A Voice That Went Unheard at the ‘ Stewardship Council’
At Monday’s meeting of the Stewardship Council I ended up sitting next to John Kitchell. John is a retired Physicians Assistant who has been working with the Homeless for many years. After around the room introductions John, like the rest of the public, was ignored. Fortunately for us John had a list of ideas that resonated with myself and several other members of the public in attendance. Unfortunately due to the council’s exclusionary policies these suggestions might no be heard. I wanted to share some of his ideas with you.
Here Are A Few Possible Solutions To The Homeless Problem
Recommendations for correcting the growing problem of homelessness in this nation include the following:
*Increase the range and improve the access of services available to homeless and other indigent people.
*Increase the supply of adequate, low-income housing and decent shelters.
*Develop programs for homeless alcoholic persons, drug abusers, and those at high risk of health care problems.
*Create community facilities in which homeless people can safely convalesce from diseases or temporary exacerbations of chronic illnesses.
*Encourage volunteers, especially students and professionals in medicine, nursing, allied health, social work, law and dentistry, to provide services for homeless and indigent persons.
*Mitigate the larger problems of unemployment, lack of job training, lack of education, and lack of hope that perpetuate the problems of poverty and homelessness.
In addition, the American Psychiatric Association’s Task Force on the Homeless Mentally Ill has recommended the following:
*Graded and supervised community housing.
*Adequate, comprehensive, and accessible psychiatric and rehabilitative services with outreach services when necessary, and
*Accessible crisis services.
There is a wide array of social services in this county. Once they are recognized for what they contribute to the social supports needed the focus can be clarified as to specific unmet needs.
A major reason the scale of homelessness persists is that addicts, including alcoholics and some potheads are noncompliant. California laws allow the “freedom” to live in miserable socially disturbing ways.
I’ve seen the hillside at the top of a freeway off-ramp littered with rotting food discarded by the ubiquitous beggars that loiter there. I’ve seen the congregations of the homeless who take over parks, sidewalks, public fountains, libraries and neighborhoods- all drawn to that locale by the “services” offered to the homeless. There’s no shortage of charity in feeding or serving the homeless.
I’ve seen the needle “exchange”- a misnomer that suggests it’s not actually just an endless taxpayer supplied source of needles and accessories for IV drug addicts. I’ve also dealt with them- high, belligerent, lying and destroying private property- criminals who know that they’ll go unpunished almost indefinitely. This isn’t treatment for their drug addiction- they steal needles from the boxes of free needles, because 30 needles per week aren’t enough. There’s no shortage of drug treatments, especially now that the “Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Act” (Prop 47) is diverting money from jails to treatment programs.
I’ve been into these “low cost” properties- homes they squat in as they sit empty on the real estate market, or empty businesses. In one case, after the squatter stripped the wiring from the well, they had the gall to insist the property owner have the water turned back on so they could have guests over for holiday dinner. I’ve been to the low income housing, where cable television is stolen, as is electricity and water. Tagged and damaged inside and out, they become dens of crime and squalor. There is no shortage of this either.
Employers are kept in line under fear of crippling enforcement action by a myriad of state and federal agencies that exist to enforce, brutally if necessary, the rights of employees and even applicants. An endless army of lawyers, bureaucrats and faceless computer generated enforcers are at the beck and call of any aggrieved employer who might expect an employee to be productive and comply with company policies- including the policies it adopts at the insistence of the government. Employers shoulder a large share of the tax burden necessary to feed, medicate, police and support the habits of the homeless at the same time their businesses are threatened by this army of the idle who defecate on their doorsteps, set fire to their dumpsters, destroy their air conditioners and frighten customers away from their front door. There is a shortage of jobs, but it even affects those who are qualified and demonstrably productive as well. What we should mitigate is the shortage of employers and businesses and worry more about creating more of them.
Doctors and health professionals already volunteer when the ambulance arrives for the man prone on the sidewalk saying he feels sick. Social workers are paid by tax payers to do social work. Lawyers also are paid to work for those who cannot afford a lawyer. There seems to be no shortage of any of these things you’ve listed
What I’ll confess I perceive there to be a true shortage of is homeless people who don’t want to be homeless enough to do something about it. There also seems to be a shortage of people willing to distinguish these people from the drug addicts, criminals and those who simply enjoy the status of being homeless. If it’s unfair to paint the homeless with a broad brush and claim they’re all hopeless addicts, is it not also unfair (and foolhardy) to color them all as simply “down on their luck” with the same brush?
Our current approach to homelessness is what appears to be less of what the author suggests we have more of- at the expense of others. More of what we’re already doing will likely only result in more of what we already have!