Notes for Community Discussion on Homelessness, February 13, 2016

Notes for Community Discussion on Homelessness, February 13, 2016

Disclaimer: I sought to report what seemed to be the most compelling points that I heard at this community meeting. It is not definitive. I sought to withhold as much bias as possible, but my subjective bent will still effect the notes. I wrote these in real time because I wanted to offer a counter perspective. I’ve been following these meetings for about two years now, and writing about them, and I hope these notes are a step in the right direction.

I don’t know what the Senator meant when he said that, “… the homeless are taking over the streets.”

This is an unbiased statement, is mere reporting, but think about this: Salt Lake is spending 100 million dollars on jail/prison as regards the homeless … but only about ten million on homeless services. I’d like to see the numbers in an issued statement to make sure I heard correctly and that will allow me to make informed inferences …

One goal posited, I think by McAdams: Figure out how to target those who prey on the most vulnerable, who are homeless, to reduce crimes committed against those in the shelter.

According to one politician, the emphasis of crime in the downtown area is a “state” issue, not a city issue. I’m on board with this if it means more compassion for those who are homeless and a vigilant effort to reduce crime and improve safety. But if it means scapegoating the homeless and stereotyping, I’m worried. How effective will a crackdown be, in real time? How is this politician discussing how crime relates to homelessness? Is he conflating crime with not having a home? It is the language of deviancy he’s using that I’m worried about. But I suspend my judgement for now until I get more facts (fuck post-truth).

The Mayor of Salt Lake just made it clear that we need more “jail” space because we can’t hold all of the criminals being arrested. Except: In what way does this mean they are arresting innocent people? Why the emphasis on jail and prison? We know rehabilitation is the preferred route based off studies. This is a change in policy for the Mayor. I am suspending judgement for now.

McAdams is driving home the point that mental illness is a major component and isn’t being addressed with how we assess the situation. He doesn’t believe in imprisoning people, but rather believes in rehabilitation and treatment. He is in direct opposition to the Mayor on this issue. He doesn’t think more jail beds will make a difference. He is working directly with law enforcement. I have to say, if he’s telling the truth, he has an important perspective on this issue. I just hope he’s compassionate to substance abusers as he claims.

McAdams seeks to advocate for a biological approach to mental illness, to understand it is an impeding sickness to one’s well-being. Mentally ill people are on average incarcerated twice as long as those without mental illness.

According to one politician: Jail is important because it can allow for assessment for the homeless who are arrested, to then receive treatment. (???)

The politicians are insisting on jails as important to solving the issues in downtown Salt Lake …

According to one politician: 60% of people prefer jail beds, 40% prefer treatment beds. According to the Mayor: Most people prefer treatment beds …

We are discouraged from passing out supplies directly to the homeless, we are recommended to give them to service providers.

In summa: I remain hopeful. I will continue to analyze the situation and do my part where I am able.

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