I was eighteen years old the first time a man kissed me.
Later, we learned she was actually struggling with mental illness. This came not long after another year-old, this one a man who heard voices and thought people were out to hurt him, walked into the Washington Navy Yard and gunned down 12 people.
It is getting crazy out there, and these two people were not even dealing with the added pressure of living on the streets. For those of us who encounter people experiencing homelessness on a daily basis, this is not surprising. We see that man walking down the sidewalk angrily screaming at an imaginary person, haunted by some phantom or past memory, every day.
We also see people steering their children across the street to get away from the potential danger. It is just another crazy part of our urban lifestyle.
But when I see people like this, my first thought is always the same: He certainly is not living a dignified life out here on the streets. When I ask my mental health colleagues about this, the one political figure that typically comes up is former President Ronald Reagan.
People say the reason so many people with mental illness are homeless or in jail—one-third of all homeless individuals and half of all people behind bars —is because of President Reagan.
What did he do? Let all of the mentally ill patients loose? Over 30 years ago, when Reagan was elected President inhe discarded a law proposed by his predecessor that would have continued funding federal community mental health centers.
This basically eliminated services for people struggling with mental illness. This started a national trend of de-institutionalization.
In other words, if you are struggling with mental illness, we can only help you if you ask for it.
There certainly seems to be a correlation between the de-institutionalization of mental health patients in the s and early s and the significant number of homelessness agencies created in the mid-to-late s. PATH itself was founded in in response to the significant increase in homelessness in Los Angeles.
Where has Hinckley been for the last 30 years? In a psychiatric hospital. It makes me wonder just how many people living on the streets today would also be safer and better cared for in an institutional setting.By Lt Daniel Furseth.
Today, I stopped caring about my fellow man. I stopped caring about my community, my neighbors, and those I serve. I stopped caring today because a once noble profession has become despised, hated, distrusted, and mostly unwanted.
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