“We live in one of the wealthiest cities in the country, but in King County…[we have] homeless people… unnoticed, unattended, unmourned. May we not rest in peace until this becomes more and more of our problem.
Those words, spoken by Father Michael G. Ryan, pastor of St. James Cathedral, continue to resonate with me. St. James honors the homeless men, women and children who have died in Seattle and King County over the past year with a requiem mass. Many of those honored have died from exposure to the elements, suicide, drug overdoses and violence.
As the cathedral bells rang on First Hill, several readers named the 289 people who died. Their names suggested their ethnicity – Asian, Hispanic, Irish, Anglo-American; the median age, 51 years. But the names that broke my heart were “Baby Boy S” and “Baby Boy F”. Under what circumstances were they born? In the street; in a car?
When I asked a psychiatrist friend how to approach this problem of homelessness, he was clear. There should be two specialist teams: one to tackle mental health issues; one to fight addiction.
Mental Health: If I was living homeless and battling an acute mental illness in Seattle, would I be able to get one of the 46 beds in the Crisis Solutions Center at the Downtown Emergency Services Center? The DESC must assess a number of factors, including a recommendation from the police, a mobile crisis response team or a mental health professional to move a client to one of the hospital beds. emergency.
We have the opportunity to reflect on the possibility of changing this scenario. Next April, King County voters will be asked to support a new property tax to build five new regional crisis care centers to provide much-needed mental and behavioral health programs.
Drug addiction: Thinking of those who struggle and whom I meet regularly on First Hill, I am aware that some speak in voice; others, scantily clad, look for blankets; and some people squat in doorways. The King County Medical Examiner attributes nearly a third of homeless deaths in 2022 to fentanyl. It is not a surprise. I regularly see men and women standing at bus stop #12 exchanging what looks like cash for fentanyl.
“It’s just all over the streets,” Seattle Police Chief Adrian Diaz says.
“People take them and die…”
In a recent New York Times guest essay, “How to Talk to Kids About Drugs in the Age of Fentanyl,” Maia Szalavitz argues that those most at risk for addiction often exhibit telltale behaviors as young as preschoolers. Of note are those who suffered repeated early trauma, neglect and loss.
Just steps away from many of us in Seattle, YouthCare has success to show, providing education, housing, counseling and employment to homeless youth.
“Effective drug abuse prevention requires social change to intervene early in the
childhood trauma, creating communities that support good mental health with safe and nurturing schools, nurturing extracurricular activities, and access to comprehensive health care,” Szalavitz notes.
As the bagpipes last week in St. James led the procession, Father Ryan said, “Go in peace.
But how can I? How can you? How can we?
Together, if we make these issues our issues, we can be part of what makes Seattle more just, more compassionate, and more of a solution for the most vulnerable among us. We can advocate for next April’s tax levy, grab a table to benefit YouthCare, or volunteer at the kitchen at St. James’s Cathedral, where 100 homeless guests are fed daily. What steps can we take to reduce the number of bells for homeless and struggling people in 2023? A lot, it turns out, if we work together.
#Pray #deceased #homeless #neighbors #action #living