I applaud these efforts; the heartfelt generosity I see outpouring from
my countrymen and women to strangers across the globe makes me wonder;
how can many of these same people literally step over the homeless on
our own streets? We divert our glances and quicken our pace. Sure, some of us give money to charities, but the homeless remain.
An earthquake occurred within our own borders a long time ago and we have been feeling the aftershocks for decades. The US homeless population rivals the numbers of people afflicted by the Earthquake in Haiti and up to a third have a severe form of mental illness. We have become so accustomed to it that we don't even see the victims on the street anymore.
What happened? Well part of what happened was that beginning in the 1960's, an explosion of former state hospital patients were released into our communities. The premise was that community mental health services were not only more humane, but less costly.
The whole process was coordinated poorly; housing could not be secured to keep pace with the number of patients being released and remains a problem today. This started the homeless problem and since housing continues to be a problem, so does homelessness. On top of that, the sickest of the sick were also released; those who, through no fault of their own, would never recover enough to participate in their own care. My brother Paul was one of them.
flow of patients released into the community continued, unabated, over
decades, and the homeless population continued to grow. So did our prison population. The
sickest of the sick, not only do not understand they are sick, they do
not have the life skills required to maintain their physical, let alone
Yes, I can hear you. Many people with a severe mental illness can live productive lives in the community. I am not talking about them. Yes, the community system can work for many people with severe forms of mental illness, but not all.