Letter to the Mayor, City Manager and all City Councilors.
I apologize for the length of this letter but when addressing homelessness it is impossible to simplify the subject. The unfortunate perspective that keeps coming out is the attempt to simplify the solution down to the answer being to provide a home or at least a physical dwelling. Unfortunately, simple minds desire simple answers, this not being one of them. The failure to address the issue lies in what it is being titled, Homeless or unhoused.
Overview of the May 26th Councilors Gandara and Bencomo’s meeting comprised of the faith community regarding the homeless situation.
I found it very odd that the Community of Hope had such a major vocal presence at the meeting when they have nothing to offer that is faith based and that the Salvation Army director was not invited at all (I invited her when I found out from her that she was not made aware of the meeting). It seems that the Community of Hope believes the base line of the roofless people is the misdirected assumption that if they just had a dwelling to live in all would come together. The convoluted thinking they and the Councilors are pushing is that every person “deserves” a dwelling to lay their head in. Compassionate, yes, but it does not address the situation at hand or the longer term perspective of at least reducing the rate of growth and providing of the tough love that community needs. They are totally disconnected from the reality that drug and alcohol addiction and in a large majority of situations tied together with debilitating mental health issues has nothing to do with whether they have a house or not. Being homeless is not the core of the issue, drug use is which is why they are out on the street. Many prefer this life as it is devoid of any responsibility since all their needs are readily at hand including a “home” of like minded people.
The supposed professionals blatantly avoid the fact that most living on the street burned every bridge they had that provided that place to lay their head in the past because of their afflictions. I have no idea how the organizers of this meeting can be so clueless to that fact and avoid bringing it to the forefront of their discussion beyond my assumption that it is purposeful to avoid the reality of the situation in their efforts to fleece the taxpayer for their housing project. They rely on the ignorance of the good people of our community who are not addicts of the understanding that the vast majority prefer the addiction to not. They will do anything all the way to selling their bodies to selling body parts to maintain their state. The addict and alcoholic may say they do not want to continue but if there is one commonality between addicts and alcoholics it is that they will lie, cheat, steal and anything else necessary to perpetuate their disease or euphoric state of mind. Neither the thought of jail, mental institution or death slows their efforts. So many are mentally incapable of seeing in a longer term manner than the now. A dwelling does not change that except to provide an out of sight place for them to live that life and in many cases die of their affliction. That is not compassion in any sense of the word.
The meeting lacked connection between the situation and its escalation due to a lessening of law enforcements capabilities and the criminal justice systems lax policies as far as fines and and incarcerations. For social workers like Councilor Gandara there are no problems that a social worker cannot solve. That is a blatantly ignorant perspective but she pushes her professional credentials as meaning she is the final authority on the subject and shuts any other discussion out.
As was discussed, Southern New Mexico definitely needs a mental health hospital where people can be sent against their will when necessary but that is a NM state level issue which is no where in sight. Many on our streets lack the mental capacity to make such judgements for themselves. Our supposed county Triage Center is to never serve that role. if fully functional it would be a sorting facility with release avenues being back on the street, jail, or a mental institution (if there were one besides Las Vegas, NM). However, that does not deal with all those with addictions and combinations of a myriad of other personal degraded situations. Misdemeanor criminal offenses especially when repeated by individuals over and over must be prosecuted. Without effective empowered law enforcement with a justice system backing it up any city degrades into a state of lawlessness. This is where we are headed. Solution lies in the understanding of “The Broken Window “ policing policy employed in NYC.
Of course for a handful providing housing is beneficial and can lead to greater self sustaining lives but for the majority the drug problem just moved to a different location where the few willing to honestly put in the work to improve will not want to live especially if they have children. It is common knowledge (I hope) that the power of nearby associations has a seriously degrading effect on any attempting to recover from any form of addiction. Drug dealers love housing projects as they have a condensed clientele base that is easier to serve.
In order to create a flow of people that fit the parameters of the desired goal of providing housing assistance they must be willing to do the hard work to get clean and or sober beforehand. Moving them from a culvert to a tarp and then a tent is a step forward but judging from the accumulated trash and shopping carts of personal belongings the move to an apartment next will be a total disaster as it will attract more to our city that will, as has happened across the country in communities that have done this, create a longer line of homeless in waiting out on our streets. They have cell phones. They may seem destitute but they are highly connected within that society at large. and share the benefits of their chosen city.
A first step must be to empower law enforcement and create a court and penal system to back it up. If desiring a change in such people, who in all reality do not want to be devoid of their addiction, incarceration with treatment systems within it is essential. Providence, Road Island has started one. I find it so frustrating that the facts keep falling on deaf ears that the majority prefer their addict state of mind and must be forced to address it and then be willing to recover from it but from my 20 years of experience few will. Most are unwilling but they will lie to get whatever cookies are offered for the near term so they will be left alone to their own devices.
Councilor Bencomo took some of the time to soap box about the wonders of the recreational marijuana industry and how it hires people to the benefit of our community. She totally ignores the words of some that offer the proof from other states that the highly skilled business minded drug cartels just flow in right along with these enterprises gradually increasing all kinds of criminal activity in the communities. She obviously does not communicate with law enforcement regarding what is happening in states that have a history of legalized recreational marijuana. Her only interest is tax revenue with no concern for the resulting cost to a community and the degradation of the social good which brings us back to the homeless issue. I can only assume (I hate assumptions though) that she does not realize that the light she sees in her tunnel vision is a train.
In synopsis, the meeting was all about money and convincing the faith leaders to go back to their congregations as promoters of the Council’s desire to increase tax revenue to fund their grand housing idea. It is too bad that they use guilt and shame as their sales approach instead of actually providing the long term studies that support their premise.
If choosing to educate oneself on the dynamics of this problem I suggest beginning with “The Culture of Homelessness” by Megan Ravenhill.For a primer on alcoholism, The chapter titled The Doctors Opinion in “The Big Book Of Alcoholics Anonymous”.
Lets be better informed before standing over the toilet throwing money in and watching it swirl down the drain.
Mayor’s Task Force on the Homeless
Coalition of Conservatives in Action