What Should We Do With All of the Homeless People?
This help doesn’t mean simply handing someone a few bucks when you see them holding a sign when you are exiting your local supermarket parking lot. That is a very temporary non-solution.
We need to help the homeless find stability. We need to help them with shelter, clothing, food, and to help restore their dignity. We need to help them relearn and train so that those who are mentally and physically able can eventually take over and help themselves.
Who will pay for all of this? All of us. If we do nothing, we still pay the price. Homelessness does not go away on its own.
Why do we have so many homeless people? Where did they come from? Are they displaced people from the last economic meltdown? Some, others not so. Some are military veterans trying to find some way to get past the trauma they experienced. Some are victims of a changing advancing technology. Some are left behind by a changing economy. Some are mentally in need of treatment. Is it someone’s fault? Is there someone whom we can all point our fingers and blame? We all like to do that, right? Actually, it’s not so right.
We have had homeless people in all periods of our history – or at least those who lived on the streets and wandered from place to place. Look up The Institute for Children, Poverty, and the Homeless (icphusa.org) and learn about homeless children in the mid 1800’s. This is not a new problem. We have just forgotten, if we ever knew.
We used to house the mentally medically in need in institutions. They had a place to stay and received medication, care, and oversight. Some were mistreated. Some wanted to leave but were prevented from doing so. Back in 1974, the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) filed suit, Wyatt vs Stickney and Wyatt vs. Aderholt that challenged the idea of keeping people in facilities for the mentally disabled, likening it to permanent incarceration. This story is available at aclu.org. Look up the history of mental institutions.
Ronald Reagan, while still governor of California, is often blamed for “letting mentally ill people loose”. It is true he let people out of institutions, but that release happened with the backing of a democratically controlled legislature and the subsequent changes nationwide that followed was a byproduct of the ACLU lawsuit. The book (1962) and then the movie, “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” released in 1975, helped to propel the vision of the horror inflicted on the mentally ill.
There is a New York Times article titled “How Release of Mental Patients Began” published October 30, 1984. I suggest you read it. It is available on-line.
How about this for a new beginning; when you next encounter a homeless person, take the time to stop and talk to them even if only for a few minutes. Learn their human story. Few people ever do. Many wish they would simply go away. Remember they have nowhere to go. Become involved in your community. Seek out information and become part of the solution. To do otherwise would be to turn your back on many of those who need help most.
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