Wojtek Sokolowski sokol at
Tue Aug 17 13:34:02 PDT 1999

At 03:27 PM 8/17/99 -0400, Jim Westrich wrote:

>No one *needs* to be in an "institution". No one *should* be in an
>institution. There are plenty of better and appropriate community options
>no matter what the cognitive or psychiatric problem. These housing options

Community options you mention are still "institutions", especially the current do-nothing-or-drug'em treatment which means homelessness. "institution" does not have to mean hospitalization in the 19th century-style asylum - it means institutionalized (= having a considerable degre of permanence and legitimacy) treatment of the mentally ill.

>are more expensive and labor intensive than the institutional ones. The
>problem is not so simple as liberal (shelter deviant from society) or
>conservative (protect society from deviant). Both end in isolation,
>economization, dehumanization, segregation, exploitation, and
>nonrehabilitation for people in human warehouses (I use the long list to
>emphasize that wide array of reasons why I oppose any institutional living

I agree - the only point I tried to make is how seemingly innocent do-good liberal rhetoric can be used a smoke screen to cover up reactionary measures.

>The problem is we live in a world where everyone has to sing for their
>supper but we don't like the way some people sing (it's ugly
>sometimes). So there is little money for providing basic living
>arrangements for people with psychiatric disabilities. Also, there are
>geographic constraints; the same forces of gentrification bring
>"Not-in-my-neighborhood" restrictions on where these people can be housed.

I do not think there is too little money to care for people who need care - there is a shitload of money for that end. The only catch is that money funds police departments and prisons instead of social service agencies.

Also, I would not exaggerate the NIMBY attitudes - surely, people are concerned, but oftentimes there is organized agitation of special interest gorups behind NIMBY opposition. I recently participated in a community meeting re. the location of services for mentally ill homeless in our neighborhood - people were surely concerned, but after the service provider's reps explained the whole program, that opposition disappeared. Part of it was that people saw it as an opportunity that can bring new development to the area, part of it was no commercial interests involved - hence the absence of special interests hiding behind pseudo-communitarian-environmental-civil-rights-and-what-not store fronts.

>The typically American way to deal with the problem is not too. The
>problem is exacerbated by capitalism and mercantilist politics but goes
>much deeper to basic prejudices against being different. It matters not if
>you regard those different people as a menace, an object of pity, a burden
>of charity, a holy innocent, or malleable being--we have created a world
>without a place for the people the world creates.

Again it is true to some extent, but I think most of this prejudice is fueled from above, politicians, churches and commercial interests hiding under civic-environmental-communitarian facades. Another Baltimore example - recently a nonprofit org serving immigrants was evicted from a predominantly white working class neighborhood by a local communiy development association. To my understanding, the true reason behind eviction was not the purported NIMBY attitude which campus liberals are so eager to attribute to white trash - which attitude was nonexistent in this case - but the fact that the organization occupied a building located in a prime business district. I bet anyone a beer that the next tenant in this building will be a commercial establishment. Something also tells me, although I cannot prove it, that the new tenant had probably something to do with the development association's decision to evict the previous tenant.


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