cut and run, pt 2

60 Minutes featured a piece about hospitals dumping homeless people to the streets and shelters last night. While I never pass up an opportunity to see Anderson Cooper talk about anything, it did leave me a bit frustrated because this is nothing new.

We've had ongoing frustrations with medical providers for a long time and I've seen many homeless people "dumped" from medical and psychiatric facilities over the years. I've seen people with horrible wounds and medical conditions lying on shelter floors. But this time it was caught on tape, and when it's caught on tape folks are pushed into action. Everyone was apologetic and sufficiently appalled. But I refuse to believe it was the exception, that one homeless person who slipped through the cracks. I heard the comments from the guys on the streets, saying they'd seen it for years. I wish they'd given them more airtime than featuring one talking head after another. Because those cats were ready to tell it like it is.

It appeared that some shelters were now installing cameras on the outside of their facilities in order to catch others who attempt to dump folks at their door. Good idea, if that didn't mean they'd just drop them off a block away from now on. Next you'll have to post security guards on the perimeter. After that, foot patrols. I wonder how many beds these additional expenses could have paid for instead?

Don't get me wrong; I have sympathy for the hospitals. Their mission is not to provide housing. So we can point fingers and blame them all we want (as the link above will attest my doing so firsthand) but the real issue is affordable housing. And we let our community leaders off the hook by blaming another spoke in a broken wheel. If we don't want hospitals (and shelters) pushed to desperate measures we should prioritize adequate discharge planning which should include the services necessary to assist in obtaining stable housing.

But is there political will for that? Sometimes the problem seems so overwhelming that there are no solutions. And yet each day or month or year we spend debating and philosophizing, people get sicker. Every day we ignore our housing crisis, people's lives are in jeopardy. But sometimes it's easier to talk and point instead of getting on our knees and getting our hands dirty. It's like that with a lot of social crises; the throwing of hands in the air. The feelings of helplessness. Of hoping that "they" will come up with a solution soon. But you can only dig a hole so deep and still be able to crawl back out.