Every day we do it, somewhere in this country.
We take a person who cannot care for themselves, who has gone beyond the care (or interest) of the family to assist them anymore, and who seems to be “in the way” when they are out in the public space, and move them into care homes. They are often incoherent, high on opioids, and do things that we see is unacceptable in polite society. We take these people, often against their will because they don’t understand that it’s in their best interest, and we put them into the care of an institution – private or government-run – under the watchful eye of professionals who will look after them until they leave the facility.
This is how many seniors are treated as they come to the twilight years of their lives. No outcry from special interest groups advocating for better care or demanding the government do more to support them. The public cares when there is a story of abhorrent abuse, but, for the most part, we simply accept that this is the best way to care for our seniors in their final years.
So I have a question: If this type of institutionalization is acceptable for our seniors, many of whom spent decades working, raising families, and contributing to society, why is it not acceptable for the addicts and people suffering from mental health issues, living on our streets?
Why is it not acceptable to take them off the streets, put them into an institution with professionals to assist them to deal with their addiction or mental health issues, teach them skills to work and survive independently, and then send them out to become productive and contributing members of society? It’s against their will? It happens to seniors all the time. Do they have to want the help? Seniors with dementia, Alzheimer’s, or just plain old age, often cannot make those decisions so we make them for them, all the time.
We cannot continue down the path of simply housing them in temporary shelters or assisted living facilities and having community support workers check on them. We cannot continue with throwing money at band-aid solutions that have no significant outcomes and that, all too often, solve one problem while creating another. We cannot continue to watch our downtown cores turn into barbed wire fenced labyrinths, put in place to protect private properties from those with addiction and mental health issues who have no issue with invading those spaces for their own purposes.
Perhaps it is time to have a modern facility where we can take those who desperately need the help to get off their addictions and deal with their mental health, where they receive the medical care they need, the shelter they need, the training they need, and the overall support that they need, to return to us healthy and ready to be a contributing part of our communites.