Monday, May 21, 2007

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.

25 comments:

thailandchani said...

Wait until you read the details of the governor's proposed new budget. You think it's bad now? If that passes, this state will become like Calcutta.


Peace,

~Ch

Jenn said...

It can get overwhelming; looking at the big picture that seems to get worse and worse--that's why I told myself that each day, I'd try to change the lives of someone in some small way--it helps the world seem like a more livable place.

Christine said...

The compassion you express in this post is wonderful. So many people turn of the tv and shake their heads. "What a shame," they say before forgetting it all and moving on. But, like you said, we have to get our hands dirty to make a change. Maybe the show last night will encourage people out there to do so.

Mr. Beer N. Hockey said...

Culturally we have come to see segments of our society as human trash. It goes back a long way. Thing is: there is lots more trash about now. It is getting underfoot. We are tripping over it.

The cause of the increase in human trash is rampant human acquisitiveness. Every new race car in the drive equals a few more people we must either avert our eyes from or gawk at on the street, in the woods and on the tv.

Our society is plenty rich enough to take care of itself if we were a sharing bunch. We aren't.

I encounter the homeless often. They are just as crazy and drug addicted as the rest of us - just a little more hungry and little more tired from sleeping less comfortably than most of us will in our grave.

Deezee said...

Just curious, do you know how other countries have handled/avoided the homeless issue? Are there models the U.S. could follow to make it seem less hopeless?

QT said...

The focus in this country isn't about looking back to see who has been left behind. It is about getting to that finish line first.

I don't know how to change that when it is a message that permeates all media.

Even more frustrating is when someone comes up with a decent idea and then there is the fight over which way is the RIGHT way.

Julie Pippert said...

Oh gosh...Jen. Thank goodness for people like you, but what's the answer, how do we fix this? How do we do better.

I need to upload an Alan Shore cosing argument. They just discussed this.

slouching mom said...

It's just overwhelmingly depressing.

And as an aside, if you like Anderson Cooper, you might also like to know that he and I were classmates from kindergarten through seventh grade...

Beck said...

I don't know what the solution is. I just do not. I live someplace where this isn't an issue at all - although there are other serious problems, believe me - but then it feels condescending and smug for me to say anything because I do not KNOW, you know what I mean? It just makes me feel so sad.

kristen said...

There is a real opportunity to provide the housing necessary, but everyone turns a cheek and hopes, as you said, that 'they' will take care of it.
I don't really sympathesize with the hospitals because they turn people out (not just the homeless) all the time, before they're ready to go, before they've healed enough to be released. I can only imagine how little care goes into those that have no where to go.

Tabba said...

Jen - I just don't even know what to say. I remember growing up in the 80's and this being such a big issue. What happened?
And it may be that my view is a little skewed, because we just don't see homelessness here in my state. Not often. And I don't know if we're better at "hiding" it.
Is is the size of CA or is there something else going on in CA that I'm just unaware of.
I know the problem isn't just limited to that state.

Esereth said...

Anderson Cooper is a beautiful beautiful pixie.

Are you advocating that homeless people get free, permanent housing? How would that work? How would it not become a horrible ghetto?

Lucia said...

As soon as I saw the advert for this story, I thought of you. It seems that not so very long ago, you blogged about an incident like these.

Will there be a day where the majority of people start looking out beyond themselves, their families, and the people they know, and start to build a better society at large?

Oh, The Joys said...

I wish 60 minutes would spend another 60 minutes on what can be done. So much pointing of fingers, so much TALKING, so little thought to making things right.

Anonymous said...

Jen, you do what so many others don't...instead of just pointing a finger, you lend a hand...with your career, your words, your blog and your heart.

It may not seem enough...but it is...

Lil
*hug*

KC said...

Whatever you want to do. I'm behind you.

carrie said...

And this gets me thinking about how every time I've visited the ER, it is FULL of people who cannot afford to visit the doctor during the day, at a clinic, like they SHOULD be able to do. Brett (my husband) sees a lot of this when he rides with paramedics too, and I was shocked when he first told me about it.

What is wrong with our country? It is dispicable.

Carrie

urban-urchin said...

I wonder like deezee if there are other countries we could model in this instance? I don't know enough about policy worldwide (or even within the US to my shame) to know who we should be looking at.

flutter said...

Oh, Jen.

lildb said...

there aren't words.

how do you do it, day in, day out, Jen?

how?

Orangeblossoms said...

I concur with thailandchani that the state budget proposal needs serious vetting by people who understand and care about the homeless/mentally ill/medically indigent.... I think we have to seriously consider what it means to put our 'money where our mouths are' around these things. The cost to the state when there is poor discharge planning, when community access teams are inaccessable, when people don't have the proper resources to take care of themselves-- is so much more enormous than if we just had a better system for care in the first place!

ewe are here said...

I understand that Kaiser just settled a patient dumping case with the state...part of the settlement (I believe) included a large contribution to a charitable organization that focuses on shelters/housing.

I would have liked to have seen the special; miss Anderson Cooper over here.

hel said...

I get so angry!

But I agree the biggest part of the problem is "But sometimes it's easier to talk and point instead of getting on our knees and getting our hands dirty."

I will try talk less and do more.

Mad Hatter said...

Yes and the baby boomers are getting older which will mean a spike in this kind of need.

Mrs. Chicken said...

We saw this, too, and I thought of you and your recent experience. I was yelling at the TV when all those yahoos were talking about how this never happens.

Ya, right.

At least maybe it will get "ordinary" people at home angry. Maybe one of them might try to help.