I'm not a big fan of blaming "The Media" for the distorted reality we find ourselves living in, but the influence that technology, and the speed in which news and information travels from the source to our minds in not inconsequential. Our minds can only process a finite amount of information. Our reality is obscured by the reality being pitched at us relentlessly by "The Media."
"It ain't so much the things we know that get us into trouble. It's the things we know that just ain't so."
Examine if you will the link provided above. It is a letter to the editor in response to an op/ed of mine that ran in last Friday's Providence Journal. The writer of the letter, Catherine Orloff says this:
"He (me) stated that drug and alcohol addicts "infest" the area, which implies that he considers them more like vermin than human beings; and he added that such people "appear to the untrained eye to be litter themselves." Such dehumanization is similar to that used by the Nazis against the Jewish people, with devastating consequences that we have resolved never to let happen again. It is very likely that most people addicted to alcohol or other drugs would like help in dealing with their addictions.
But the plain truth is that while for wealthy addicts there is no shortage of programs available, if you're poor you face long waiting lists and limited treatment options. Further, it is probable that many of Rhode Island's homeless addicts are veterans with records of good military service to our country.
This requires that they be accorded respect even in their currently sad condition."
Mark Twain's words could not be more appropriate. Catherine sees the homeless through the eyes of the media, likely from the comfort of her home. There has been an onslaught of propaganda aimed at helping the homeless that instead has emboldened those whose job it is to be homeless. The illusion that they are honorable veterans down on their luck, or mentally ill people unable to access proper health care creates for them a position of sympathy which they exploit every chance they get.
I recently met an honorably discharged veteran. He suffered from kidney failure, and is on a transplant list. He is a patient at the Providence VA, lives in a modest apartment which he pays a reduced rent for, subsidized with his military pension and disability check. He has friends in his life, and a few family members looking after him, and pictures on his wall of him as a young man in his Marine uniform, along with his brother, also a Marine.
He did not squander the chance given to him. He takes advantage of the programs offered to him at the VA.
"It ain't perfect but it beats the street," he said to me as I helped him into the rescue one day last week. He had been vomiting for days and could barely stand, but insisted on getting himself onto the stretcher.
There are plenty of homeless vets. There are plenty of mentally ill homeless people. There is help available for those people, and many, if not most take advantage of that help.
"It ain't perfect, but it beats the street."
The people that I wrote about, with the information expressed in the article gathered through experience and real world encounters, not media stories, are looking to party. Nothing more, nothing less. I have spent twenty years with the city's addicts and homeless. I know most by first name. I know their stories, their sickness and their hopes and dreams. I watch them slowly kill themselves year after year. I have seen the help offered to them, seen the chances they are given, given them the clothes off my back at times, given them food, money and moral support. Continuing the myth that this segment of the population is looking for rehab, or are honorable military veterans is disingenuous and an insult to those who truly are looking for help, and have served our country admirably, and now find themselves down and out.
The letter writer would do well to get out of the house, and away from her "devices" and see for herself what is happening on the 300 Block of Broad Street.
*this op/ed was written in November, 2011, and is not an indictment of the Providence Police Department, who in my opinion does an admirable job dealing with the homeless within today's acceptable limits. They are as frustrated as I am.