
In the AP story we also see it:
Some homeless advocates said HUD's emphasis on the decline in chronic homelessness paints too rosy a picture.
"It's not a true reflection of what's going on among the homeless population," said Michael Stoops, acting executive director of the National Coalition for the Homeless. Stoops said there are always some homeless who are not counted, adding that people who are not chronically homeless are getting too little attention from the government.
The report does not take into account the effects of the foreclosure crisis and recently slowing economy. Stoops predicted both will increase the number of homeless families.
If the media bothers much with this story at all, and thus far reports have been far and few between, this will be the refrain most likely offered.
(Photo credit: www.5days.ca)