Letter to the Editor

Liz Pike’s “View from the Right” on The Reflector’s April 10 opinion page is a brief brush stroke about the complex homeless situation.  Little wonder with a growing number of homeless that they appear in smaller cities like Vancouver.  Is lockup as portrayed in her opinion the magic wand which will improve the problem?  How does incarceration reduce homelessness?

The YouTube video she references pictures unsavory homeless camps and individuals acting in defiant and bizarre ways, but it is anecdotal and offers little but these revolting scenes in Seattle, without a real explanation of how Rhode Island has “solved” its problem.

Who are the homeless?  A Portland TV station aired its findings: people affected by recent job loss, bankruptcy/house foreclosures, domestic crisis, drug addiction, and mental illness.

The idea that drug addiction is the prime cause of homeless problems ignores the “chicken-egg” question. What came first: the situation or the drugs? (No room here to discuss the millions of “law abiding” American drug users.)   Yes, there are many willing drug users.

So, once arrested, what recovery do the Rhode Island criminals shown in the video enjoy?  Several individuals are interviewed, but no word on the outcome of the state’s overall affected population. Does Rhode Island have a formula which others do not?  Unlikely,  but if so, what is it?

Some of the taboo surrounding mental illness is lifting, but mental health care now typically consists of doctor-prescribed drugs which the patients must maintain after release.  Under the  Reagan regime, “big pharma”  drugs were heralded as the cure for mental illness, so many public psychiatric hospitals were closed,  leading to increased street living.  There, many homeless self-medicated leading to harmful effects.  Those with afflicted loved ones know the lifelong legacy and struggle with this issue,  even with adequate care.  The courts fear mental health issues and deal poorly with them,  partly for lack of trained professionals and available facilities.

It would be illuminating to know how Washington state’s alleged $1 billion annual expenditures have failed,  and what was achieved during the six years mentioned in Pike’s article.  Can such an amount revise the system,  or merely construct more temporary holding facilities to improve the view on the streets?

A “View from the Center” should be welcomed here.  Cadres of professionals face the issues mentioned daily.  Let’s hear some reasonable alternatives. 

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(2) comments

Polly Baker

If we truly want to begin to tackle the homeless problem, we need to acknowledge that this is a complex issue that incorporates a plethora of topics. We continue to put temporary "bandages" on the problem without focusing on a key root of the problem. We are beginning to learn more about ACEs (adverse childhood experiences such as rape, abuse, trauma, etc.) and the downstream effects these experiences have on children as they become adults; from addictions, poverty, health problems, financial challenges, etc. We need to tackle homelessness from multiple sources if we hope of creating any form of lasting change.

david clark

" Under the Reagan regime,"
Whenever I see this false accusation, I know the writer does not bother to check their facts.
1, The release of mental patients began BEFORE Regan, under Brown *if I recall)
2. The governor DOES NOT have the power to close mental hospitals, that is a legeslative function.
3. The medical profession was asking for it as they th9ought drugs were the solution.
As to the video:
1. They said most homeless were addicted. A little research shows many web site claim of around 60%. That is a massive problem that needs specific measures.

As to homelessnes that are "down on their luck", my guess is that most of those are are living with friends, or in their cars/campers NOT surrounded by garbage/needles and are little noticed.
I see 5 main categories of homeless, each requiring a different solution:
1. Drug addicts
2. Mentally ill
3. Criminals
4. Youth leaving bad homes
5. unfortunates
Several of these are readily helped, and in Portland are getting help.
The Rhode Island approach is at least trying to fix the addiction problem.

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