Homelessness in America and the rest of the world are like big, festering pimples on the ass. They’re there, you feel it but you don’t talk about it. And you try hard to keep them invisible. It’s more fun to talk about the spoiled, rich entitled celebrities who drain their money on addictions and rehab then to ask about the homeless guy in front of the Safeway or the toothless woman and her dog pandering at the freeway exit.
Homelessness has been an issue for society since the beginning of time. Socialized behavior ostracized people who could not fit into a family unit or did not have a family, and had no means of making an income. They became the be beggars. Strong families usually would protect their members until their ignorance of the mental or physical problems became a burden and forced the person out of the unit. The crazy and the unlucky were lumped together. In some parts of Europe they were called vagabonds: no steady income, no home, therefore they became their own community and traveled together in a pack. In the 1700’s England was at a loss of what to do with their overwhelming supply of “rough sleepers” and shipped many of them over to the United States along with harden criminals. In 1931 at the height of the Great Depression, a large number of homeless took over Central Park and built a shanty town called Hooverville, named after the President they blamed for the economic downturn. Hoovervilles popped up through-out the United States from St. Louis to California during the 1930’s. Similar communities exist today.
The 1960’s introduced wide spread drug use, social drinking for teenagers and the Vietnam War. Along with our world’s population explosion, the possibilities increased for individual decisions going bad. There are many different levels of destitution. A majority of homeless are homeless because of bad choices or life’s current circumstances, but the mind is clear even if the ego is damaged. They have the skills to get back on their feet: if they can stay away from the drugs and alcohol. Their situation is sad, but for most temporary. Making choices is like being in a maze. If you keep making the wrong turn you get deeper into the maze and it gets harder to get out. Some are ex-cons that cannot find work because of their records and their “couch surfing,” sleeping from friend’s to friend’s homes, is no longer an option. The street becomes their bedroom. Sexual predators who have served their time can’t live in neighborhoods and are run out of housing areas once their location is made public. Finding a job is next to impossible and they are forced out by society.
The mentally ill are the most misunderstood. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, or Samhsa, is our federal program that is required by its enabling legislation “to promote coordination of programs relating to mental illness throughout the federal government.”
According to a Wall Street Journal article written by E. Fuller Torrey And Doris A. Fuller and I quote: Pamela Hyde a former social worker was promoted to be the director of the agency’s Center for Mental Health Services in 2009, a center that doesn’t include a single psychiatrist. There is only one psychiatrist among all of Samhsa’s 570 employees and her expertise is in substance abuse, not serious mental illness. Thus it is not surprising that the GAO notes that “coordination related to serious mental illness has been largely absent across the federal government.”
Meanwhile, problems related to serious mental illness have continued to get worse. Such individuals comprise at least one-third of the homeless population. And according to our analysis of data from the Justice Department, American Correctional Association and the American Jail Association, there are now 10 times more people with serious mental illness in U.S. jails and prisons than in state mental hospitals. Individuals with untreated serious mental illness are responsible for 10% of all homicides in the U.S. and approximately half of all mass killings.” As unbelievable as it sounds, Ms. Hyde suggested smoothies and line dancing as a form of treatment for mental disorders.
The street welcomes everyone without prejudice.
Children in the foster care system are unceremonally released at 18. If the child hasn’t bonded with family and has no ties with their blood relatives, they may not have developed enough socially to go attend school or hold down a job. They have no hope of getting additional help or support if needed.
Needless to say many of our former war heroes are now damaged veterans and are not given adequate mental health care, if any. Continuous drug use has melted brains and untreated mental illness has permanently erased all essence of the person they once were or could have been.
We are all one choice away from being homeless.
We live in a country abundant with so much. Yet, why do we choose to do so little?