Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Angry? Homeless? Must be a "behavioral health" issue!

Today Lamont, one of Arise's members, was going to a city-sponsored meeting about what to do about homeless people who are banned from the Worthington St. Shelter; I'll hear what happened tomorrow, I imagine. This is becoming a very serious issue because if men are kicked out, they might be able to fit into the Taylor St. Shelter, if it isn't full and if it isn't a weekend, when Taylor St. is closed. However if women are kicked out, they have absolutely nowhere to go.

The city had framed this meeting as a discussion of homeless people with "behavioral health" problems!!

Perhaps that euphemism is meant to be kind but of course it just obscures the reality of how homeless people act toward the non-homeless and how they are judged by them, with all social context removed. Some people are banned for violence or drug and alcohol use; I suppose one might call this a behavioral health issue. Some are banned for theft, some for back-talking a staffperson, some because they are unfairly accused by another person, some because they are standing up for their rights, some because they are cursing their misfortune.

While I understand that shelters need to be safe for everyone, banning a person from shelter is a potentially life-threatening act. There has to be a better way.

I'm watching A Christmas Carol as I write this, and Marley's ghost has just appeared to Scrooge.

"But you were always a good man of business, Jacob," faltered Scrooge, who now began to apply this to himself.

"Business!" cried the Ghost, wringing its hands again. "Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence, were, all, my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!"

It held up its chain at arm's length, as if that were the cause of all its unavailing grief, and flung it heavily upon the ground again.

"At this time of the rolling year," the spectre said "I suffer most. Why did I walk through crowds of fellow-beings with my eyes turned down, and never raise them to that blessed Star which led the Wise Men to a poor abode! Were there no poor homes to which its light would have conducted me!"

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