Can Conservatives Govern?
Sometimes, yes. Via David Frum (and not, as he points out, the front page of either the Times or the Post), the latest figures show that homelessness dropped by 12 percent between 2005 and 2007, with a particularly sharp decrease in the "chronically homeless" population. As Frum notes, a large share of the credit should probably go to the Bush Administration's homelessness czar, Philip Mangano, whose innovative approach to the problem earned him a profile in the Atlantic four years back:
Mangano believes that many professional activists, though well intentioned, have given up on ending homelessness. They have accepted the problem as intractable and fallen back on social work and handouts as a way to make broken lives more bearable. In doing so, he says, they have allowed "a certain amount of institutionalism" to take root. The Bush Administration proposes to solve the problem by beginning with the hardest cases: the 10 percent who are severe addicts or mentally ill, and consume half of all resources devoted to homeless shelters. Mangano believes that by moving these chronic cases into "supportive housing"--a private room or apartment where they would receive support services and psychotropic medications--the government could actually save money, and free up tens of thousands of shelter beds.
And sure enough, four years later ...
Housing officials say the statistics, which are collected annually from more than 3,800 cities and counties, may reflect better data collection and some variation in the number of communities reporting. But officials also attribute much of the decline to a policy shift promoted by Congress and the administration that has focused federal and local resources on finding stable housing for homeless people suffering from drug addiction, mental illness or physical disabilities, long deemed the hardest to help in the homeless population.
In Grand New Party, we cited the Bush Administration's homelessness policy as a possible bright spot in an otherwise lackluster domestic-policy record, and an example of the sort of "applied neoconservatism" that the Right desperately needs - a politics that seeks ways to reform the welfare state in conservative directions, rather than just me-tooing liberalism or demanding government's abolition. It's good to see at least modest evidence that we were right.