By Edie Johnson
This scene, on Broadway in Newburgh shows how eerily close to death the desperate, the homeless and poor can get. Even more frightening is that it was both following and just before heavy rainfall. While this shot was taken early morning on Tuesday in the City of Newburgh, with statistics pointing to bankruptcy among all seniors rising over 500% it can happen anywhere. With an all too brief change of luck it could happen to any of us. Major cities in our area like Newburgh, Port Jervis and Middletown may be at more risk of public poverty, but despite government claims of a booming economy those at lower economic levels continue to struggle both physically and emotionally, often ending in a deathly spiral of both physical and mental health.
Great efforts are being made locally to help the poor, the lonely, and the disturbed, especially in the City of Newburgh, as can be seen in this week’s National Night Out . Special Ops made burgers and strode down the streets chatting with residents while boxers gave their all onstage, music filled the air, and venue tables lined the sidewalks. Social Service groups try and try and try again to help the needy. But at the end of the night there are still many who look for a corner to huddle or a park to sleep in. The most needy must be in serious danger to themselves or others for a temporary commitment.
In Newburgh this kind of scene can be found daily behind strip malls and abandoned buildings. While on patrol, or if they receive calls from concerned citizens, the police notify a new Mobile Mental Health Unit. The individual is talked to, evaluated as to level of danger to self or others, and encouraged to seek mental health and/or counsel for help with Safe Homes. The Cornwall Emergency Room was once a resource for the borderline troubled, now closed. Still there are many that remain on the streets, many huddling under storefronts during storms. Others end up perishing, either on the street or in an emergency room.
Seniors and others on borderline poverty incomes in more “wealthy” neighborhoods do not sleep on the streets. But it is not unheard of to hear they have been found clutching to a home they are in fear of losing to foreclosure, and authorities have found more than a few trying to live on cat food and/or bread. For Sale signs and the long list foreclosure offerings from the County give a glimpse into that story.
These are the alternatives that many now live in, and many are saying we should take a long hard look at whether it offers an advantage over the kinds of institutional care that were offered 30 or 40 years ago, care that especially if improved with some new mental health techniques , might offer a better future for those in trouble, as well as more safety for the general public, from individuals at risk of harming both themselves and others.
(Photo by Bob McCormick)