Homelessness in the United States--Data and Issues

By Jamshid A. Momeni | Go to book overview

further threaten services to this vulnerable group. Increased interagency cooperation in combination with necessary funding is essential if the complex needs of this population are to be addressed. Much ignorance (and political resistance) hampers constructive allocation or reallocation of resources to meet the vast unmet needs of homeless mentally ill persons. Accurate reeducation and information dissemination to policymakers, professionals, and program administrators is needed to counteract systemwide resistance.

The existing system relies on a somewhat vague policy with altruism and informal agreements as a basis for interagency collaboration and resource sharing. These however are not sufficient to ensure cooperation for this difficult population in an era of fiscal austerity and scarce resources. Instead, a formal resource- sharing network is needed where there are negotiated rules regarding minimum resource commitment.


CONCLUSIONS

The social response to deinstitutionalized and homeless mentally ill persons in the Pittsburgh region is both unique and yet, in many respects, common. The problems associated with a rust-belt local economic recession are somewhat unique. The local provision of mental health and support services is, however, fairly representative of most urban, American communities. The response is marked by the following: (1) overcrowded shelters and soup kitchens operating as short-term solutions, often with restrictive policies and highly bureaucratic rules; (2) low staffing levels in most sites with limited social service advocacy capability; (3) a remarkable resistance on the part of local psychiatric facilities to share resources or reallocate program budgets to address the problem; (4) police crisis intervention and a criminalization phenomenon among mentally disabled clients; (5) economic constraints and governmental cutbacks further compromising service delivery.

Scarce resources resulting from small community mental health budgets and large hospital budgets are a common and harsh reality for the deinstitutionalized mentally ill. Psychiatric hospitals with their advanced institutional technologies and research programs have divested from local community problems such as the homeless mentally ill. Nowhere is this more apparent than in Pittsburgh, where one of the country's leading psychiatric treatment and research centers stands practically unmoved by its local homeless mentally ill problem.

The dogma associated with modern neurobiological psychiatry has redefined the problem of homeless mentally ill and has given large university (and publicaly funded) psychiatric centers an escape clause, abdicating themselves from any responsibility for this "messy affair." In the biomedical paradigm, the role of hospital complexes, which possess over two-thirds of mental health budgets, is to treat "hard disease" and correct neuroregulatory and biochemical defects. The multiple, social consequences (often victimizations) associated with the

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Homelessness in the United States--Data and Issues
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Figure and Tables ix
  • Foreword xi
  • Preface xiii
  • Acknowledgments xv
  • Introduction xvii
  • 1: Counting the Homeless 1
  • Conclusion 13
  • References 15
  • 2: A Sociodemographic Profile of the Service-Using Homeless: Findings from a National Survey 17
  • References 36
  • 3: Food Sources and Intake of Homeless Persons 39
  • References 60
  • 4: Drug Abuse among Homeless People 61
  • References 76
  • 5: Homelessness as a Long-Term Housing Problem in America 81
  • References 90
  • 6: A Social-Psychiatric Perspective on Homelessness: Results from a Pittsburgh Study 95
  • Conclusions 107
  • References 108
  • References 108
  • References 108
  • 7: Sweat and Blood: Sources of Income on a Southern Skid Row 111
  • References 121
  • 8: Homeless Children and Their Caretakers 123
  • References 132
  • 9: Programs Dealing with Homelessness in the United States, Canada, and Britain 133
  • Conclusions 150
  • Acknowledgments 151
  • References 151
  • 10: Public Policies for Reducing Homelessness in America 153
  • Conclusion 163
  • Note 163
  • References 163
  • 11: No Place to Go: A National Picture of Homelessness in America 165
  • References 182
  • Select Bibliography 185
  • Index 191
  • About the Contributors 195
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