Community Mental Health, homelessness, and our criminal justice system.

My family just had a wild and scary experience with one of our houseless neighbors. It was clear there were mental health issues going on, but, in this case the man was a clear and present danger in the way he verbally attacked and physically threatened my pregnant, adult daughter.

Fast forward to when the police showed up:
Do you want to prosecute?

As I’ve been actively involved with community mental health services, both personally and as a student training to provide peer services, I have learned that there is a community mental health response team that can work with the police…Project Respond.

As I have been neighbors with those who are houseless in my neighborhood, I have been able to establish at least a minimal relationship and connection with a couple of them over the years.

Their numbers have increased in my area in the past year. To the point there are three tents, housing I don’t know how many. I have watched them clean their area. Unfortunately, often that resulted in them filling out dumpster to the point I couldn’t dispose of my garbage.

As each new report of homeless sweeps and displacement increase, so does the number of people living on the sidewalk in my area.

Mental and Behavioral Health issues plague these particular men and women, to the point that it’s apparent they are functioning to the best of their ability. They need supports: materially, physically, socially, and mentally.

Back to the question: Do you want to prosecute?

Not really. It is a time consuming and unwarranted expense on us and criminalizing homelessness and untreated mental health issues doesn’t ultimately help anyone.

However, the answer becomes, “Yes,” in this instance because the physical and mental safety of my pregnant daughter and grandchildren is at stake.

It is also the only way to potentially give this man an opportunity to connect with mental health services to get the help he needs…except, without stable housing and food security, one can’t readily follow up on those services.

We have to do better. We have to care more and put that care into action instead of passing blame and responsibility around.

So many people are against providing social services. But, without social services and community supports, these problems only grow.

Your feedback, thoughts, and input are appreciated.

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