In a survey conducted about a year ago (click here for the article), it was estimated that there are around 1200 people living on the street in the downtown area. Of these, an conscience-shocking 269 people were going without shelter of any kind, and this was in late January.
Homelessness and Mental Illness
According to a 2013 Fox News report, the overall number around that time was similar to one year ago, 241 were deemed to be “severely mentally ill.” This means many of the people on the street may be simply incapable of functioning normally. Many people who suffer from symptoms will hear voices (often persecuting voices shouting at them internally), or see things, have “intrusive thoughts” (thoughts about doing or saying something that rushes into one’s mind without apparent rhyme or reason), etc. Take a moment to imagine a single afternoon in that state, then think how this goes on for day after day after day for many of our unfortunate homeless.
It is worth noting that contemporary homelessness as we know it today simply did not exist in any significant way until the 1980’s (for details, click here). This, along with the policy steps one could take in order to solve the issue need to be the basic terms of every conversation we have as a community about this issue. Very unfortunately, the approach my our city seems to be a heavy-handed, legalistic approach. Rather than address the causes, the approach by the city is merely to criminalize the outward manifestations of homelessness. Click here for a Gazette article on this issue.
The annual count of homeless people for the year 2016 is happening right now (see video below for news coverage). Perhaps rather than accepting whatever number is finally revealed, we need to think long and hard about what we can do tangibly, sensibly and compassionately to address the issue without simply pretending homelessness is a moral failing.
For anyone trying to learn more, you may want to visit the Facebook page of a local group dedicated to real solutions. Click here for that page.
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