Sunday, November 14, 2004

A letter from the mayor

So a few weeks ago, the mayor of our illustrious metropolis went out for a homeless photo-op. He found a homeless lady on the sidewalk, a woman addicted to alcohol and crack cocaine, put his arm around her, and offered to take her down the street where a roomful of nice people were waiting to get people checked in to shelters and detox programs.

And I thought to mysef, "Great. When the Mayor takes a walk on the wild side, he gets his picture in the paper and the lucky recipient of his attentions wins the social service lottery, but when someone like Sheri tries to get herself into detox, it takes her three weeks even to get her foot in the door."

So I wrote the mayor a letter. A nice letter. I told him the story of how Sheri tried for weeks to get into a detox program. I told how her admission was almost derailed at the last minute by having to travel across town and wait hours for a chest x-ray. I suggested that if we are serious about dealing with the root causes of homessness, we should make sure that enough beds are available in the detox facilities so that anyone who wants to kick drugs or alcohol and is there at the clinic by 8:00 AM can be receiving care that evening.

Bottom line: nobody who struggles within themselves to find the courage to walk through the doors of a clinic seeking help for their addictions should be sent out of those doors without receiving it. Nobody.

So I got back a letter from the mayor. "Dear _____, I am sorry your friend had difficulty finding a shelter bed..."

a shelter bed?

It wasn't a shelter bed, it was a bed in a detox facility. Big difference. Anybody can get a shelter bed in this city, primarily because the shelters here are so dangerous that nobody wants to stay in them. People would rather push shopping carts around all night, mile after footsore mile, than stay in one of the shelters where they could easily get robbed or raped or killed.

Dammit, Mr. Mayor, read your mail.

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