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The St Louis Contrarian

Providing Independent and Intelligent Insight on St. Louis Public Policy Issues

Archive for the category “mental health”

Homelessness in St. Louis

Activists in St. Louis have mounted demonstrations against the Mayor and other city officials over the issues of homelessness. They have criticized the city for not making more homeless beds available and doing a better job of housing the homeless population. A poster child for this action has been a homeless man who died in a portapot before Christmas.

That gentleman’s story is symptomatic of the homeless problem. This individual had refused help from his family and from workers in an office building near his portapot. He consistently refused help; most likely having a mental health problem. I don’t know of any way the city could have managed this situation.

I work closely with the homeless issue in St. Louis. I help serve lunch every week at Biddle House. When the Larry Rice facility was shut we did not notice an upswing in people coming in for lunch. Where did his alleged population go? Also, as pointed out by the city, if there is an overflow in shelters churches step in and house people.

I don’t believe there are people sleeping on the streets who could not be admitted to shelters. I also believe if we built ten more shelters they would be full. The issue is complicated, but homelessness is a more fluid situation than most people understand. The answer to the problem is permanent supportive housing. Written by Paul Dribin

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The Ghost of Larry Rice

The Reverend Larry Rice has been a controversial figure in St. Louis. For years he ran a homeless shelter and refused to cooperate with authorities, did not allow inspections, made religious conversion a requirement for admission, allegedly housed many more people than he was licensed for, and required residents of his facility to work for free on his farm. He also owns a radio station. Reverend Rice was a constant thorn in the nose of the establishment.

I argue that even more important, his work was a hinderance to homeless people improving their lives. I have a friend who is a former homeless person who said Rice actually enable homeless behavior and got in the way of people looking and preparing for jobs. I help serve lunch at Biddle House which is affiliated with St. Patrick’s Center. When Reverend Rice’s facility was finally shut by the city, we expected to find many more people coming for lunch. Actually, we did not. Our conclusion is that Reverend Rice never had nearly as many people living in his facility as he claimed. Rice has tended to be a popular figure with liberals because he thumbs his nose as the establishment. That support was a big mistake. Written by Paul Dribin

Again Healthcare and Housing

Housing and healthcare are one and the same. I don’t need to restate the obvious; people with poor housing options tend to be less healthy, and people who are less healthy tend to live in substandard housing.

I am putting some ideas together to address this. Think of this scenario which often happens. A patient cannot be released from the hospital in a timely manner because they are homeless. The daily cost in the hospital is $3000. Wouldn’t it make sense for hospitals to subsidize the rent for these individuals and get supportive services for them? A second issue. Many readmissions to hospitals could be avoided if people lived in decent housing. As I said, I will be putting a project together to address this. Paul Dribin

Statistics on Lack of Housing Affordability

Everyone knows there is a serious lack of affordable housing in this country. This gap contributes to homelessness, poor school performance, childhood trauma, and mental and physical health problems. The National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC) presents a report every year which documents the housing affordability problems. They compare the minimum wage income to rents and then deduce the level of housing non affordability. They compare the monthly minimum wage income to the median rent in the area and calculate that anyone paying more than 30% of their income for rent is paying too much for housing.

Like I said, I am a big affordable housing advocate and understand the lack of affordable housing. I disagree with the methodology used in this study. Many minimum wage workers are students or retirees and do not expect to live on this income. Others double up with roommates to meet housing costs. Third most minimum wage workers do not stay at that salary level for long. I believe the average tenure at minimum wage is six months. For better or worse, minimum wage was never intended to be a living wage.

A more valid comparison would be between median salary and median rent. This statistic would still tell and alarming story, but the data would be more truthful. I have the highest respect for the National Low Income Housing Coalition. They do great work.

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