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Old 11-29-2012, 10:40 PM   #16
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There is a very high rate of mental illness in the homeless population. I would venture a guess that more than 75% of the homeless suffer from mental illness and a good number of them are also addicts to various substances. If we had better systemic means of dealing with mental illness, if it were not still a very stigmatized thing, the homeless population would go down immediately. Not entirely, but a very large proportion of the people would be off the street had they been receiving the proper care and treatment all along. Of course nothing is that easy in life and it is really hard to control for compliance while allowing for personal choice.

I lived in NYC for a period of time and it was a very fortunate time in my life in the sense that I was making a lot of $, living in a pretty sweet (though tiny place) for $3600/month in midtown which was fully paid for by my employer, along with travel expenses, etc. I must have been one of the very few people who went to NYC on a contract and ended up making a boatload of $. Before I left I'd been volunteering at a soup kitchen every week and so on the one hand I really missed that experience and on the other I did feel that I was very lucky in life so I made it a point to, as often as I was able, give to the homeless men on the walk between my office and work. Most of the time I would buy 2 lunches and give one away. Mostly it was received well, other times they didn't care for the food and I'd have to try the next guy. Sometimes it was a bagel breakfast in the morning. When I was lazy or discouraged by them refusing the food, I'd give cash. Don't want to make myself sound like anything special - it was always small amounts of money, I'd say somewhere in the neighbourhood of $3-5 per. I found that most of them were very talkative. One guy told me that he had looked into my eyes and he knew that I had found Jesus, which was pretty funny given my agnostic views. I was surprised by how many of them were veterans (overwhelmingly Vietnam), and found that to be terribly sad but in retrospect not altogether shocking. Overwhelmingly male, I would say more than 50% were African American but I am not sure if that holds true in NYC generally or if that was the experience I had given where I lived and the path I took to work.

Homelessness is something that I always found incredibly difficult to accept. We who live in the West live in countries far too wealthy to allow for this. But it is a huge systemic problem and when you start talking to these people you really begin to understand that their path to homelessness began very early on in their lives. And for the subset with mental illness, it is a struggle for me personally because I had a relative who was in that position for many years and also as a lawyer who struggles with the law on the matter. I co-authored a paper as I was graduating from law school, with my law school mentor and with a professor of psychiatry, which criticized Ontario's mental health system, which in my view is overly permissive and puts too much emphasis on patient's rights, to their detriment (one of my pride and joy papers as it was published in a really well known journal!). We are talking about extremely mentally ill people in this context, not your average depressed person. Anyway, took a lot of deep thought and soul searching to come to my position. The law is not a vehicle for fixing social problems, but in this case I think that it can be used as a tool to help people who are in truly dire straits.

Now I've rambled too long.
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Old 11-29-2012, 10:51 PM   #17
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Fantastic post, anitram. I don't have much to say in response, but your experiences made me think, which is generally a good thing.
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Old 11-29-2012, 10:55 PM   #18
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You didn't ramble at all, anitram. I think a lot of what you said made plenty of sense, and I agree the stigma surrounding mental illness needs to be banished from society. I heard a lot of the homeless suffer from schizophrenia and that's a genetic/biological problem, so its not at all their fault.

Reading this thread is making me think twice about passing a homeless person without giving them much thought. Although I'll always be wary because you don't know what they may do to you, I'll see what I can do. Maybe I should start in soup kitchens.

And I agree that it is very sad that some homeless are Vietnam vets. If mental illness developed from the war drove them to the streets, we can expect many Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans doing the same, which should be prevented.
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Old 11-29-2012, 11:07 PM   #19
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It was nice to see an act of kindness. I didn't see it as a kindness from a policeman, but a kindness from a person who happened to be a policeman. (I guess it makes good PR, but that's another discussion)

All these cynical comments here....makes it so much easier to turn away without a twinge. I turn away a lot. I look the other way. Maybe most of the time. I can't always be bothered. But I don't try to find a loophole. The longer I live, the more I see that the evil twins of those who do harm are those who do nothing. We are increasingly indifferent.

I'm not romanticizing the homeless. I think many are scammers. Many are addicts, some criminals, dangerous. And I don't think anyone should put themselves in danger. But I don't know who's scamming. I've seen a lot more people recently afraid of losing their homes because they have lost jobs or have humongous medical bills. These are people who've worked hard all their lives, played by all the rules.

And as Anitram pointed out, so many of the homeless are veterans. People the country broke and didn't want to bother fixing so they just tossed them aside like so much garbage.
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Old 11-29-2012, 11:16 PM   #20
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anitram, that was a perfect post. You pretty much articulated everything I was trying to say earlier much better.

Agreed on the veterans thing, too. That particularly bothers me, because for all the "SUPPORT OUR TROOPS!" rallying cries I heard people chanting all over the place, we sure still don't seem to give much of a shit about them when they actually come home. We're not spitting on them and calling them "baby killers" anymore, but a step up this is obviously not.
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Old 11-30-2012, 08:44 AM   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BonosSaint View Post
I've seen a lot more people recently afraid of losing their homes because they have lost jobs or have humongous medical bills. These are people who've worked hard all their lives, played by all the rules.

And as Anitram pointed out, so many of the homeless are veterans. People the country broke and didn't want to bother fixing so they just tossed them aside like so much garbage.
Last night I watched Rock Center and they did a story about that very thing-the WORKING homeless (many with college degrees, some with advanced degrees) who are still working. They lost their homes due to illness, divorce, a myriad of circumstances. They were not living in lavish homes that they couldn't afford, they were living in very modest homes and managing to pay their mortgages and bills. One woman got divorced and had three sons, just the cost of food and gas put her into foreclosure. Another couple, the husband developed kidney problems and the medical bills put them out of their home. They had health insurance too. They lived in their car until that was repossessed. They have two young daughters. Luckily they're going to be moving into an apartment before Christmas this year. Most shelters are not equipped for families, and they have to split up because most require that men and women be separated.

The report said that their has been a 60% increase in working homeless families since the recession started. Unprecedented increase. So when you're talking about "the homeless" those people are part of that too. Any of us could be that, given any random circumstance beyond our control.

Couldn't agree with you more about the veterans. I gave some money recently to a man with a veteran's ID. Could he have been scamming me? Of course. But I couldn't turn my back on it, on him and that situation at the moment. If that makes me a sucker or a fool well so be it. Not trying to toot my own horn, and yes if I had the time maybe I should have bought him some food instead. But it doesn't keep me awake at night, the thought that it could have been a scam. The fact that this country has so many veterans in those circumstances, I think that's what should keep me awake at night.

One other thing about that story-the officer said he keeps the receipt for the boots in a pocket of his bulletproof vest, to remind himself. That got to me.
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Old 11-30-2012, 10:16 AM   #22
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I also think about the people who will be homeless after Hurricane Sandy, and not just temporarily homeless. People I saw on the news who were just holding onto their homes and couldn't afford homeowners insurance, flood insurance, whatever. How do they start over? Even if you could afford the insurance good luck collecting on it. There are probably still plenty of people still homeless after Katrina. So that's the face of 'the homeless' too.
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Old 11-30-2012, 10:36 AM   #23
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The problem is that there are really two types of homelessness... your down on their luck people, victims of the economy, and then there's the mentally unstable and drug addicted homeless.

The guys on the street, at least here in NYC, tend to be from the second group. Those affected by the economy are more likely to seek out help, live in shelters, live in their cars, etc. Obviously there are some homeless on the street who are down on their luck victims of the economy who are too proud to seek out help. But almost every study shows that those are by far a very small minority.

The idea of not giving to panhandlers is to try and force them to seek help... help that is readily available in New York City. There are plenty of great charities that will ensure that the money is spent to help the homeless, not on booze and drugs. Give to your local food bank or soup kitchen or salvation army... not to panhandlers.
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Old 11-30-2012, 10:49 AM   #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Headache in a Suitcase View Post
The problem is that there are really two types of homelessness... your down on their luck people, victims of the economy, and then there's the mentally unstable and drug addicted homeless.

The guys on the street, at least here in NYC, tend to be from the second group. Those affected by the economy are more likely to seek out help, live in shelters, live in their cars, etc. Obviously there are some homeless on the street who are down on their luck victims of the economy who are too proud to seek out help. But almost every study shows that those are by far a very small minority.

The idea of not giving to panhandlers is to try and force them to seek help... help that is readily available in New York City. There are plenty of great charities that will ensure that the money is spent to help the homeless, not on booze and drugs. Give to your local food bank or soup kitchen or salvation army... not to panhandlers.
There is an obvious contradiction in your post because you recognize that the mentally ill group will typically not seek out help to the same extent as those who are not mentally ill and may be temporarily homeless. Systemically homeless people (most of whom are mentally ill) often do not want to go to soup kitchens or food banks or shelters or the salvation army because they cannot cope with (i) order and/or routine; (ii) large numbers of people around them; (iii) small, enclosed spaces; (iv) other disruptive mentally ill people, etc, etc. So while it is a nice thing to do to give to soup kitchens it does not follow that all homeless will be reached. And as far as food banks go, most of the ones I have worked with had a system where you had to complete some kind of paperwork to qualify...pretty much a non-starter with somebody who is a homeless schizophrenic.
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Old 11-30-2012, 10:55 AM   #25
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Yes, I think mentally ill people who are homeless present a very unique set of circumstances that can't be easily dealt with or explained. I appreciate your insight anitram. The mental health system has let many of those people down, many of them have tried to get help at some point.

I give food to the local food pantry, I do what I can.

On a much lighter and more superficial note, I was reading about the cop story on another site. And there were a bunch of women commenting on how hot the officer was, hot and so kind and caring and what a combo that is and is he available. So that's a whole different take on it
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Old 11-30-2012, 01:06 PM   #26
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The photo is on the homepage of Weather.com

I really liked what that police officer did. I liked that he knelt by him and looked him in the eyes. I remember the times (way too few) I've stopped to talk to a homeless person and saw the importance of just acknowledging them. I think it is important to look at a person and see a need and provide it if you can, especially when the cost is so little. It doesn't make you a saint. It doesn't make the other person a charity case. It's a moment when you acknowledge your common humanity. That's all.

I really like this thread. It made me go into myself. I talk the talk OK. I don't always walk the walk. Sure you need to make sure you're safe; sure, you need to be practical; sure, you need to make sure you're not exacerbating a situation. But when all's said and done, it's a smile; it's a sandwich; it's some change. Just a moment. Or maybe a series of moments.
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Old 11-30-2012, 01:15 PM   #27
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That's one of the things I found special about the guy in Vegas that I mentioned earlier. He didn't just stand there and leave the items for them. He sat down with them and talked and ate and helped choose who wanted which socks etc. (After a while it seemed there were items they told him they weren't going to use so he packed them back up before he was on his way.) But anyway it was the fact that he stuck around, sat with them, that made it different.
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Old 12-05-2012, 05:35 PM   #28
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Quote:
The barefoot homeless man who received new shoes from a kindhearted NYPD cop isn’t actually homeless — and has a sad history of refusing help from loved ones and the government.
For the past year, Jeffrey Hillman has had an apartment in the Bronx paid for through a combination of federal Section 8 rent vouchers and Social Security disability and veterans benefits, officials said Monday.


Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/...#ixzz2EDd5eQBD
...and....

Quote:
A homeless drifter was arrested and charged this morning for allegedly tossing a Queens dad onto a Times Square subway track, where he was fatally crushed by a Q train, law-enforcement sources told The Post.
Naeem Davis, 30, confessed yesterday while being grilled in the grisly death of Ki Suk Han, 58, who was struck in front of horrified onlookers Monday after trying desperately to scramble back to the platform.
Davis told police that he “stayed and watched” as the train hit Han, a law-enforcement source said.
He was charged with murder in the second degree and depraved indifference.
“He said he heard his torso snap and he knew he was dead.”
Davis showed no remorse for causing Han’s death, another source said.
I understand that the mentally insane, for the most part, do not want the help that soup kitchens and shelters provide. But there are still professionals who can help them better than then average Joe schmo on the street.

The problem stems back from budget cuts in the 80s and early 90s that shut down many of New York State's psychiatric hospitals. I grew up in a town on long island that formed around one of these hospitals. In the early 90s the hospital was completely shut down by the state. Thousands of mentally unstable people lived in the facility, and other facilities. The most dangerous were moved to few remaining hospitals that were still open... Many were sent to halfway houses, and others still simply went free, many of them ending up on the streets.

As much as it seems un-PC, or cruel to not actively help the homeless on a personal, one on one basis... You should absolutely not do so, for your own personal safety. I mean... There's a reason why in stand in a defensive stance on the subway platform. Its sad, but its reality.
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Old 12-05-2012, 07:48 PM   #29
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Whatever the man's story is and in spite of what he did with the shoes, I still think the officer did the right thing. For me it is about what Bono's Saint said, that moment of humanity and walking the walk. And he is a police officer packing a gun, so his safety is better protected. My hunch is that he'd do the same thing again, in spite of it all. For me it's not about PC, it's more about trying to ward off cynicism and trying to hold onto sense of humanity. Not that I fault people for being cynical, because I'm plenty cynical myself. Just trying to hold onto the non cynical optimism that I have left.

As far as the man who was killed, I was going to start a thread about that. About the photo being taken and published and the photographer's and bystanders' actions. Where were all the other people to try to help that man? Maybe they were too far away too, the photographer claims he was but they weren't. I don't go into the city all that often but when I do I don't even think about that when taking the subway. I do think about my safety, and as a female I do what I can to protect it. I would do my best to stay away from and not engage a person like that in any sort of conversation. Not blaming the victim for doing that, if he even did. That whole story is just tragic. We've had plenty of people fall from the platforms onto the tracks, but I can't remember hearing of anyone being pushed.
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Old 12-05-2012, 08:05 PM   #30
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A paranoid schizophrenic man pushed a 23-year-old woman to her death in Toronto about 15 years ago. He had been kicked out of his boarding/halfway house that morning. Just heartbreaking - I read recently that her Mom still goes to visit her grave twice a day every day.

Headache brought up a good point about the cuts to mental institutions - there is a high correlation between the decrease in the number of psychiatric beds and (i) homelessness and (ii) violent crime committed by mentally ill people per capita.
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