[Hpn] more poison from NAMI

chance martin streetsheet@sf-homeless-coalition.org
Wed, 07 Feb 2001 11:53:29 -0700

oh boy, this is just great. Carla Jacobs is now setting her bigoted sights
on homeless people, instead of merely campaigning to strip mental health
consumers of their civil rights and drug them against their will.

With Bush in office, all these petit fascists are crawling out from under
their rocks, and they're feeling pretty bold.

NAMI is emerging as a major threat to the civil rights of everyone. Stay
tuned -- this is only going to get worse.



Wednesday, February 7, 2001

They Are Free to Die on Our Streets


The recent clash between the American Civil Liberties Union and the Los
Angeles Police Department over the rights of our city's homeless to live on
the streets of skid row exemplifies the limited options facing tens of
thousands of our most desperate citizens.

Under the LAPD's approach, homelessness is criminalized. Homeless people are
ticketed for minor violations such as littering, jaywalking, vagrancy,
disturbing the peace and loitering. The police harass them and ultimately
incarcerate them for petty offenses and minor drug possession charges. Jail
becomes their temporary home.

Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca repeatedly has emphasized that our jails
are not designed or equipped to rehabilitate our city's homeless. Jail
confinement is especially dire for those with severe mental health and
substance abuse problems. The limited treatment available has no long-term
corrective effect. Homeless arrestees simply serve their time and are
released back to the streets to repeat a downward spiral of destitution.

The law enforcement approach is not only ineffective, it is also costly. The
daily cost of a jail bed ranges from $60 to $140, while the average daily
cost of a shelter bed with supportive services ranges from $25 to $50. Daily
jail costs for a homeless individual with acute psychiatric needs range from
$300 to $400, while a bed at a residential treatment center ranges from $90
to $110. And it is always more cost-effective to divert homeless people from
the criminal justice system when they commit petty, nonviolent offenses.

But if jail is not the answer, neither is allowing homeless people to
languish on our streets. In our city, as many as 30,000 homeless individuals
suffer from treatable mental illness and substance abuse problems. The
ACLU's fight to preserve the right of homeless citizens to freely reside in
public places inadvertently transforms them into untouchables. They are free
to deteriorate on our streets until they pose an absolute threat of danger
to themselves or others. By then it is too late.

Street people who suffer from mental health and substance abuse problems
have difficulty functioning in our complex city environment. We have all
seen people with matted hair, rotting limbs and gaping lesions wandering
into busy intersections. Every day, these situations lead to emergency room
visits, degradation and, ultimately, premature death. This freedom to die on
the streets is inhumane.

We must develop a real solution to homelessness, an effective alternative to
jail or the street. Neither the law enforcement nor the civil rights
approaches offer effective or humane solutions alone. Law enforcement and
the civil rights community must work together, along with others, to
eradicate homelessness in a responsible way.

The LAPD needs to stop harassing and jailing and start working with mental
health, housing and social service agencies to help high-functioning
homeless people locate safe, decent places to live. There are many effective
homeless service agencies in Los Angeles; police officers should write
admission tickets to these agencies, not tickets to jail.

The ACLU could work with local policymakers, law enforcement officials and
mental health experts to design treatment programs. These programs would
offer treatment on demand and allow for involuntary, yet compassionate,
treatment of homeless individuals with severe mental health and substance
abuse problems. For every $1 of treatment, we save $8 in health, safety and
all other societal costs.

The recent passage of Proposition 36, which allows for the diversion of
people convicted of minor drug offenses to treatment programs, and the
creation of the Homeless Court for minor offenses when individuals
successfully complete a self-sufficiency program, offer law enforcement and
the civil rights community a starting point for developing a new, humane and
effective model for homeless interventions.
- - -
David Grunwald Is Chief Executive Officer of L.a. Family Housing. Carla
Jacobs Is on the Board of Directors of the National Alliance for the
Mentally Ill

Copyright 2000 Los Angeles Times

**In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. section 107, this material is
distributed without charge or profit to those who have expressed a prior
interest in receiving this type of information for non-profit research and
educational purposes only.**
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