We can all agree that the street is no place for the mentally ill to live.
For some reason however, our public policy doesn’t reflect this moral value. Instead, well-intentioned public policies have had the disastrous consequence of forcing the mentally ill to live in ditches and ravines. Something is very wrong, and we all know it.
I was the first member of the City Council to walk along with our Social Workers, Substance Abuse Counselors and Sheriff’s Deputies as they outreached to the Homeless in Vista. As a lay-leader, I struggled to understand how those who were in dire need of services were refusing the offers of help that were being provided.
I can tell you, that all 427 (at last count) persons living on Vista’s streets, have been offered Shelter, housing services, drug addiction rehabilitation, metal health services, physical health services, nutrition services, free public transportation, and host of services designed to help them climb out of the dire situation they are in.
Why then have only 54 accepted at least one night in the shelter? Vista’s social workers are asking that question specifically when they engage with Vista’s homeless.
I’m running for Mayor, in large part, because I am tired of seeing the way our State, region and City are failing to serve the basic human needs of those who suffer mental illness living on our streets.
Does the Mayor have the power to fix the homeless problem?
Honestly, no Mayor, alone can solve the problem. No City alone can solve it either. But by educating the public, and advocating for a change in public opinion, and a change in public policy, I strongly believe that you and I together can make a difference.
What opinions need to change?
I hear every day, “We just need to offer them shelter, give them housing, and provide services…”
Myth: Shelter isn’t available.
Truth: It is. I’ve toured it, I receive regular updates on availability, and outreach. It’s available, and Vista is actively offering it to the homeless each and every day. Some homeless residents of Vista have been visited more than 20 times by our Social Work team.
Myth: A narcotic addict, a schizophrenic, or other severely mentally person is making a choice of free will to live unsheltered.
Truth: Those suffering from severe mental illness and addiction are not able to make rational choices about their own health and welfare. We know it’s true, but many still perpetuate the myth that living on the streets is a free-will decision.
A meth or heroin addict does nothing by free-will. Their brain has been physiologically re-wired to reward the next dose, and only the next dose. This is why heroin anorexia often emaciates heroin users. The brain no longer supplies dopamine as a reward for eating. Dopamine is only supplied for the next dose of heroin. That is not free-will.
California Governor Gavin Newsom has called openly for expanded access to conservatorships for the mentally ill. I salute him for leading, but too few are following. Still, many in power in Sacramento aren’t working fast enough to change public policy, and the result is the victimization of the homeless.
Myth: Some leaders want to “lock-up” the homeless, and ignore their Constitutional rights.
Truth: I will fight until my last breath to defend ALL American’s Constitutional rights to due process and liberty. The system currently affords an attorney and a patient’s right advocate to conservatees and requires a due process hearing before a judge. A medical doctor, a Psychiatrist’s analysis is required too. We must protect the rights of every victim of mental illness and addiction, including their right to live in a clean environment, with the appropriate medical and mental health treatment, proper nutrition and compassionate care.
Many in Sacramento, and some locally want Gavin Newsom to stop talking about Conservatorship, because he’s off message with most in his party. He’s right on this issue however, and one of the most important things I want to do as Mayor, is advance this conversation so that we can truly help the victims of homelessness, and yes, so that all Vistan’s can enjoy a City where every citizen is treated with humanity and treated with dignity, not discarded onto the trash heap of indifference.