Letter: Dwelling on symptoms skirts responsibilities

Letter writer Janet Rechtman is not alone in insisting those involved in homeless issues should, metaphorically speaking, hold hands and sing Kumbaya. Also pretty sure those who agree with Rechtman would expect no absolute harmony in any arena where their own cherished principles are at stake. Hmmm…when it comes to the throw-away people, it’s just plain annoying to think we’d trouble ourselves with controversy, as to better or worse approaches.

Speaking of better and worse approaches, I listened to a recent Chico City Council presentation by Butte County Behavioral Health Director, Scott Kennelly. Kennelly spoke on the subject of homelessness and the mentally ill. He’s pushing for changes to our laws, decades in place. Laws protecting the civil rights of the mentally ill.

According to Kennelly, our laws are overly restrictive, making it too difficult to forcibly remove the most problematic homeless people from our streets. Kennelly is also keen on reversing recent changes to our criminal codes, suggesting we’re mistaken in reducing penalties for drug possession and petty crimes.

In my opinion, Kennelly grossly understates the cause, while dwelling on the symptoms. The symptom is unstable, suffering people wandering our streets by the hundreds-of-thousands. The cause is a 50 year failure to provide the supportive housing required.  Dwelling on symptoms, and stripping civil liberties protections from the highest-impact homeless, further enables the skirting of our real responsibility: to fix a long-broken system, which breaks people, by routinely depriving the least competitive of the supportive housing they desperately need.

— Patrick Newman, Chico

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