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“The Streets Cannot Be A Home”: A Problem That Money Can Go A Long Way Toward Fixing And That Money Must Be Found

The homeless can be scary people. They may block sidewalks, curse passers-by and aggressively demand money. Or they can be just sad.

Growing homeless encampments are stressing cities across the country. Honolulu and Sarasota responded with stiff laws taking “vagrants” off the streets and out of public parks. South Carolina’s capital, Columbia, decided to give the homeless three choices. They can go to a shelter, get arrested or leave town.

Several approaches to dealing with this tough population are being tried. The wisest combine humane treatment with respect for the public’s right to use public space without having to step around bodies.

Some “advocates” oppose forcing the homeless off the streets. They accuse the new laws of “criminalizing homelessness” and trying to “hide poverty.”

What the advocates are doing, though, is turning the homeless into spectacle. Many are mentally ill, are addicted or have criminal records. They are not street theater.

One can’t ignore the reality that rising costs in hot housing markets have priced many locals out of their rentals. But as suggested above, the inability to find other accommodations is usually part of a larger constellation of personal problems.

Enlightened advocates applaud removing the homeless from the streets as a means of directing them to the services they need. Governments have an obligation to support such services.

An example. While recently waiting in a line at New York’s Port Authority Bus Terminal, I was hit by a harsh smell. Standing next to me was a disheveled man smiling sweetly. A social worker came by. She gently asked him whether he’d like to go with her and get cleaned up. He nodded, and they left together.

Of course, many of the homeless are far less docile. The infamous Jungle encampment in Seattle has become a scene of violence and other social mayhem. Law enforcement dreads going there.

That the homeless often prefer to live on the streets, as opposed to shelters, is not a reason to let them. Their objections range from hatred of rules to the inconvenience of being sent away every morning.

San Francisco has developed an interesting program to address some flaws in the shelter system. It created the Navigation Center as a kind of halfway house between a shelter and permanent housing. The “guests” can keep pets, store possessions and take showers. Case managers try to transition the residents into permanent housing while connecting them with health services, driver’s licenses and food stamps.

The Navigation Center has not been the perfect solution to the enormous challenge. Because its residents have been allowed to cut in line for permanent subsidized housing, the center has become wildly popular. The waiting list for admission is very long, and the most vulnerable people have the hardest time pushing their way in.

But this is how the homeless should be treated — with dignity and care but direction. Letting obviously dysfunctional humans live in their filth as a nod to some civil right is perverse. The Navigation Center concept is now being tried in Seattle, in New York and elsewhere.

There’s no point turning this into a class issue. Gentrification creates its own dislocations, for sure. But bringing jobs and tax dollars to downtowns with public transportation can’t help but provide a net benefit to those hurting economically.

For decades, urban neglect has left the poor isolated in rotting inner cities. Healthy city centers make the economic mainstream far more accessible to city dwellers.

Letting clusters — or virtual armies — of homeless people degrade the quality of civic life clearly serves no one. Fortunately, this is a problem that money can go a long way toward fixing. And that money must be found.

 

By: Froma Harrop, The National Memo, June 28, 2016

June 29, 2016 Posted by | Homeless, Mental Illness, Poverty | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Chris Christie Ordered To The Kiddie Debate Table”: The ‘Happy Hour’ Debate, Where No Successful Candidate Has Gone Before

Chris Christie has officially been banished to where no successful candidate has gone before: the undercard debate.

Fox Business announced Thursday night that the New Jersey governor has been cut from the primetime debate stage due to low poll numbers.

The network, which is co-sponsoring the November 10th debate with the Wall Street Journal, required candidates to average at least 2.5% in the national polls through November 4 in order to qualify for the main stage. Christie is averaging 2% in the polls.

He’s not the only top tier candidate to be knocked down a peg. Mike Huckabee will join him in the so-called “happy hour” debate with nonentities Rick Santorum and Bobby Jindal.

Lindsey Graham and George Pataki, who have been stuck at the kiddie table for all of the debates, were removed from the lineup altogether.

It’s possible that being onstage with fewer candidates who are far less popular than he is will provide Christie with an opportunity to stand out. But right now, this looks like a setback for a campaign that was just starting to get some momentum. After Christie gave a strong debate performance last month, his poll numbers in New Hampshire had just started to climb and this week, a video of his remarks on drug addiction and rehabilitation went viral.

Candidates have graduated from the undercard debate to primetime before. After Carly Fiorina introduced herself to the country during the first debate, in Cleveland, she surged in the polls and vaulted into the top tier for the next event. But Christie is the first candidate to be knocked out of the primetime debate. There’s no precedent to help us predict how Christie’s campaign will survive this blow, or if it will even turn out to matter much at all.

Christie was talking about drug addiction in Somersworth, New Hampshire on Thursday night. Just before Fox Business released the news to the public, he was ushered out of the room.

Moments later, his campaign responded on Twitter.

@ChrisChristie

It doesn’t matter the stage, give me a podium and I’ll be there to talk about real issues like this: http://christiene.ws/1Nvu40o  #BringItOn

Fox Business’ announcement was a very unwelcome distraction from an otherwise good week for Christie.

After well-received performances during the last two GOP debates, Christie received a bump in the confidence of the pundit class (so much so that the liberal website Salon published an article bemoaning the “Christie comeback” narrative) and in the polls in New Hampshire, where he has focused much of his time during his campaign. In a WBUR poll released Wednesday, 8 percent of likely primary voters said they would support Christie, up from 6 percent in September.

And on Friday, The Huffington Post released a video of Christie talking about addiction. They called it his “emotional plea” and it certainly sounded like one. He talked about the compassion his mother, a smoker who had lung cancer, received when she sought treatment. He encouraged that same compassion for people who suffer from drug addiction.

The video slowly gained steam until it, in the words of a Christie campaign press release, went “viral.” As of Thursday night it has been viewed, on Facebook, over 6 million times.

The Washington Post wrote of the video, “In short, if elections are about moments, Christie is having one.”

But it’s hard to sustain a moment when no one is watching and it’s even harder when appearances suggest that you are no longer a competitive candidate, and that will likely be the case at the 7 p.m. debate Christie will take part in next week.

 

By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, November 5, 2015

November 9, 2015 Posted by | Chris Christie, GOP Presidential Candidates, GOP Primary Debates | , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Habitual Cruelty To Others”: Ranting On Robin Williams, Limbaugh Exposed A Hole In His Own Soul

Having infuriated millions of Robin Williams fans with insensitive remarks on the late actor’s suicide, Rush Limbaugh now blames the “liberal media” and “despicable leftists” for distorting his innocent message.

This is an old dodge for Limbaugh. Yet however he parses his language, there can be no doubt that he sought to exploit a tragic event for what he likes to call “political education.”  His attempt to brand Williams’ suicide with “the leftist worldview” was perfectly plain. And as usual, his alibi is plainly false.

In his original commentary on Williams, Limbaugh quoted Fox News – hardly a “liberal media” source even by his elastic definition – about the great comic’s possible motivations for taking his own life:

I mean, right here there’s a story on the Fox News website.  Do you know, it says right here, that the real reasons that Robin Williams killed himself are he was embarrassed at having to take television roles after a sterling movie career….He’d had some divorces that ripped up his net worth, and he had a big ranch in Napa that he couldn’t afford any longer and had to put up for sale, and a house in Tiburon that he couldn’t afford anymore.  This is all what’s in the Fox News story.

He had it all, but he had nothing.  He made everybody else laugh but was miserable inside.  I mean, it fits a certain picture, or a certain image that the left has.

Pursuing this tendentious theme, Limbaugh went on to mention the “survivor’s guilt” that Williams reportedly suffered over the early deaths of three close show-business friends, Christopher Reeve, John Belushi, and Andy Kaufman. “He could never get over the guilt that they died and he didn’t. Well, that is a constant measurement that is made by political leftists in judging the country,” he harrumphed, concluding with a few incomprehensible sentences about “outcome-based education.” (Even more oddly, Limbaugh promoted a wonderful appreciation of Williams in the Guardian by Russell Brand — an actor with very strong left-wing opinions.)

Still, his point was unmistakable: If you’re concerned about life’s unfairness – as Robin Williams, a dedicated lifelong liberal, certainly was – then you probably suffer from a dark and pessimistic worldview that may very well lead you to kill yourself.

Insofar as Limbaugh pretends to be educating the public, let’s school him by turning around his exploitative blather and putting him in the place of his rhetorical victim. A decade ago, when the radio talker’s addictive dependency on prescription painkillers was first exposed, it would have been easy enough to lampoon his behavior as an expression of his right-wing worldview.

Popping mouthfuls of oxycontin? He thought he could get away with it because of his wealth and status, like so many other millionaire crooks. Violating the narcotics code? He hates government and thinks he can ignore laws that inconvenience him, just like the Bundy Ranch gang. Publicly urging criminal prosecution of drug addicts while indulging the same weakness? He is just another moral hypocrite, like so many of his cronies on the right, from William Bennett to Newt Gingrich to… Rush Limbaugh.

As America watched Limbaugh struggle with his own personal issues, nobody tried to claim that he became a junkie because of his political attitudes. Indeed, most liberal commentators wished him a full recovery, even while noting his frequent failures of empathy. A few even suggested that he seize the opportunity to contemplate his habitual cruelty to others — and try to change.

Sadly, that never happened. If it had, then Limbaugh might have come to understand depression and substance abuse, which evidently killed Robin Williams, as illnesses rather than political or moral failing – exactly like the addiction that harmed Rush’s hearing and could have claimed his life. He might even have experienced an emotion so often mocked as “liberal” and too often absent from conservative moralizing:

Compassion.

 

By: Joe Conason, Editor in Chief, The National Memo, August 15, 2014

August 16, 2014 Posted by | Mental Health, Rush Limbaugh | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“How To Stop Heroin Deaths”: Up To 85 Percent Of Users Overdose In The Presence Of Others

Philip Seymour Hoffman who died of an apparent heroin overdose on Sunday, was just one of hundreds of New Yorkers who fall victim to this drug each year. Heroin-related deaths increased 84 percent from 2010 to 2012 in New York City and occur at a higher rate — 52 percent — than overdose deaths involving any other substance.

I am an emergency physician at NYU Langone Medical Center and Bellevue Hospital, but I rarely see victims die of heroin overdose because most fatalities occur before patients get to the hospital. Overdoses often take place over one to three hours. People just slowly stop breathing; often they are assumed to be sleeping deeply, or they are alone.

The most frustrating part is that each of these deaths is preventable, because there is an antidote to heroin overdose that is nearly universally effective. Naloxone, an opioid antidote, is a simple compound that has been in clinical use for more than 30 years. It can be administered via needle or as a nasal spray, and it works by displacing heroin from its receptors in the brain and rapidly restoring the overdose victim to consciousness and normal breathing.

An analysis in the Annals of Internal Medicine last year suggested that up to 85 percent of users overdose in the presence of others. This provides an opportunity for friends, family and other non-health care providers to intervene. In New York State, it has been legal to distribute naloxone to ordinary citizens since 2006. But the distribution has to be done with medical supervision. Naloxone is purchased by the city and state health departments, which then distribute the antidote through hospitals, harm-reduction programs and other outlets at no cost to patients.

Some New York City hospitals are now distributing kits containing naloxone to users and their friends and families. For the past three years, the New York City Department of Homeless Services has administered naloxone in shelters. And a new pilot program on Staten Island — which has the highest rate of heroin overdose deaths in New York City — is supplying the antidote through the Police Department’s 120th Precinct there.

The city’s health department is conducting a large study following people who get naloxone to assess how frequently the antidote is used to reverse overdose. In 2012, the health department filed a public letter to the Food and Drug Administration recommending that the F.D.A. approve naloxone for over-the-counter use. The letter stated that more than 20,000 kits had been distributed in New York City. It also noted that more than 500 overdose reversals had been reported by civilians who had administered the antidote.

Some people might argue that the widespread distribution of a safe, effective and inexpensive antidote might actually encourage drug use. But that’s like suggesting that air bags and seatbelts encourage unsafe driving. Naloxone is a public-health method of intervening when a life is in the balance. Its distribution is endorsed by the American Medical Association.

A new bill that would make it easier for users to obtain naloxone was introduced in the New York State Legislature just last week, and on Tuesday it passed the State Senate Health Committee. It would increase access to the antidote by allowing doctors and nurses to write standing orders — prescriptions that can be used for anyone — and issue them to community-based drug treatment programs. The programs would then train people on the signs of overdose and provide them with the naloxone kits. This means that the programs would not have to have a doctor present to distribute the antidote, overcoming one major hurdle that impedes widespread distribution.

This bill empowers a community to protect itself and others. If the bill becomes law, it would be one step closer to making naloxone available over the counter — as it already is in Italy.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, drug overdose is now the leading cause of injury-related fatalities in the United States, ahead of motor-vehicle collisions and firearms accidents. We make cars safer by having speed limits, seatbelts, crumple zones and D.W.I. laws. We make it harder to buy a firearm with background checks and waiting periods, and we teach gun safety and sometimes mandate trigger locks. We can make heroin safer, too, by supplying methadone or buprenorphine as medications to treat physical dependence, providing clean needles to help prevent the spread of hepatitis and H.I.V., and facilitating the wide availability of naloxone to counteract overdoses.

While Mr. Hoffman’s death was without a doubt a tragedy, it is also emblematic of a societal need to take action to prevent the hundreds of deaths that otherwise go largely unnoticed. We can’t control heroin — that’s the job of law enforcement — but we can make it safer.

By: Robert S, Hoffman, Emergency Physician, NYU Langone Medical Center and Bellevue Hospital; Director of the Division of Medical Toxicology at New York University School of Medicine, Op-Ed Contributor, The New York Times, February 6, 2014

February 7, 2014 Posted by | Public Health, Public Safety | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Gov Rick Scott: When Bad Governors Try Bad Ideas

Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) came up with an idea he considered pretty clever. First, he told Floridians that people on welfare were more likely to be drug addicts. What did Scott base this on? Nothing in particular — he seemed to just make it up — but Scott was quite fond of the argument.

Second, the governor approved a policy based on his faulty assumptions: those who apply for welfare benefits will have to pass a state-mandated drug test. How’s that working out? Not well.

Since the state began testing welfare applicants for drugs in July, about 2 percent have tested positive, preliminary data shows.

Ninety-six percent proved to be drug free — leaving the state on the hook to reimburse the cost of their tests.

As part of the Scott administration policy, those applying for benefits have to pay a $30 out-of-pocket fee to pay for the drug test. If they pass, Florida reimburses them.

And while the state saves some money by not making benefits available to those 2% who fail the test, Florida is forced to reimburse everyone else, plus pay for staff and administrative costs for the drug-testing program, plus pay the legal fees associated with the likely court challenge.

This really wasn’t a great idea.

I’d also note for context that Rick Scott’s drug-testing policy is limited to low-income Floridians needing temporary aid. It doesn’t, in other words, apply to everyone seeking public funding — only the poor, who the governor assumes are probably drug-addicts.

And speaking of the nation’s worst governor, remember the $2.4 billion Florida was set to receive for high-speed rail? The project that enjoyed bipartisan support and was going to create tens of thousands of jobs? With Scott rejecting the funding, the money has now been officially reallocated for rail upgrades in the Northeast, high-speed rail in the Midwest, and related projects in California.

Florida’s unemployment rate is only 10.7%. It’s not like the state needed the boost.

 

By: Steve Benen, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, August 26, 2011

August 27, 2011 Posted by | Class Warfare, Conservatives, Democracy, Economy, Elections, Equal Rights, GOP, Gov Rick Scott, Governors, Ideologues, Ideology, Income Gap, Jobs, Lawmakers, Middle Class, Politics, Public, Republicans, Right Wing, State Legislatures, States, Teaparty, Unemployment, Wealthy | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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