Sunday, January 23, 2011

Abandonment of mentally ill homeless gets Bee's attention

It has been a long-standing complaint from this blog that those suffering the most in Homeless World Sacramento — homeless people who are mentally ill, a great many of whom are schizophrenic — have been abandoned by both local government and the homeless-help service providers in our metropolis.

A Sacramento Bee headline article on Sunday, "Sacramento officers take fewer in crisis for help" [titled "Cops seek help for fewer in crisis" in hardcopy] tells us "In the last two years, the number of incident reports showing people taken into custody as 5150s [Involuntary psychiatric hold] dropped nearly 40 percent in the combined territory of the Sacramento police and county sheriff's departments, going from 2,215 during 2008 to 1,352 during 2010, records show."

The article goes on to say, "… the effects of declining 5150s involving police are disputed. Some professionals said it shows residents slipping through the cracks, endangering themselves and the public. Others said community groups have picked up the slack, and that the old system created too many involuntarily commitments."

I can tell you that in Homeless World, as this blog has been screaming, the declining 5150 is due to homeless-services providers dodging their duty and allowing those who suffer most not to get any attention. It is a scandal.  Even if we grant that the mental-health professionals also bailed on the mentally ill wandering on the streets, it remains a scandal that the homeless-services providers in Sacramento didn't 'step up' to help these abandoned, suffering people.

The headline Bee article is co-written by Cynthia Hubert, the Bee's Homeless Beat reporter who I have heard described as "Loaves & Fishes' friend," and "someone who can be counted on to get our [Sacramento Homeless Organizing Committee's] word out." Certainly, Hubert's "Homeless Beat" reportering has fully followed the Loaves & Fishes line, ignoring Loaves & Fishes problems and failures.

In 2008, Volunteers of America [VOA] stopped its mentally-ill outreach program, which employed, maybe, a dozen people.  I believe I am correct in saying that they lost outside funding, probably from the county, and determined not to fund the program from the nonprofit's donations.  Nothing was substituted for that disbanded program.  VOA should have partially funded the outreach program from reducing the outrageous  $300,000 salary that is paid to the organization's President/CEO — though that would have to have been a national-headquarters decision, rather than one from the Sacramento-area office.  Still, wiping out Outreach is in significant part the cause of failure to help mentally ill people 'out on the street' in the last couple years.

At Loaves & Fishes, some people with training at identifying mental illness should be employed on the Friendship Park staff, but that doesn't happen since the administration is focused on promoting Safe Ground, which abides by the backwards, curious politics of the L&F Board of Directors which is stuck on 1930s-era radical political ideas relating to the Catholic Workers' Movement.  [Quoting wikipedia: "The movement campaigns for nonviolence and is active in opposing both war and the unequal distribution of wealth globally."] Basically, they suppose they can turn America into a socialist utopia where everyone is guaranteed a job, technological advancement is stopped and all assets are owned by the collective.  It's an Orwellian nightmare on steroids.  And part of promoting an Orwellian America involves hiring new employees on the basis of proven loyalty to Loaves & Fishes, and not in regard to what skills are needed that would most benefit the homeless population at the park.

As I wrote recently,

Loaves & Fishes fully ignores most mentally ill people who use many services at the Loaves & Fishes’ Mall of Services. The very evidently mentally ill that Sacramento citizens can see out of the streets are getting no help whatsoever or very little help and are the most miserable and neglected. It is known that the pair of Genesis program social workers literally never go into Friendship Park or make outreach efforts to help the most in need. VOA’s robust outreach program was de-funded in 2008 by the county, and homeless-services charities in our county [including L&F, of course] have not stepped up. At Friendship Park, and at Loaves & Fishes otherwise, homeless people who buy into L&F management's radical politics get the jobs, not qualified people who can diagnose 5150 candidates or otherwise compassionately understand and aid people who are mentally ill or in crisis.

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Blogger Nagarjuna said...

Scandalous is too kind a word for what's going on in "homeless world" and in the country at large with the inexcusable neglect of the mentally ill and the abject indifference to their suffering.

Of course, some, particularly those on a certain side of the political aisle, will say that we don't have the money to help them. Yet, I suspect that even if we had oodles more money, it would somehow end up going somewhere else, especially into the pockets of the already rich.

But it seems to me that there are certain moral imperatives that every society, and especially one such as ours, should honor, including that of caring for "the least among us," and that, from that starting point, the money and the means simply must be found to fulfill them with no excuses accepted for falling short of the mark.

January 25, 2011 at 7:32 AM  
Blogger Tom Armstrong said...

Thanks, Nagarjuna. And 'amen' to your accurate, well-chosen words.

January 25, 2011 at 8:26 AM  

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