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Sidewalk Sale to Help the Homeless

February 2, 2021

A recent newspaper article had a suggestion for how to solve the problem of homeless people wandering about near the downtown Phoenix homeless shelters. The article suggested allowing groups and businesses to buy the sidewalks. This would allow for control of the pedestrian traffic and ensure that some entity has responsibility for these people. (We have all heard of the “tragedy of the commons” where public property is destroyed because no single entity is responsible for it.)

I would take this idea one step farther and suggest that both the sidewalks and the streets be privatized. The same idea of responsibility for pedestrians on the sidewalks would then apply to traffic on the streets. I believe that would significantly reduce vagrancy, traffic accidents, and crime. For anyone who has not seen how this would work, you need only look at a few homeowners’ associations or, for a much grander example, look at the town of North Oaks, Minnesota. It is not gated but all the land is private, including streets and walkways. There is no litter, no vagrancy, and little or no crime. Surprised?

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