MAYBE HE’S JUST DRUNK
Before it even hit the newsstands, indeed, before it even went to press, this week’s cover photo by Bob McCormick, taken on a rainy dawn with a homeless man lying face down next to a cemetery, incited a lot of mid-level controversy among those who saw it. First it brought some well-filled eyes to at least one editor here. But as the week went on there was a striking divide. About half of the people who saw it as they traveled through our office and noticed it in an online post were tremendously shocked and saddened. “How can that kind of thing still be happening, practically in our own neighborhood”. Many of the rest simply shook their head and said “Maybe he’s drunk”, as if that explained everything and clarified that it was his own fault and certainly none of OUR responsibility. While the truth may lie somewhere just left of center (yes we all bear the main responsibility for the status of our lives, but just as surely we have responsibility for our brothers and sisters in need), the crux of the matter lies in what we do about it. Surely he did not end up there ‘overnight’. His situation took a lifetime. What obstacles were in his way and what help he may or may not have been offered will probably never be known. Or actually they might be, because we have since learned that he is a frequent sleeper there. But what kinds of help should he, or could he have gotten before his current status escalated to that dismal condition. And more importantly, WHAT KIND OF BETTER HELP COULD WE BE GIVING HIM NOW! And while you think about that, keep thinking “It could be me”, because no matter how ordered your life is, fate can change it in the blink of an eye. Do we go back to institutional care, where abused, disturbed, sometimes violent people can be watched more closely and ergo get more help. Do we tackle the problems that used to come along with institutional care and fix them. Will we be “stuck” with current laws ensuring a 5-day release if a hospitalized person is not deemed “DANGEROUS”. Or do we keep trying to keep those with serious problems out in the community and try to find ways to keep it safe for both them and the rest of the public? Social workers, psychologists and psychiatrists along with law enforcement are working their hearts out in most cases, within the system. But clearly there is still something very wrong with the system.
We all know of the difficulties that the City of New York has had with homeless shelters and walk-in respite sites. Some of these places become dangerous themselves. So much so, in fact, that the homeless don’t even want to go there.
But we here at the Orange County Post put out this challenge. With so many years of high level professional training in the hands of health department officials, governmental officials, doctors and social workers, and with many of these professionals earning TOP salaries in the hundreds of thousands, we are sure that WE CAN DO BETTER to help the homeless and poor, and help others from sliding down that slippery slope! Get together! Make Taskforces! Invite community members to participate. THINK OUT OF THE BOX, and come up with some better solutions, not only for the homeless on the street, but for the seniors who are doing without medication, without necessary home repairs, and all too often without food, out of fear that they soon might also be on the street.