The homeless camp of Jarrett Keesling and Kelli Lengele, whom are among the hundreds of homeless Contra Costa Health Services (CCHS) interacted with as it conducts its annual count of homeless county residents Thursday, Jan. 26, 2017 in Contra Costa County.

State Senator Scott Wiener has proposed a bill to broaden state conservatorship laws as a way to help get severely mentally ill and drug-addicted people off the streets and into treatment. SB-1045 contains few details, but aims to expand the definition of “gravely disabled” and the current 72-hour hold limit for chronically homeless people. Homeless advocates say that the bill does nothing to address the root causes of homelessness and that cities should expand psychiatric outreach programs instead. We’ll take up the debate.

State Senate Bill Would Ease Rules for Cities Seeking Conservatorship Over Homeless 13 February,2018Michael Krasny

Guests:
Scott Wiener, California state senator; co-author of SB1045

Jennifer Friedenbach, Executive Director, Coalition on Homelessness

  • Vern

    Why is it that self serving heartless Californians are always trying to throw the helpless under the bus 🚌 to boost their own agenda and self interests? And what’s interesting is that it’s usually democrats who do it while baselessly claiming to have a heart. I wonder if this plan is really at all different in motivation from the Nãzis’ approach to eliminating so-called degenerates by taking them into custody and “helping” them.

    • BioMeister

      Vern, I’d suggest some serious mental care for you. You clearly have issues that go beyond logic and reason.

    • marte48

      republicans love to convince the democrats to go along, and then blame them for it.

      • Vern

        When the Nåzis embraced eugenics, they borrowed it from Californians.

  • Another Mike

    Most chronically homeless are no more mentally ill than you or I — they just have found it too difficult to cope with today’s world. They need supportive housing such as Mercy Housing provides. They are fiercely independent — the one thing they are NOT looking for is someone to make decisions for them.

    • BioMeister

      I agree with the premise, at least to a degree, but as a taxpayer, I feel that if you want / need to live off the money I pay in taxes, you need to accept SOME limitations on the liberties under which you have become a drain on society. Get yourself squared away do you can support yourself and live entirely within the law, then you can have your liberties back.

      I STRONGLY DISAGREE with the phrase “fiercely INDEPENDENT.” The people who are creating problems are doing so because they lack the ability to be independent. They panhandle aggressively, disturb the peace, litter and urinate and defecate in public places, live illegally in encampments on public and private land, and in many cases commit more serious crimes. They are fiercely resistant to outside control, I’ll agree to that, but the way in which they impinge upon the rest of society makes them anything BUT “independent.”

    • marte48

      you can’t over-generalize on this very diverse population of people.

      • BioMeister

        Is that true in general?

  • Another Mike

    How far away will this bill cut into the Lanterman-Petris-Short Act, that banned involuntary commitment past 72 hours, which allowed the state’s mental hospitals to empty out? There were good reasons to empty out the mental hospitals, as the book and movie “Cuckoo’s Nest” suggest.

    • BioMeister

      There were plenty of good reasons to invade Afghanistan and Iraq, too, but as with those debacles, emptying State Mental Hospitals was a cure worse than the disease.

      • Another Mike

        All I will say is that a staple of ’60s investigative reporting all over the country was people who reported on what happened inside mental hospitals.

        • BioMeister

          My sister worked in such a hospital for years, and while it was not the horror chamber some reports covered, it was basically a prison, with no effective treatment, only drugs to turn people into manageable zombies who did nothing all day but smoke and watch TV, and at great expense to the taxpayer. But turning the inmates loose with no effective plan to deal with them once they went off meds was an overreaction, and one that gave no thought to CONSEQUENCES.

    • marte48

      that was contingent upon the “half-way” house industry – which never did replace the hospitals.

  • Jon Latimer

    Not a day goes by that I don’t encounter someone here in Oakland who is living on the street and in need of metal health services. For every one of those who is mentally disturbed, there’s another 50 who are struggling to maintain, but well on their way to a mental health issue by virtue of their lack of access to housing, stability, food, and other resources, while increasingly turning to substance abuse to cope. It is a crisis that can no longer be ignored. (WHERE IS LIBBY SCHAAF?)

    • marte48

      the mayor cannot personally house people.

      • Jon Latimer

        LOL give me a break! What kind of a cop-out is that? She’s the MAYOR. If she isn’t responsible for addressing the homelessness in her city with tangible action, who would you suggest is? (As if I was suggesting setting up tents on her lawn…

        • BioMeister

          You are both correct. Perennially dealing with a SYMPTOM is unsustainable. Providing housing needs to be a temporary part of a SOLUTION to homelessness, and that solution needs to include institutionalization and treatment of some people.

  • BioMeister

    I am a strong advocate of providing both mental health care on the “front end” and effective interventions on the “back end” of the horrific effects of substance abuse and severe mental illness. I think we need tax INCREASES on the wealthy for this and other worthy causes.

    That being said, if you wind up relying on the government for extensive and costly care, you MUST sacrifice a degree of liberty. When you can be self-supporting and no longer a danger to yourself and others, THEN you can have your liberties back!

    (BTW, I do qualify as “wealthy” by most definitions, including Trump’s recent “No Billionaire Left Behind” Tax Plan.)

    • marte48

      so was I, until Lockheed layed off 20,000 workers in the 1990’s, and the field I worked in changed completely because of the internet. You don’t have to be mentally ill or be a substance abuser to find yourself homeless.

      • BioMeister

        I understand, and in a “down” economy such actions accumulate to the point that even hard-working, well-qualified people have difficulty finding jobs. But my guess is that in exchange for temporary housing, meals, health care, etc., you would gladly subject yourself to rules like curfews, screening for substance abuse, etc. You might very well not ENJOY those restrictions, and that in turn would motivate you to find gainful employment ASAP. I’m guessing that you would not NEED that motivation, but on the margin, it’s good not to have aid programs be too enjoyable. It varies a lot with conditions, but unemployment payments can help people hang on long enough to find a new job.

        (Also, and not to be sanctimonious, but within a few years of leaving college, I accumulated a full year’s income (post-tax) in liquid funds, and I NEVER spent below that limit. As a result, I have always had a full year cushion in case I lost my job. And except when I used some extra accumulated savings for a specific purchase, such as a house or car, I always made sure that my annual income exceeded my annual spending. People without that discipline make themselves even more vulnerable to a sudden bit of misfortune.)

  • Jenny Lemper

    I have a neice in her 20’s who is homeless and on drugs with bipolar disorder. She is basically on the edge of death, but refuses to get help. Her family can’t do anything to save her life because she is an adult. We feel helpless. We need laws to help the family and friends help their loved ones.

    • Vern

      Most homeless are not insane or drug addicts.

  • marte48

    This is all thanks to Ronald Reagan who closed the mental hospitals.

    • Vern

      Your sounds like someone who supports eugenics.

  • marte48

    If you think that homeless people are homeless because they are mentally ill, try going for a few weeks without food and shelter, without a bathroom, and without a bed – see how that affects your mental health.

    • BioMeister

      Sure, but if I am mentally sound, and able to live independently, WHY would I do any of those things to begin with? At 10% unemployment, I can see how people could fall through the cracks through no fault of their own, but at <5%, mentally-competent people who want to support themselves should be able to.

      Not to digress too much, but many immigrant agricultural workers live in much the conditions you describe (and even more did so in the past), many of them are glad to have the work, and many accept some additional degree of privation in order to be able to send some money to family "back home." If you look at the colonial settling of the American frontier, that was just about as bad, with hours of back-breaking work and the constant threat of being killed thrown in for good measure, yet people lined up for the opportunity.

      In my youth, I had all the basic necessities of life, but then, and later as an adult, I CHOSE backpacking and canoe camping in remote places as recreation. Hard work, hard, cold ground, bugs, hot sun, cold nights, minimal food of marginal quality, and squating in the woods to poop . . . and I LOVED it!

      My message is that physical privation alone is not injurious to mental health. Over long periods, it can EXACERBATE other conditions, but those conditions almost always exist in advance, and one of the worst is ABSENCE OF HOPE. Provide hope, along with a viable path back to greater material comforts and security, and mentally-competent people would not need to be homeless for protracted periods.

Host

Michael Krasny

Michael Krasny, PhD, has been in broadcast journalism since 1983. He was with ABC in both radio and television and migrated to public broadcasting in 1993. He has been Professor of English at San Francisco State University and also taught at Stanford, the University of San Francisco and the University of California, as well as in the Fulbright International Institutes. A veteran interviewer for the nationally broadcast City Arts and Lectures, he is the author of a number of books, including “Off Mike: A Memoir of Talk Radio and Literary Life” (Stanford University Press) “Spiritual Envy” (New World); “Sound Ideas” (with M.E. Sokolik/ McGraw-Hill); “Let There Be Laughter” (Harper-Collins) as well as the twenty-four lecture series in DVD, audio and book, “Short Story Masterpieces” (The Teaching Company). He has interviewed many of the world’s leading political, cultural, literary, science and technology figures, as well as major figures from the world of entertainment. He is the recipient of many awards and honors including the S.Y. Agnon Medal for Intellectual Achievement; The Eugene Block Award for Human Rights Journalism; the James Madison Freedom of Information Award; the Excellence in Journalism Award from the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association; Career Achievement Award from the Society of Professional Journalists and an award from the Radio and Television News Directors Association. He holds a B.A. (cum laude) and M.A. from Ohio University and a PhD from the University of Wisconsin.

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