“Ooh-ooh-ooh, ain’t got no home
A-no place to roam
Ain’t got no home
A-no place to roam”
-Lyrics from Clarence “Frogman” Henry’s Ain’t Got No Home
A solution to the homeless problem, here in Bucks County, PA, is largely stymied by the perception the public has of the homeless. On one occasion, some people said they felt uncomfortable visiting the Veterans Memorial in Levittown near the Levittown library because some homeless people were there.
They sometimes see some individuals in the group acting erratically and become leery of, prejudice against all homeless people. It’s guilt by association.
A major contributor of homeless stereotypes is the druggies who get mixed in with the homeless population, many from the local recovery houses, which number in the neighborhood of 100 just in Levittown, who create problems. On one occasion, when a new advocate was socializing with the homeless at the memorial, a crazed druggie approached and screamed at the crowd, asking what everybody was doing there.
Unlike much public perception of the homeless, the guard from the nearby municipal building can distinguish between the good homeless and the troublemakers. On one occasion, a homeless guy called the guard to the memorial when a jerk from the recovery house pulled an American flag out of the ground and placed in on his bicycle. The guard made the druggie put the flag back where he got it and kicked him out of the memorial.
Some members of the general homeless population don’t get with the program and work with the authorities. I was just reminded about a homeless guy who has been throwing trash in the woods which is still there, not completely out of sight. It’s been there for more than a year!
I’ve noticed over the past few months that the homeless have been pushing the envelope at the memorial and surrounding area. They’ve been leaving their tents up during the day when the surrounding buildings were opened. Some of them have left cigarette butts in the area and trash on occasion. My beef, however, is the way the county is handing the problem, punishing everyone, even the innocent ones who don’t cause problems and just need a place to stay.
Doylestown made the decision to chase everyone out of the memorial. My problem is that the county judges everyone in the group based on a few bad apples.
Public perception is that homeless people have mental and addiction problems. The Bucks County mental health industry has exploited this and for years has been aggressively canvassing the homeless population for business, by hook or crook. In exchange for signing up and using their taxpayer funded assistance, the mental health hustlers offer the homeless, in a quid pro quo, housing.
That mental health treatment is a prerequisite for housing – as opposed to housing first – is reflected in a response to an email I sent to Bucks County Commissioner Diane Marseglia about finding housing for the homeless. The commissioner listed as a core problem “mental illness that is difficult to treat or people who are resistant in taking medication or attending counseling.” She also listed alcohol and drug addiction as a core problem.
To my idea of dedicating county land to open an official homeless camp for the homeless, where the homeless would do much of the work on the camp, she replied “That will not happen because there is too much liability. I also do not think that is helpful to the homeless. It just creates more space for them to avoid going to Housing Link and getting the referral, they need, to start getting sober/clean, on medication, in therapy, signed up for assistance or some type of work, and a solid roof over their head.”
For Diane Marseglia, one size fits all. She assumes that all homeless people need medication and therapy.
Family Promise of Lower Bucks, part of a national non profit organization that houses, feeds, and provides services for homeless families doesn’t subscribe to this philosophy, but instead houses people who just need a place to stay first and helps them get back on their feet.
There was a slogan during the early part of our country “Millions for defense but not a penny for tribute.” In Bucks County, PA, the slogan should read “Millions for addiction and mental health treatment but not a penny for housing first.”
The key to finding a place for the homeless to stay is the private sector. Bucks County government, which has a jaundiced view, has done an inadequate job of resolving the problem, which the county knew about since the late 80s. The problem with dealing with problems such as homelessness is that, like other things, is that we turned this task over to the government.
As President Ronald Reagan said:
“In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.”