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Posts Tagged ‘Homeless’

Now that Bob has retired, we’ve decided it’s time to finally find our dream beach house. Someplace for family reunions, holidays, and maybe even an investment opportunity on AirBnB or VRBO from time to time. The only problem is, what beach?

Of course the island we love is not affordable. So that leaves us with a few options: Outer Banks, too cold; Florida, too predictable (sorry Floridians); Texas Panhandle, nah. Working our way across country, we really loved California, so maybe? But then Hawaii comes to mind.

I was listening to an ER doc from Hawaii on NPR yesterday, he was talking about a new Bill he introduced on the floor of the senate; Josh Green, MD also happens to be a state legislator. After years of practicing Emergency Medicine he said he and his colleagues know by name the homeless people who frequent his ER, and he knows that they suffer from chronic medical conditions that would benefit from simply being off the street. So he proposed a Bill that would give docs the right to prescribe six months of housing, to be supervised by case workers. Treat homelessness as a medical condition. An unusual, intriguing and not a half-bad idea!

A small number of homeless people require a disproportionate amount of medical treatment. According to Green, a recent internal study by a major Hawaiian insurer found that over half of the state’s $2bn Medicaid allotment was consumed by a tiny fraction of users, many of whom are dealing with homelessness, mental illness and substance addiction.

Yet research suggests that healthcare spending for those who have been homeless for long periods and struggle with mental illness and addictions falls by 43% after they have been housed and provided with supportive services. Green said many of the individuals he hopes to house cost the healthcare system an average of $120,000 annually, yet the annual cost to house an individual is $18,000. He thinks that the total savings to the state could be hundreds of millions of dollars a year.  https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/feb/28/hawaii-homeless-housing-bill-healthcare-costs

Surprisingly, just a few days ago, I reconnected with an old friend, a woman who used to be an administrator in Bob’s first ER. After telling me that “Bob and retirement” are two words she never thought she’d hear in the same sentence, she also mentioned that retirement in Hawaii was something she and her husband were thinking about…and for my third coincidental island musing, Hawaii is the first state to file suit against’s Trump’s new “Travel Ban.” Aloha and Mahalo!

For these islanders, the memory of rounding up Japanese citizens after Pearl Harbor is still very real! http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-39215990

Now I’ve never been to Hawaii, and I hear that each island is different. Maybe it’s time we scheduled a little trip to the Big Island, or one of the medium-sized ones? Of course, our retirement plans may fall apart depending on what the Republicans do to the ACC, and Mr T does to the global economy.

Meanwhile back at home, we’ve been planting some perennials, practicing Hygge, and dreaming of our Purim Princess Warrior!     IMG_0166

 

 

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The city of Charlottesville has been ordered to halt the enforcement of an ordinance that prohibits panhandling on parts of the city’s Downtown Mall… a federal judge Thursday ruled the ordinance violates the First Amendment’s free speech protections.

Back in the day, I used to have to rack my brain to think of something to give up for Lent. It would usually be something like soda, or pizza, or ice cream. It just didn’t count if it was something you didn’t like to begin with, like liver. And yes we were very literal, it was always some form of food. Nobody gave up playing basketball for instance. I’m guessing it was the Christian form of fasting, like Yom Kippur or Ramadan. We Catholics were not allowed to eat meat on Fridays all year long, then we’d get marked with Ash on Wednesday and asked to stop eating something we loved for 40 days leading up to Easter. Lots of sacrifice, that was us.

Call me crazy, but I’m trying to square this with a federal judge’s ruling about a City Ordinance that Charlottesville enacted in August of 2010. In an effort to appease the business owners on the Historic Downtown Mall, the city created buffer zones to restrict panhandlers/homeless people. The city’s attorney argued this was a safety issue, but Included in the ordinance which distanced solicitation from certain areas on the Mall, was language saying that they could not approach people for money.

Lo and Behold, an attorney representing five homeless people filed their appeal based on constitutional law – saying this restricted their right to free speech. And US District Judge Norman K. Moon agreed with them “The City offers insufficient justification (much less a good explanation) for the fifty-foot measurement of the so-called buffer zone,” he wrote in a 25-page opinion filed Thursday. “There are other laws that permit the City to protect the public safety.”  http://www.dailyprogress.com/news/local/judge-rules-charlottesville-s-panhandling-ordinance-is-unconstitutional/article_c2ed6ff2-b89e-11e4-a872-e391736e6826.html

In striking down this ordinance, people standing or sitting, holding cardboard signs asking for money with dogs and a duffel bag by their side, are now not only allowed to be wherever they please, they are allowed to approach anyone and ask for money. Because the ordinance was not broad enough, limiting the free speech of pan handlers alone and not, for instance, political petitioners. Since I was once on the Mall hawking my view about the Affordable Care Act, I get it. It does in fact appear discriminatory.

Yesterday, on my way to unfreeze a hot water pipe, I passed by a homeless man standing on the corner to the bypass. I could barely see him, he was covered in rags from head to toe and my car thermometer read 16 degrees. I wondered about his life, what brought him to that corner, and I was strangely glad he didn’t have a dog with him. Because it’s one thing to expose yourself to such weather, and I fantasized for a minute about asking him to get into my car, bringing him to a restaurant for a meal. But the light was changing and I didn’t stop, someone would have plowed into me.

The city has a program for the homeless in this weather, different churches open their doors. But do we follow up with housing for the mentally ill, developmentally challenged all year? Where are the social service programs helping families one rental payment away from eviction? What is the role of government? Let’s not ask what we should be giving up after Fat Tuesday, but how and what can we give back to our community. Existential questions require more than a lawsuit that will pay out a “six figure” sum to the lawyers and the homeless defendants who had their right to free speech violated. IMG_2160

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Last night our City Council heard from many business owners on the Historic Downtown Mall. Their issue is that the numbers of homeless people congregating on the mall is hurting their business. I remember Mimi walking into her yarn shop one day and complaining about some people who were yelling profanities and getting into a fight a few doors up. Right smack dab in the middle of the day! I have to admit, it’s hard to sit outside for a scrumptious meal at one of our fine dining establishments with homeless people carrying on in the background. Catholic guilt kicks in. Still, our city, the People’s Republic of Charlottesville, has gone overboard in protecting the rights of the homeless: http://www.homelessshelterdirectory.org/cgi-bin/id/city.cgi?city=Charlottesville&state=VA its churches offer shelters; lawyers defend them in court free of charge; and there are ordinances protecting their right to congregate while restricting where they can stand/sit. Since they are not allowed to approach you for money, they sit with their dogs and kids holding cardboard signs explaining why they need to beg. Because that is what it is, not loitering, but begging.

My Jersey comes out at times like these. I grew up walking the streets of NY pre-Guiliani, when every block was teeming with beggars and people were sleeping on cardboard boxes outside of Tiffany. I was taught to ignore them. I know that sounds cruel, but the reasoning was that it would put (young) me at risk if I stopped to talk with them, and it would encourage more begging. There were shelters available and most homeless, I was told, are alcoholic and/or drug users; so any money I gave them was just feeding their habit. That made sense to me. Now we know that many homeless are not just drunks but mentally ill, and since there are laws prohibiting the forced administration of medication to these patients, unless they are a danger to themselves or others, they are stuck in a Catch 22 of bureaucratic limbo. If they are treated with psychogenic drugs, they will often stop taking them because they forget or just don’t like the feeling. So a cycle of homelessness can seem hopeless.

Certainly today, there may also be a small percentage of homeless who have fallen into poverty due to divorce or bankruptcy, and find themselves living in a car. My question is do homeless people really have the right, are they protected by our First Amendment, to sit on our public sidewalks with their signs up and their hands open? To argue and party with abandon so long as they remain a certain number of feet away from the Paramount Theatre? And how much can we the people balance and regulate their rights with the rights of business owners to operate their stores in relative peace?

When temperatures rise into triple digits in June, and many in our county are still without power in July, our City Council may find it difficult to keep tempers down around town. Stay safe, stay cool be careful around those fireworks – did you know you can buy them right in the grocery store in VA?! Happy Fourth of July Y’All, from this transplanted Jersey Girl!

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