Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Safe Harbor

According to this article in the Express-Times, Easton, and its community, is going to really struggle to try and keep this shelter running. CACLV will no longer run the shelter or provide assistance. As was evident last year at our church, the homeless population is growing. We have mental health programs being cut which in turn serves less people or stretches the services so much that they become ineffective. That is why so many people are chronically homeless.

In the not to distant past, severely disabled mental health patients, like the psychotics, were cared for in log-term facilities like State Hospitals. Now they are assimilated into community programs that are not capable of handling them. The times that these people get into a really bad mental state, we can get them some temporary assistance via a mental health commitment, but that usually only lasts 48 hours. More and more get kicked out of the programs that aren't capable of handling them. Thus they become homeless.

I agree, to a certain extent, with Alan Jennings as stated in the article, about the steps that is needed to keep Safe Harbor Viable,  “The good people of Easton, in order to make a difference in the lives of people who need help, need to make sure there’s substantive programs that allows people to solve their problem, not give them a place to postpone dealing with them,” Jennings said. 
But we need to work on the causes just as much as the effects of homelessness. People are homeless, remain homeless, and will not abide by programs because of the lack of oversight on the mental health issues they are dealing with. I am not saying that the people that work in this field are incompetent, just incapable of handling all of the issues that they are dealt. A systematic approach to continual care is just not possible in this environment. If I was schizophrenic, I would probably be homeless.

We, as a society, need to address this issue. We need to take care of our sick, including the ones with mental health issues. We also need to support more programs that help the homeless. Now, like the deficit cutting plans, is the wrong time to pull back. These problems will get worse before they get better.

Contemplate this scenario. If I had severe mental health issues and became homeless, the way the system is set up, I would probably be seen in the Emergency Room of a hospital on a regular basis. I would probably also become dependent on alcohol or other drugs that aren't of the prescription variety. It would cost thousands upon thousand of dollars per year just to maintain me in the homeless environment. Statistics estimate that, in about a 10 year time frame, to maintain my status quo on the streets, with addressing my addictions, mental health issues, and other ailments related to untreated health concerns from being homeless, it could cost the public about $1 million in medical bills.

Wouldn't we be able to at least half or quarter that cost by treating the illness instead of  treating just the symptoms and bandaging me up & sending me back out on the streets? Don't believe me? Read this article from Malcolm Gladwell that provides a Reno Nevada case study.

In the short-term, we all need to look at supporting Safe Harbor. They are a stop-gap for the homeless issues in the region, not just Easton. Not a church going folk at one of the churches mentioned in the article? You can still contribute to support this mission. Work with your church to support this agency. Or contact the shelter directly @ (610) 258-5540 to help.

2 comments:

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