Today, 10/10/2010, is World Homeless Day, not to be confused with 12/21/2010, which is National Homeless Person's Memorial Day. They may not have a house, but they have 2 special holidays! Apparently someone in Bribane, Australia, thought there were not enough icons floating around on facebook, so they created a one-page static website that has taken facebook by storm. They are encouraging communities to collect corrugated cardboard for recylcing, and to donate the money to local homeless shelters. The irony of this cannot be ignored, dear GingerSnaps!!
All joking aside, homelessness is a problem that Miss Ginger stares at facefirst every day of her life. Her home, in a historic neighborhood that was the edge of town at the turn of the last century, has since been surrounded by freeways and their ensuant overpasses. There is no way to enter or exit Miss G's hood without passing under a freeway, and at every underpass there is the requisite collection of bums and panhandlers. When she works in her office in the downtown store, she waits until after 7pm to arrive, so the custodians will have time to wake up the bums and wash away the urine at the entrances to the store. This is a huge problem in Houston, and Miss G sees it and thinks about it often.
There are really 2 cases of homelessness as Miss G sees it, and society only addresses part of the problem. The "best case homelessness scenario", if there was one, is the random person who is "down on their luck". With today's unfortunate economy these folks are not quite as random, which taxes the system our society has in place to help them. There are lots of ways we as a society attempt to help these folks, with varying degrees of efficiency and success. Ideally, we can provide meals and shelter when their needs are acute, and then assist in helping them "get back on their feet" through co op living arrangements, job assistance, welfare, and a host of other programs, some public, and some charitable. IF (and that's a big IF) we can get these folks directed to the correct programs, and they are able to decipher the rules and coordinate the benefits, these folks can survive their period of homelessness and maintain a position in our society, without having to beg on the streets or live under a bridge. Miss G will heartily support any charitable organization that works to help these folks through their difficult times.
The other part of the homeless population has been failed by society long before they were cast to the street to live the life of the batshit crazy. Many of the beggars on the street are schizophrenic, and really have no idea just how bad their world is. Some are driven to homelessness by their schizophrenic behavior, but Miss Ginger often wonders if others are driven to schizophrenia by their own mind as a way of coping with their situation. Miss G has thought to herself, "if I had to live like that, I would go crazy" and she thinks that exactly what happens- they "go crazy" as a way of coping. Schizoprhenics don't see things for what they are, so perhaps schizophrenia simply helps them cope with the filth, pain, fear, and general ugliness that homelessness brings.
So, society, what do we do with these people? Even professional Psychiatrists disagree on the prognosis for treating these people, but most will agree that some progress can be made IF (another big IF) the patients will accept the treatment. Hence the problem: by definition of the malady, schizophrenics have paranoid, distrusting brains. It's not that they shy away from help: they categorically avoid it, because they don't trust it and think that those trying to administer aid will harm or change them. A caregiver's only hope is to create a bond of trust, which can take months or years, and is sometimes impossible. If that bond can be established, the rehabilitation can take years, and requires almost undivided attention from the caregiver to prevent relapse. The cost of medications, plus the professional and occupational supersvision required to administer them, can run into the 10's of thousands of dollars, per patient!
And there's the quandry, dear readers. We have working people here in the US, with homes and families, who are unable to provide medications and healthcare for their families. It's a struggle for these folks to treat a family member who has a common cold, much less ones who begins to show the disturbing signs of schizophrenia. When these people begin to exhibit antisocial behavior, their family's don't say "get yourself to a doctor", they say "get the hell out of my house, you crazy bitch!" And that, dear friends, is the birth of a bag lady!
Now, I'm not preaching Obamacare as the be all end all end to homelessness- Goddess know there are countries around the world with a much more socialized medical program than Obamacare, and they still have homeless on every street corner in every city! Even if we did have an awesome national healthcare program, that covered mental health issues, and had an effective outreach program to get people to use it, we still would not have solved the issue of the 1,000's of homeless schizophrenics on our streets today.
It comes down to the almighty dollar, and where, as a society, we choose to spend it. I strongly support a system that provides healthcare for all Americans, and hope that the coverage will provide mental health in the package. Miss Ginger doesn't think for a moment that her little blog post will do much to change the homelessness problem in America, much less the world. But if one person reads it, and finds a bit more compassion for our President's best attempt to provide healthcare for all who need it, perhaps it will make a difference.
It's all connected, people- a charitable soul can work miracles they don't even know they are addressing. Search your soul, peeps- are you "paying it forward?"