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Thursday, November 5, 2015

Hobo Jungle to Health Care

Mental Health is not Criminal

A renewed interest in strengthening camping laws by municipalities around the US is a thinly disguised criminal assault on homelessness.

To be fair, some cursory progress has been made to deal with a growing homelessness and the subsequent displacement of a segment of the US population. Unfortunately, it's largely palliative. The measures undertaken haven' gone after the root cause or any systemic-institutionalize problems.

However, rather than focus on a widely debated and contentious argument of wealth inequality, we could turn to different metrics. This is not to say that the idea of a widening wealth gap is bankrupt. Compelling statistics point to a 1% or less subset population controlling nearly 50% of new and established wealth in the US. This certainly is a facet of homelessness but not the main tenet of this article.

An often overlooked or undefined aspect of homelessness is the misdiagnosis of a public health crisis. Worse, it is a blatant gesture to crony capitalism which lurches a policy of disinvestment in public utilities in favor of privatization.

A public utility which has been on a slow march towards privatization is the prison system. Huge multinational corporations have been lobbying all levels of government to build and maintain private prisons in the US for decades. And they have succeeded.

What is particularly disturbing about this trend is that it has seemingly gone hand in hand with another disinvestment of public utilities: mental health facilities. Most states have fledgling mental health facilities or none at all. No corporations have stepped in to fill this gap.

In order to fill more beds (cells), homelessness, much like vagrancy, has been vilified and earmarked as criminal. Instead of meeting some much need mental and public health problems head on, governments have decided to treat abject poverty and homelessness and mental health as criminal.

The politicians and we citizens as their bosses (we voted them in office), apparently have opted to pay for the costs on the back end instead of prevention. Rest assured, there is a toll and pay we must.

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