Homeless in DC

 

The new tent city. The Veterans Administration building is in the background.

Like all American cities, Washington DC has a homelessness problem and, like most cities, handles it badly.  An apparently permanent tent city at McPherson Square has been growing in size. Someone (the city?) has provided a portable toilet at one end of the block but there is no running water and local businesses do not welcome non-customer use of bathrooms. These conditions and this density would be regarded as unacceptable in any state or federal park campground.

It is not as if DC (or the feds) are powerless to clear out the park.  Attempts of the homeless to camp out in Lafayette Square (one block away) are quickly suppressed, presumably to preserve the White House vista for tourists and not embarrass the USA with photos of the White House in the background of a makeshift hovel.

It is not clear who provided all the tents.  Are there property rights involved in the issuance?  Some evolving communal code?  City employees and contractors (and employees of some local businesses and real estate interests) routinely tend the flower beds and remove trash (lots of it).

Is there a solution?  How much should a solution involve sanctions of one kind or another? Is there a useful carrot or a stick that can be fairly applied?  Is surrender to the pathology and issuance of more tents the answer?

I am not optimistic. Urban politics is hopelessly stupid and corrupt. And history is full of failed, mostly punitive measures.

The British Experience. In Britain at the close of the Middle Ages, there was a problem of unemployed people from rural areas drifting into the cities and towns to look for ways to make a living.  Begging and property crime were constant problems.  Under Henry VIII begging licenses were issued only to the truly disabled.  Anybody else panhandling could be imprisoned or executed.

There was also a practice known as “passing” in which a vagrant would be shipped out of town through other jurisdictions until he arrived at his home parish. The moral basis for this was that it was unfair for other communities to have to feed, employ, and house the vagrant because his own community of origin held that obligation. However, the amount of money spent by Parliament on transport for “passing” vagrants became prohibitively expensive around the same time the British got the bright idea to send vagrants and petty property criminals to the colonies as indentured servants.  But then the American Revolution took away one of the main dumping grounds.

Vagrancy continued to be treated as a crime and recognized as a source of other criminal activity. The Penitentiary Reform Act of 1779 in the UK made prison more of an option. Long sentences in local jails had always been impractical—diet and hygiene issues would kill inmates in a short time anyway and the dozens (hundreds?) of listed crimes that could incur the death penalty did not require prison time.  (Hanging for property crimes was far more common per capita in the southern, wealthier parts of Britain.  Maybe there was less to steal in the north and in Scotland, Ireland, and Wales—or maybe they were better at getting away with it.)

In 1787, there began the first transport of unfortunates to Australia.  Oddly enough, the departure of 150,000 to 200,000 petty criminals did not make a dent in the rates of property crime or vagrancy.  By the 1860s, Australians objected to receiving undesirables, and the practice ended in 1868.

Today, the UK has an estimated 210,000 homeless which (per capita) is worse than the US. So, the problem of vagrancy, disconnectedness, and homelessness remains unsolved despite centuries of policy experience in that country.

Vagrancy in the USA. Vagrancy laws in the USA were voided by Papachristou v. City of Jacksonville, 405 U.S. 156 (1972) as “constitutionally vague” and thus subject to abuse.  The rather colorful local statute that SCOTUS voided read as follows:

Rogues and vagabonds, or dissolute persons who go about begging, common gamblers, persons who use juggling or unlawful games or plays, common drunkards, common night walkers, thieves, pilferers or pickpockets, traders in stolen property, lewd, wanton and lascivious persons, keepers of gambling places, common railers and brawlers, persons wandering or strolling around from place to place without any lawful purpose or object, habitual loafers, disorderly persons, persons neglecting all lawful business and habitually spending their time by frequenting houses of ill fame, gaming houses, or places where alcoholic beverages are sold or served, persons able to work but habitually living upon the earnings of their wives or minor children shall be deemed vagrants and, upon conviction in the Municipal Court shall be punished as provided for Class D offenses. [up to 90 days and $500 fine].

The fact that the arrest that became the subject of the case involved two white women in a car with two black men in northern Florida made it highly likely that the law was being used for other purposes and highlighted the potential for abuse.

Encampment in front of ACLU HQ.

On the positive side of subjective vagrancy law enforcement, in the old days (pre-Papachristou) whenever the forecast called for very cold nights, the DC police used to routinely arrest those sleeping on grates and in alleys on a nominal vagrancy charge, keep them in a heated prison cell overnight and let them go in the morning.  Years ago, an old retired cop said to me that “the ACLU forced us to let them freeze to death.”

Do we need a new stick, new sanctions? We really don’t want to imprison the poor nor ship them to outer colonies once Musk and Bezos establish them.  And as for passing, the parish of origin is usually the projects or some other poverty center within the same urban community.

Drugs, family dissolution, and/or mental illness are most often root causes of chronic homelessness. The listless, depressed people in McPherson Square have clearly lost some important personal battles.  Helping them remain in that condition by issuing tents seems vaguely cruel.  But should we force people to be rescued, to be housed, and forced into mentally and physically healthy routines by means of legal sanctions?  The latter seems like a slippery slope with respect to personal freedom but what is the alternative?

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  1. Hoyacon Member
    Hoyacon
    @Hoyacon

    I walked through McPherson Square daily on my way to work for several years.  It’s been over ten years since it was ruined by Occupy DC, an off shoot of the never-lamented Occupy Wall Street.  I recall that restoring the park cost a lot of money, but could not find a number since the costs of that fiasco have been memory-holed.  How soon we forget.

    • #1
  2. Bishop Wash Member
    Bishop Wash
    @BishopWash

    I was recently in the DC area for work. The last day turned out to be a half-day so I took the Metro to the Archives stop to grab Qdoba (we only have the inferior Chipotle at home) and walked a loop out to the White House, Lincoln Memorial, Jefferson Memorial, down the Mall to the Capitol, and back to the same Metro stop. I was surprised to see very few tents and took a picture of one I did because it was rare. I figured someone was doing a good job to keep them away from tourist spots.

    Checking a map, I see that I wasn’t too far from McPherson Square. I walked down E street to the White House and stayed on the south side before continuing on to the Lincoln Memorial.

    • #2
  3. Old Bathos Moderator
    Old Bathos
    @OldBathos

    Bishop Wash (View Comment):

    I was recently in the DC area for work. The last day turned out to be a half-day so I took the Metro to the Archives stop to grab Qdoba (we only have the inferior Chipotle at home) and walked a loop out to the White House, Lincoln Memorial, Jefferson Memorial, down the Mall to the Capitol, and back to the same Metro stop. I was surprised to see very few tents and took a picture of one I did because it was rare. I figured someone was doing a good job to keep them away from tourist spots.

    Checking a map, I see that I wasn’t too far from McPherson Square. I walked down E street to the White House and stayed on the south side before continuing on to the Lincoln Memorial.

    The National Park Service doesn’t allow squatting on any of the major monument grounds.  In theory, it is expressly illegal to camp in any DC public park but enforcement is weirdly selective.

    • #3
  4. Gossamer Cat Coolidge
    Gossamer Cat
    @GossamerCat

    I believe that all but the most seriously mentally ill can be asked to do something-they can be given basic rules.  The fact that they all pack up and leave when they have to shows that.  We have littering laws.  Homeless trash litters canyons, parks, streets, alleyways and I am sick to death of it.  It is disgusting.  If I threw away a paper cup and someone saw me, I’d be fined $50, yet heaps of trash can be left anywhere?  

    I favor enforcing the litter laws (penalty?  pick up trash) and rewriting the vagrancy laws to make it illegal to sleep on the streets or in parks overnight.  We enforce bans on overnight parking, we can’t remain in state park parking lots after hours, our beaches ban camping except in designated areas.  I suspect if I challenged these regulations, I would lose.  So there are laws that can be enforced.

    As you say, it is cruel to allow people to live like this.  But where is equal protection when I have to follow rules or there are consequences and others don’t?  That’s not compassion.  Requiring nothing of people gets you our current homeless problem. 

    • #4
  5. Old Bathos Moderator
    Old Bathos
    @OldBathos

    Hoyacon (View Comment):

    I walked through McPherson Square daily on my way to work for several years. It’s been over ten years since it was ruined by Occupy DC, an off shoot of the never-lamented Occupy Wall Street. I recall that restoring the park cost a lot of money, but could not find a number since the costs of that fiasco have been memory-holed. How soon we forget.

    The Floyd rioting damaged a lot of the area around the square and there were tons of detritus left over.  But as that was cleaned up, it looked (briefly) like the square might be restored to a pleasant, well-maintained open space.

    Farragut Square is also tent-free.  That is a tribute to the clout of the “Golden Triangle” real estate moguls who own the office buildings near that park.  So enforcement is possible.

    • #5
  6. The Cynthonian Member
    The Cynthonian
    @TheCynthonian

    Seattle has long experience with this problem.   Years ago, it was minor and confined to poorer areas.   In the last decade or so, it has dramatically expanded, aided and abetted by a considerable “Homeless, Inc.” supposedly non-profit grift sector, and a guilt-ridden upper class population who keep electing politicians  in their mold.   Parks, schools, libraries, public sidewalks have all been rendered off—limits to the taxpayers who  fund them, due to tents, filth, discarded needles, and the threat of being attacked, mugged, or worse.

    According to the local organizations that actually try to help the homeless population (primarily religious), the only strategy that works starts with firm enforcement of no-camping, no-littering statutes.  The drug-addicted population generally has to hit bottom, so they need to be offered jail or treatment alternatives.    The treatment doesn’t work, or may only work after multiple attempts, with some, but every addict who is able to break away from addiction is a victory.   The mentally ill, many of whom have baked their brains on drugs, are a much tougher problem.  Our mental health “system” is overwhelmed and poorly funded, and it’s extremely hard to get care that way.  On top of that, in many (most?) states it’s difficult to get someone who clearly can’t care for themselves involuntarily committed.

    All of this assumes a population that supports the police and understands that misplaced compassion is actively harming these people.  We don’t have those in our major cities any more.

    • #6
  7. MarciN Member
    MarciN
    @MarciN

    No one here is going to agree with my opinion on this, but here I go anyway. :) We have an affordable housing crisis in this country. I am optimistic seeing this homelessness happen in Washington, DC, since so many policies that have caused this problem have emanated from there. :-) The federal government has a monopoly on undeveloped-land ownership that is crazy and unjustified. It has squeezed everyone into ever shrinking spaces.

    Today we see crowds of homeless people, and we dismiss them as a bunch of people whose problems no one can solve. That’s a tragedy. If we could fix the affordable housing problem by building more housing, building more towns across the country along our nation’s major highway systems, we could make a dent in it (if we also put in some immigration controls as well for a while–I like the ten-year moratorium idea).

    I read a great book on real estate development years ago that really opened my eyes on this problem. This book was written for CEOs of the big real estate developers. The author discussed in some depth the history of growth in our country. Going from 120 million to 220 million was pretty smooth. We need to recapture that spirit of “We have a lot of land so let’s build some new towns.”

    People would be very surprised at how people “rise to the occasion” when they are in a small group setting (an American small town) and they are needed.

    I’m not suggesting that a plan for growth would solve all our homelessness problem. But it would reduce it to a manageable level. It would enable us to finally see individuals rather than crowds and mobs.

    No one knows all this better than Donald Trump. It was the one thing I prayed would come out of his administration. How I would love to turn over to him this problem of creating a plan for growth.

    Cape Cod went through a growth spurt when I first moved here in the late eighties and early nineties. We’re still working on housing, but we have a plan. And that has secondarily helped reduce our homelessness problem considerably. Like all seasonal resort areas, we attract a lot unskilled workers who come for a summer job and end up staying. We work hard on prevention.

    We need lots and lots of housing of all kinds–not big FDR style dormitories that create crime and addiction and mental illness but rather, small two-, three-, to six-family homes.

    It is clear to me that the pup tent solution has gotten everyone off the hook. If we had responded with love and respect and concern, that would not have been a solution we would have considered.

    I wrote all that out, knowing that it is truly a minority opinion. I’ve tried to say this before on Ricochet, but it seems to just infuriate people they so strongly disagree with it. Oh, well. :-)

    • #7
  8. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    MarciN (View Comment):
    I’m not suggesting that a plan for growth would solve all our homelessness problem. But it would reduce it to a manageable level. It would enable us to finally see individuals rather than crowds and mobs. 

    I’m not knowledgeable enough to judge your response, Marci. My biggest question would be how to get people employed so they can pay rent and buy food. It sounds like some people have figured this out.

    MarciN (View Comment):
    People would be very surprised at how people “rise to the occasion” when they are in a small group setting (an American small town) and they are needed. 

    It would be interesting to know more about this. Thanks.

    • #8
  9. Gossamer Cat Coolidge
    Gossamer Cat
    @GossamerCat

    MarciN (View Comment):

    We need lots and lots of housing of all kinds–not big FDR style dormitories that create crime and addiction and mental illness but rather, small two-, three-, to six-family homes. 

    It is clear to me that the pup tent solution has got everyone off the hook. If we had responded with love and respect and concern, that would not have been a solution we would have considered. 

    I wrote all that out, knowing that it is truly a minority opinion. I’ve tried to say this before on Ricochet, but it seems to just infuriate people they so strongly disagree with it. Oh, well. :-)  

    I don’t disagree although I think the ones that can be helped by offering stable housing are already being helped.  But I do think that homeownership can help stabilize families and communities and that some Levitown-like solutions – affordable single family starter  homes – should be pursued.  I am hoping the 3D printing of houses might make that a reality. 

    • #9
  10. MarciN Member
    MarciN
    @MarciN

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    MarciN (View Comment):
    I’m not suggesting that a plan for growth would solve all our homelessness problem. But it would reduce it to a manageable level. It would enable us to finally see individuals rather than crowds and mobs.

    I’m not knowledgeable enough to judge your response, Marci. My biggest question would be how to get people employed so they can pay rent and buy food. It sounds like some people have figured this out.

    MarciN (View Comment):
    People would be very surprised at how people “rise to the occasion” when they are in a small group setting (an American small town) and they are needed.

    It would be interesting to know more about this. Thanks.

    Orlando and Disney have the same problem Cape Cod has: the job pay has to be enough to support the person in housing, health care, and food. Something has to give: either the wages have to go up or the housing has to come down. 

    Disney has come up with some brilliant solutions that should be adopted nationwide. 

    • #10
  11. Old Bathos Moderator
    Old Bathos
    @OldBathos

    MarciN (View Comment):
    No one here is going to agree with my opinion on this, but here I go anyway. We have an affordable housing crisis in this country. I am optimistic seeing this homelessness happen in Washington, DC, since so many policies that have caused this problem have emanated from there. :-) The federal government has created a monopoly on land ownership that is crazy and unjustified. It has squeezed everyone into ever shrinking spaces. 

    A shortage of affordable housing should mean more people moving in with relatives and basements being sublet.  Being homeless and on the streets is evidence of a lack of “affiliative bonds”.  If I were to collapse mentally and emotionally and become unemployed next week, I have a network of family and friends who would provide support and a bed.

    I agree that there is an affordable housing problem and that the market is somehow constricted from effectively addressing it.  But that is not why those folks are in tents.  Rents could drop 25% tomorrow and a ton of new units come on line and those folks would still be there.

    • #11
  12. MarciN Member
    MarciN
    @MarciN

    Old Bathos (View Comment):

    MarciN (View Comment):
    No one here is going to agree with my opinion on this, but here I go anyway. We have an affordable housing crisis in this country. I am optimistic seeing this homelessness happen in Washington, DC, since so many policies that have caused this problem have emanated from there. :-) The federal government has created a monopoly on land ownership that is crazy and unjustified. It has squeezed everyone into ever shrinking spaces.

    A shortage of affordable housing should mean more people moving in with relatives and basements being sublet. Being homeless and on the streets is evidence of a lack of “affiliative bonds”. If I were to collapse mentally and emotionally and become unemployed next week, I have a network of family and friends who would provide support and a bed.

    I agree that there is an affordable housing problem and that the market is somehow constricted from effectively addressing it. But that is not why those folks are in tents. Rents could drop 25% tomorrow and a ton of new units come on line and those folks would still be there.

    Your first paragraph: True, but only if those relatives knew they could help you find a place to live. And you have nice relatives and friends, and you are easy to be around. No personality issues. Homelessness is not always caused by a serious mental illness-at least it doesn’t start out that way. Usually it’s a difficult-personality disorder, which can be addressed with behavioral therapy.

    And if friends and relatives they think they can’t move you out in a short time because there’s no ladder of housing options ($200 a month, $300 a month, $400 a month, and so on), they might not, not for long anyway. The old “rooming houses” don’t exist anymore.

    I do agree with your first point. There was an interesting survey done in the Pine Street Inn in Boston twenty years ago, and the researchers found that 97 percent of the residents had never even asked for help. Pride is a really big deal for people. People hate asking for help–that’s true even of the most mentally ill and drug-addicted people. That population is not always unreachable. They have good moments–all of them do. But that pride problem in asking for help is huge.

    I’ve seen small cities tackle this with good results, and they’ve come up with good outpatient care programs for the problems the homeless people have. We have to chip away at the problems, little by little.

    • #12
  13. Charlotte Member
    Charlotte
    @Charlotte

    Old Bathos: Rogues and vagabonds, or dissolute persons who go about begging, common gamblers, persons who use juggling or unlawful games or plays, common drunkards, common night walkers, thieves, pilferers or pickpockets, traders in stolen property, lewd, wanton and lascivious persons, keepers of gambling places, common railers and brawlers, persons wandering or strolling around from place to place without any lawful purpose or object, habitual loafers, disorderly persons, persons neglecting all lawful business and habitually spending their time by frequenting houses of ill fame, gaming houses, or places where alcoholic beverages are sold or served, persons able to work but habitually living upon the earnings of their wives or minor children shall be deemed vagrants and, upon conviction in the Municipal Court shall be punished as provided for Class D offenses.

    I love this so much. They don’t write laws like this anymore!

    • #13
  14. Charlotte Member
    Charlotte
    @Charlotte

    Gossamer Cat (View Comment):
    I favor enforcing the litter laws (penalty?  pick up trash)

    Oh! If only! Litter makes me absolutely crazy.

    • #14
  15. Buckpasser Member
    Buckpasser
    @Buckpasser

    Homelessness is not a lack of affordable homes.

     

    And peace is not just the absence of war.

    • #15
  16. MarciN Member
    MarciN
    @MarciN

    Buckpasser (View Comment):

    Homelessness is not a lack of affordable homes.

    And peace is not just the absence of war.

    Perhaps if you don’t believe me, you might believe my housing hero Donald Trump:   :-)

    President Trump’s big idea for fixing California’s homelessness crisis should look familiar to many prominent Democrats: Eliminate layers of regulation to make it easier and cheaper to build more housing.

    On the eve of a two-day swing through the state this week, Trump’s Council of Economic Advisors released a report blaming “decades of misguided and faulty policies” for putting too many restrictions on development and causing home prices to rise to unaffordable levels. It’s a continuation of a strategy that the president began in June, when he signed an executive order to establish a White House council to “confront the regulatory barriers to affordable housing development.”

    “Harmful local government policies in select cities, along with ineffective federal government policies of prior administrations, have exaggerated the homelessness problem,” Tom Philipson, acting chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors, told reporters Monday.

    Although the administration’s argument broadly mirrors what some Democratic lawmakers have been trying to do in California — easing rules on development, allowing fourplexes on land currently zoned for single-family homes or cutting some state environmental rules that restrict building — it’s too simple to link Trump’s approach with that of his liberal antagonists, several state lawmakers said.

    Instead, they said, the president’s positions on homelessness are more about trolling California than attempting to find actual solutions. Some also argue that the administration’s report takes a common Republican tactic — deregulation — that often benefits the party’s deep-pocketed donors and slaps it on yet another subject — homelessness.

    The rest of the article is the same–Donald Trump couldn’t possibly know what he’s talking about. :-)

    If you talked to social workers in Massachusetts about trying to find an apartment for a low-income person, they would tell you they don’t have any. They have some resources for families that they don’t have for single people, but the affordable housing supply is bleak here.

    On Cape Cod where I live, real estate has soared in value in the last two years, and we are consequently approaching a nineties-era crisis where our employees are living in their cars again.

    Housing won’t help all of the homeless, but it will help many. It is one important piece in the home-transportation-work-social life equation.

    We need to work really hard on prevention. There are moments in people’s lives when we know they are at risk for homelessness: leaving or even graduating from high school or college, divorce, aging out of foster care, and so on. We need to intercede. It’s easier to help people at those points than it is after homelessness has become a way of life.

    And we need thousands of assisted-living units for mentally ill people.

    • #16
  17. Jim McConnell Member
    Jim McConnell
    @JimMcConnell

    I think about 50% of the “street people” problem came about because of the “compassionate” national program that started in the early 1970s to de-institutionalizing the mentally ill. Instead of being provided with food and shelter, those who didn’t have family support networks were essentially kicked out onto the streets.

    Drug abusers and those suffering from complex financial woes are wholly different problems, of course.

    • #17
  18. RushBabe49 Thatcher
    RushBabe49
    @RushBabe49

    A large percentage of “homeless” are vagrants who prefer living on the streets with no rules to living in any kind of shelter with lots of rules.  As long as they can  earn money by begging (lots of people give them money), selling drugs and guns (Seattle has a huge problem with this kind of commerce in most homeless camps), and theft, those vagrants will remain on the streets.  Seattle is so short of law-enforcement officers, the homeless are the least of their worries, except when they are assaulting people on the street, which they do quite often.  King County Judges themselves have been assaulted near the courthouse, yet they still release many homeless offenders after multiple crimes.  The rot starts at the top.

    • #18
  19. kedavis Coolidge
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    In the olden days, new towns would spring up on their own, at major crossroads etc.  But now, everyone expects to have fiber-optic internet from Day One etc, which is one reason that kind of thing doesn’t happen any more.

    But it could again, if people put their minds to it.

    • #19
  20. Front Seat Cat Member
    Front Seat Cat
    @FrontSeatCat

    This is a sorry state of failed politics and failure on other levels. Our new neighbors sold their house in the Bay Area of CA. They said it was very very bad – tent cities, filthy, crime, homelessness. They said they sold a “hut” and had 17 offers……It’s going to get worse, with inflation, the cost of housing and rent through the roofs (no pun intended). City and state leadership are leaving the down and out to squander in their own mess, even handing out needles and providing a toilet as you said.

    Then they are trying to eliminate law enforcement.  This is a recipe for third world conditions – and it never used to be that way.  These politicians running these “encampments” should be made to go live amongst them for a month and try to survive.  Painting Black Lives Matter on the sidewalk is a slap in the face because to them no lives matter.

    • #20
  21. Old Bathos Moderator
    Old Bathos
    @OldBathos

    Jim McConnell (View Comment):

    I think about 50% of the “street people” problem came about because of the “compassionate” national program that started in the early 1970s to de-institutionalizing the mentally ill. Instead of being provided with food and shelter, those who didn’t have family support networks were essentially kicked out onto the streets.

    Drug abusers and those suffering from complex financial woes are wholly different problems, of course.

    In the 1970s, Thomas Szaz was all the rage in some circles.  One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest was released in 1975.   The fact that commitment could be abused (your spouse and a shrink have an affair and supposedly have you committed in a blink) or psychiatric commitment based on extreme non-conformity, all analogous to Soviet abuses etc.  The pendulum swung one way and got stuck and nutballs have been wandering the streets ever since.

    To make things worse, since that earlier era, we added crack, oxycontin, and crystal meth to the list of more traditional addictions that we were already not treating and handling particularly well. 

    AA methods are reasonably good at dealing with alcoholism, not as good with most narcotics, and seemingly almost useless against oxycontin addiction.  (A shrink acquaintance said it took his profession decades to catch up to the reality that AA could be effective.  “We were still having drunks lay on the couch and talk about mommy issues and toilet training while AA was actually getting people sober.”)  

    The scary reality is that a lot of people should not be out on the street but we don’t really have a fix or a cure for most of them in institutional settings either.  And we may be generating more damaged, disconnected people.

    • #21
  22. MarciN Member
    MarciN
    @MarciN

    Old Bathos (View Comment):
    The scary reality is that a lot of people should not be out on the street but we don’t really have a fix or a cure for most of them in institutional settings either.  And we may be generating more damaged, disconnected people.

    This is where housing–including assisted-living units–for mentally ill people comes in to the picture: there’s nowhere for social workers or judges to put these people. So they walk on by.

    Deinstitutionalization was helped along by the discovery of Haldol and its antipsychotic progeny. :-) That’s what made community care feasible for the noncriminal mentally ill. Legally, deinstitutionalization had to happen. Most of the mental hospitals were overcrowded and horrible places. And the patients had not committed any crimes. It’s not a crime to be sick. We had no right to lock them up against their will.

    If anyone is to blame for the plight of the mentally ill today, I’m afraid it’s the cities and towns and states. They never created the community care housing and medical care that were needed.

    They did some but nowhere near enough.

    • #22
  23. Old Bathos Moderator
    Old Bathos
    @OldBathos

    MarciN (View Comment):

    Old Bathos (View Comment):
    The scary reality is that a lot of people should not be out on the street but we don’t really have a fix or a cure for most of them in institutional settings either. And we may be generating more damaged, disconnected people.

    This is where housing–including assisted-living units–for mentally ill people comes in to the picture: there’s nowhere for social workers or judges to put these people. So they walk on by.

    Deinstitutionalization was helped along by the discovery of Haldol and its antipsychotic progeny. :-) That’s what made community care feasible for the noncriminal mentally ill. Legally, deinstitutionalization had to happen. Most of the mental hospitals were overcrowded and horrible places. And the patients had not committed any crimes. It’s not a crime to be sick. We had no right to lock them up against their will.

    If anyone is to blame for the plight of the mentally ill today, I’m afraid it’s the cities and towns and states. They never created the community care housing and medical care that were needed.

    They did some but nowhere near enough.

    Except that there are perverse incentives at work. Connecticut offered better welfare benefits than NY and was surprised that there was actually a move of dependent persons. A town with great mental health support would be rewarded with an influx of nutballs?

    • #23
  24. kedavis Coolidge
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    I expect that wider community programs require more people to be running them, in all areas including home care, nursing, whatever.  That gets to be a lot more expensive too.  And, as previously noted by others, what happens if the better the situation you offer, the more people you have showing up to “need” it?

     

    • #24
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