I follow a blog called International Liberty – Restraining Government in America and Around the World. Written by Dan Mitchell. I don’t always agree with his views, but I do share his aversion to rampant passing of an endless stream of laws.
He posed a question today: “You Be the Judge: Should the Law Discourage People from Becoming Vagrants?”
Not going to reblog his entire post here because it was a long one, with lots of questions to ponder. An interesting and rather disturbing read.
My comment on this post was:
I think that turning homelessness into a crime is similar to the way modern medicine treats illness – by addressing the symptom instead of the underlying problem.
Granted some bums are just bums because they damned well feel like it. But the majority would prefer not to be homeless. The National Alliance for Mental illness estimates that 1/3 of the homeless population in the US are veterans. Another 45% have untreated mental illness, and few options to receive treatment if they tried. Since the 50′s the population of people cared for in mental hospitals has decreased by 90%.
So who are the homeless? They are the lepers of the 20th century. We just want them to go away or lock them up out of sight.
I have a lot of siblings. 2 of them drift in and out of homelessness from time to time. They are both drowning in untreated mental illness and substance abuse problems. My brother is mentally impaired due to severe brain damage as the result of a fall when he was intoxicated. The severity of the brain injury is the direct result of being taken to jail because he was drunk instead of taken directly to the emergency room to treat his head injury.
He finally managed to get placed in government subsidized housing. But he has many restrictions attached to this home. The biggest is that he is not allowed to let anyone live with him. How’s that for ostracizing and warehousing one of our less than savory members of society? Seems like it would be cost effective to allow him to have a room mate.
The recent conundrum he faced involved a sister who ran out of bipolar meds, didn’t get refills and careened into a 3 week drinking binge and manic depressive episode. As a result she got kicked out of the place she was living. She ended up on my brother’s sofa alternating between sleeping, being out of her mind, and panhandling for money to buy beer.
So his choices are 1) let her stay and try to help her while risking losing his home? Or 2) throw his own sister, a mentally ill woman, out on the street to fend for herself.
What a horrifying decision to be forced to make. I don’t know what I would do in his shoes. I finally told him that my vote was that he had to protect himself and not risk losing his home. But why should he even have to make that choice? It doesn’t seem fair or even remotely humane. It makes me want to rip my hair out!
This sister’s “drinking buddy” who suffers from the delusion that she is a friend came and took her to a women’s shelter. The time limit on that stay is 3 days. So it’s up in the air about what happens next.