Letter: The biggest losers in housing availability contest

It’s ideological: On the right (those least supportive of government programs/interventions) homelessness is seen as a matter of individual failure. On the left (those most supportive of government programs/interventions) homelessness is seen as the result of a systemic failure.

When those on the right signal interest in forcing more of the homeless mentally ill into hospitalization (note Councilor Morgan’s keen interest in agendizing a visit from Scott Kennelly, Director of Butte County Behavioral Health), we ought to pay close attention. If the ideology hasn’t changed, why this drift toward government funded hospitalization (presumably “on the cheap”)?

Notions that mental illness causes homelessness and that homelessness can be fixed with more hospitalization, are, paradoxically, aligned with the narrative of individual behavior as the CORE problem; here we don’t see enough critical thinking on the left.

At no point should progressives lose sight of the fact that California ranks 49th in housing availability — with a shortage estimated at 3-4 million homes. And, at no point should we lose sight of how badly we FAILED in providing supportive housing when we deinstitutionalized our response to mental illness, brain injury, addiction, etc.

Treating the mentally ill, especially with retrograde motion on civil liberties, has to be kept in this context: 99% of those on the streets are, above all, losers in a housing availability contest. Exploiting pawns in an ideologically driven game of housing crisis denial is cruel and diverts us from effective, systemic solutions — such as robust, government funded social housing initiatives.

— Patrick Newman, Chico


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