Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Housing First

As the recent "cure all" of mental illness therapy goes, "all people need is their own house".  Some psychologist with more brains than all the others in the health care field interviewed patients in the mental health system and found they really wanted a 'house of their own'.
I'm amazed that all of the people living in Vancouver and other big cities don't become crazy because they too want an idealized house of their own.
Homelessness is the name of the problem.  Indeed the rant goes that if 'homelessness' were tackled all the other problems would be too.  Indeed the 'research' being put out suggests that once you give people housing everything else gets better.
I'm too old for all this shit I'm hearing.  Here in Vancouver DTES we've had 10 years of 'safe injection sites' for heroin addicts and now heroin for heroin addicts. The trouble is that the way the research is being set up is without any consideration of the 'fishbowl' we live in. If you piss in the tank we're all affected. So naturally the researchers at Insite and those doing the free heroin for heroin addict refuse to accept that the monumental rise in heroin addiction in the young in Canada has anything to do with them.
So similiarly we have this 'solution' to mental illness.  It troubles me that this 'solution' comes along when in fact there is increasingly money being allotted for the treatment and mental illness and addiction.  So everyone in the business fields are retooling to collect the money.
As an old fart I saw this all happen when the asylums got all the overnight negative media attention (the classic media bombing attacks we see preceding the ground assaults) so that overnight these amazing humane, highly funded, central facilities where the mentally ill had great food and shelter, treatment and most important "safety', got shut down and supposedly the money that was 'saved' would go to 'hospital beds' and 'community housing'.  Yet what we had the next day was 'homelessness'.  And so many of the 'community housing for the mentally ill' was 'slum landlord premises 'renamed' 'mental health housing' and $25 rooms sold to the government at $500 rooms.  Friends of friends of friends got instantly rich overnight and the buildings and land for the asylums was redesignated and sold off for profit which never will make it's way back to treating the mentally ill or addicted.
Further, people who are homeless not uncommonly don't do well in homes. A number of my patients have long histories of 'acting out' their minor frustrations by burning down their homes or their neighbours.  Others, frequently, like a famous rock and roller on drugs, destroy the toilets in their apartments. One homeless woman I saw had destroyed 37 toilets in a decade of 'homelessness'.  Other 'homeless' I know in drug induced paranoid delusions routinely attack their neighbours with various weapons.  One housing coop which had 'placed' a homeless person took two years of major suffering for the other 30 or so tenants to have him evicted again because he liked to sexually harrass young women at the front door and violently threaten the men.
Mostly my patients in recovery want 'drug free housing."
Most want safety
What the mentally ill need is safety and treatment and the addicted need detox and recovery.  My suspicion is that this new 'housing' wave will go the way of the 'PROJECTS" which became the "GHETTO" but began just like today as the panacea of 'housing'  made a lot of slum land lords and construction folk richer.  I don't think it helped the mentally ill or addicted in the long run and it certainly didn't help the long suffering nurses, therapists and doctors working day to day with this population and having steady success.
And yes, we all want housing in Vancouver so it's a great idea and we all like it.  Short term simple solutions for long term problems.  But the money pie gets divided in only certain ways and housing profits housing most.

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