Homeless laws need an overhaul

No “program” for the homeless can succeed if the root problem behind homelessness is not identified and a proper solution carried out (“Winter shelter mulls changing its rules,” Jan. 6). Such programs as they exist now are nothing more than make-work programs for those who fill the management positions: creating and staffing shelters, doing “surveys,” creating “liaisons,” employing “qualify-of-life officers.”

Last month, my younger brother, who had spent his entire adult life destitute and homeless, died of pneumonia in a San Francisco park he was sleeping in. He suffered from a personality disorder.

My older brother, Terry, committed suicide in a homeless encampment behind a 7-Eleven in Oregon in 2009. He suffered from a severe form of paranoia and was also destitute and homeless his entire adult life.

Why did both my brothers die this way? Shelters existed for them. So the reason lies elsewhere:

Since neither of my brothers was a court-recognized danger to himself or others, it proved impossible to permanently institutionalize either one into facilities that could have given them the structure — and required them to take their medication — they needed to function.

The larger homeless problem will never be solved until the laws are changed such that relatives, under court direction, can forcibly incarcerate family members who suffer from debilitating mental disorders.

Forty years of “welfare programs” have already proved a giant waste of taxpayer money and destroyed lives. How many more wasted tax dollars and dead bodies are needed to see the folly of failed programs?

Ray Shelton


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