Why I Joined the California Exodus
Last month I left my lifelong home for Nashville, Tennessee
Yes, I’m one of the Californians that left the dystopian ruins of my home state for greener pastures. At the beginning of March 2022, I caravanned with my boyfriend Colin (another California native), my cats, and a U-Haul trailer in tow across the country to Nashville, Tennessee. It was a brutal 4 day drive—some parts pleasant, but mostly unpleasant for 8 hours of leg cramping behind the wheel each day. I passed the time by listening to Michael Shellenberger’s book Apocalypse Never on Audible, whose thoroughly researched critiques of progressive policies I had come to appreciate.
In the weeks leading up to the move, I had listened to Shellenberger’s newer book San Fransicko, about the failure of progressive policies to mitigate the homeless crisis in California. It provided the perfect narration to what I witnessed while driving around running errands, giving context and backstory to the depressing scenes that had become commonplace in many Los Angeles neighborhoods.
“Housing first,” the current protocol employed by progressives, instead of tried-and-true “shelter first, housing earned,” is a large part of the problem that Shellenberger identifies. Another is the substantial financial handouts offered by progressive cities that attract homeless people from other states in droves. The influx of cash appears to be enabling addicts, as this quote from San Fransicko of a homeless man named Tom in San Francisco illustrates:
I got $581 a month in general assistance and $192 in food stamps. I could get a free breakfast at Glyde Memorial Church and a free lunch at St. Anthony’s which allowed me to use all of my general assistance money for heroin, and then sell my food stamps to a merchant in Chinatown, who would pay me 60 cents on the dollar for it.
A reporter for the Daily Mail makes a similar finding:
Through County Adult Assistance Programs, a person with no income or shelter can receive up to $619 in financial assistance per month, after being a San Francisco resident for at least 30 days.
A New York Times article from earlier this month, “A Rising Tally of Lonely Deaths on the Streets,” says that “the wider availability of fentanyl, a particularly fast-acting and dangerous drug, has been a major cause of the rising death toll,” and that “a study by the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health found that homeless people are 35 times as likely as the general population to die of a drug or alcohol overdose.” Clearly drug addiction and untreated mental illness account for a large portion of the homeless population, but progressives claim “housing inequality” is to blame. Making drug and mental health treatment mandatory in order to receive housing makes perfect sense to me. Especially with the rate at which the homeless population is increasing:
According to the 2020 count, the county's homeless population increased by 12.7% over the previous year, while the city of Los Angeles' homeless population jumped by 14.2%. In January 2019, Los Angeles County had 58,936 people experiencing homelessness, but by January 2020 the number rose to 66,433. The city of Los Angeles counted 36,165 in 2019, and 41,290 in 2020.
The latest stats are unknown, as the county was exempt from performing a homeless count in 2021 due to COVID-19. The next data set will be published here in summer 2022.
Before the pandemic I had been fantasizing about leaving LA for someplace where I could be around trees; the dense, mossy forests of the Pacific Northwest appealed to me. But when COVID-19 struck and the country locked down, relocating to a new state I had never even visited was no longer practical, no matter how allergic I had become to the concrete jungle I was living in.
I was paying $2,000 a month for an apartment in Van Nuys when it occurred to me that I no longer had classes on a campus I needed to attend, nor a job that required me to appear in person, nor a relationship keeping me tethered to the region. I longed to be around nature and far away from the noise, smog, traffic, crowds, and high cost of living.
I had packages stolen regularly in Van Nuys, but it wasn’t until May 2021 when I moved to Hollywood that I came face-to-face with the grisly real-world consequences of progressive policies that made me eager to evacuate the state. Colonies of encampments lined the sidewalks with trash and human feces strewn about. Prostitution, rampant crime, and open drug use were common and conspicuous. Just looking at someone the wrong way was often enough to trigger psychotic episodes. Hollywood was looking more and more like an extension of Skid Row by the day.
Arriving home one evening, I exited the 101 freeway at Vine St. A young black woman with a shaved head, baggy clothes, and a disheveled appearance stood at the median. She had a small scrap of cardboard that she held low and flipped over for each car that passed with “$40” written on it in black sharpie. She was selling her body for $40. It broke my heart. I don’t make a habit of giving homeless people money, but frequently end up loosening my purse strings for homeless women. If I had anything on me, I would have given it to her.
My gym was surrounded by homeless camps. In my last weeks in California I contracted ringworm on my hands from my gym. The woman who sold me the anti-fungal cream from Rite-Aid told me she had it recently too, and that the outbreak was due to the close proximity of the homeless. The gym attendant at the front desk confirmed it for me when she told me that they cannot prevent access to homeless people. From that point on I wore disposable gloves any time I left home.
In addition to the continual exposure to human devastation, there were plenty of other annoyances living in Los Angeles, like the woke virtue signaling, the never ending mask mandates, the incessant traffic, and astronomically rising gas prices—not to mention the sky-rocketing crime. But the depths of human depravity, seeing sidewalks disappear beneath trash, human excrement, and tents sent me over the edge. I could no longer bear witness to the civilizational decay brought forth by progressive policies.
I’ve seen many memes floating around warning settlers not to vote for the same policies whose effects they were fleeing. I can assure you, that’s not going to be me. It would feel very unethical for me to vote in an upcoming election in a state I’m new to, and the Democrats have lost my support by adopting progressive politics into their platform. I wish I could vote in the California midterm election so I could vote for Michael Shellenberger, who is running as an Independent for California’s Governor.
We’ve only been here a month and half now, but so far Nashville life is sublime. Colin and I visited in August of 2021 and were completely enamored with the lush green landscape, the whiskey and moonshine culture, the southern food and hospitality, the more affordable housing, new development, and nightlife. We set a date, found an apartment complex that appealed to us both, and pulled the trigger. Now we go on walks daily along the river, sit on our patio overlooking the lake and work from the comfort of our home... and the kitties seem to love it here too! I will miss the wildflower superblooms in California and the proximity to family but look forward to all that spring in Nashville has to offer.
Thanks for reading my very first substack entry! Much more to come. Subscribe so you don’t miss it!
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California IS a grim place, especially post-COVID and especially in the big cities. We left July 2020 after 25 years to an Austin suburb. It was important for us to have our children physically in school (in person). Most people in California are unaware of their own situation - they are in denial about the dystopia that they've come to accept as normal. Its normal to feel unsafe in a park in LA. Its normal to have homeless follow you around in a grocery store and harass you. Its normal to see people doing drugs in the street. Congrats on your move - and no - its not a privilege to move (as many people will say to you) - its a decision.
Why do you feel more inclined to give money to homeless women than men?