Another Dispatch from the Streets of Houston

Categories: Spaced City

We just received another missive from Satch, our man on the streets. You can read his words below. -- Keith Plocek

The homeless are getting restless! In fact they are REVOLTING (man, ain't that the truth!) and something needs to be done.

There are no quick or easy solutions. Houston's community of homeless service facilities are woefully inadequate simply because of the magnitude of the issues. The number of homeless on the streets of Houston surpass the available beds in area shelters by a factor of ten to one. Sadly, even if the shelters had the beds available, the core of the problems which brought so many people into such desperate circumstances remains.

Many of the homeless are addicted to assorted and sundry drugs, are chronic alcoholics, suffer from a wide variety of mental disorders, and are generally just plain dysfunctional. It follows that, in the best of circumstances, they are not good employment prospects. A good number of the homeless are, however, both willing and able to go to work, and the stereotypical perception of them is way off the mark.

Those who can and will work should be given the opportunity and be afforded every opportunity to maintain their personal hygiene and access to sanitary facilities. Unless and until they can clean themselves and their clothes, even those those willing and able to work will remain unemployed and the longer they remain unemployed, the deeper the homeless mindset manifest itself... until they, too, accept their condition as a way of life.

Yes, the problem is huge. Gathering the homeless and buying them tickets somewhere else will work only briefly. They, or others just like them, will drift in from other places and we'll be right back where we started. We need a coordinated and intensive effort by existing agencies with staff in place to deal with the core issues leading to homelessness.

Coalition for the Homeless is an excellent organization that makes a tremendous effort toward ending the homeless problem, they are, however, woefully understaffed and under-funded... like so many other similar agencies. In spite of the best efforts of some really good organizations out there, they all seem to have fallen in to the "cookie cutter" mode of thinking when it comes to solving the problem. It is easy to lose sight of the fact that the homeless are people. As "people" they are as diverse in their talents, faults, opinions, problems, priorities, goals, and aspirations as any other segment society. One size does not fit all.

Until the individualized approach is taken in addressing the homeless problem, all efforts are doomed to failure. Currently, the idea is to run them all through drug/alcohol dependency programs, minimal intervention in other areas, and expect that they are going to emerge motivated and ready to compete in the job market, make all the right decisions, and... it don't work.

Some people resent being treated as alcoholics or addicts when their problem is something else entirely. The first step toward a solution is to start realizing the homeless are people. Give them access to showers, toilets, and start to identify their individualized needs and then help them to access the professional help they need to make the necessary transition back into the mainstream of society. The treatment program needs to address the problems of the individual...if it doesn't, then the programs are pointless. If one is manic depressive, treating him/her for non-existent alcoholism or substance abuse is simply a waste of time, resources, and lives.

Time to step out of the box and start to think, Houston! When reasonable people sit down with a real desire to solve problems, anything is possible. Let's step out of the rectilinear confines of the box and start looking for the solution(s). And a couple hundred new homeless beds are a very tiny start in the right direction, but only a start. If one expects that such is the end all of the problem...then five...ten years down the line, the problem will only be bigger than it is now.

Yes, the homeless are revolting.... The time has come for change


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