Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

There Is No Good Solution to the Problem of the Homeless

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

There Is No Good Solution to the Problem of the Homeless

Article excerpt

On Monday, Nov. 29, a homeless woman by the name of Yetta Adams was found dead on a bus shelter bench here near the headquarters of the Department of Housing and Urban Development. It is HUD, of course, that is charged with the federal government's program for the homeless, and so the irony of Adams' death was not lost on anyone. She was 43 years old and had succumbed on a cold night.

But it was not a freezing night. (The low hit 34.) And she was not destitute, because $300 was found on her body. She did not die because of a lack of shelter, because she had been living in one and had left only a week before. She was not even alone in Washington. Her family lives here - a brother and three grown children. This was her town.

In many respects, Adams was the archetypical homeless person, which is to say that her problem was not a lack of shelter. She died not because the city had no bed for her, but because she chose not to occupy it. She was, it now seems, a mentally incapacitated person and an alcoholic as well. During the 13 years she lived on and off in shelters, she was occasionally disruptive, refused to follow any rules and from time to time was asked to leave. You or I might call her crazy, hardly a term of any precision, but that's what she was.

None of the details about Adams would be news to the federal and local officials who deal with the homeless. Yet her death triggered a virtual spasm of guilt that, while not entirely undeserved, does not really fit the facts of her case. Following her death, HUD Secretary Henry Cisneros convened an emergency meeting and advanced the District of Columbia "several hundred thousand dollars" of the money it was going to get for its homeless program. Cisneros hthen wrote an article for The Washington Post in which he essentially said that everyone - the city and the federal government - has to do more.

He has a point - but not much of one. Maybe if the city had a more effective outreach program, Adams would have been found and enticed into a shelter. I say "possibly" since she already knew where the shelters were, had stayed in them and, for some reason, refused to go back. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.