A community approach to homelessness My Story

| 11 Jan 2016 | 02:57

“Authorities” advised in the last “homeless on the street” explosion, ”Don’t give money because it will go for alcohol or drugs. Give food, clothes or directions on where to find help.” Is this still the advice and is enough said about the alcohol/drug dependence and “homelessness link?”

The concern now seems more centered on “mental illness,” something that happens to the brain, not what people do to themselves to, ironically feel better, but may then get hooked and estranged from family and friends, become unemployable and even homeless.

And I was reminded of all this when a Chase bank “reluctantly” discontinued a coffee service for costumers waiting for banking help in a small lounge area. “More and more homeless were coming in for coffee and hanging out in that area which made customers waiting there uncomfortable.” Understandably so, when reportedly, there were requests for money and sometimes hostile gestures and remarks.

No, I don’t blame Chase, but rather “society” when, for example, how little is said about the 24-hour A.A. workshop program held for decades in St. Monica’s lower level only a block away from this bank. Alcohol and other addictions need more media “coverage” and from churches and synagogues where A.A. and other 12-step programs are frequently held. Church bulletins I see ask for volunteers to help with the admirable over-night shelter programs for “the homeless,” and 12 Step programs are listed, but no suggestions to attend “open to the public” meetings to learn about the alcohol/drug dependence and homeless connection.

And all this when more and more public gathering places, like neighborhood eateries, are replaced by luxury high rise condo homes with no room for community involvement even when some apartments are “affordable.”

Ironically the expansion of medical and educational facilities which destroy self sustaining neighborhoods may ultimately work against overall public health and welfare. People often drink or do drugs to feel connected or for shy people to be heard. Like my Uncle Clarence, whose gregarious wife, Helen (who, incidentally, worked for Senator George McGovern), used to say, “Norwegians, like my husband, often need alcohol to prime the pump.” But Uncle Clarence learned to “get a word in” sober through the Minneapolis A.A. meetings he and Aunt Helen attended together.

Ah, and in my Minneapolis childhood our Baptist church regularly held hymn singing and prayer services in the Bowery type mission for “down on their luck” men who seemed quite receptive. And while alcohol was an absolute no-no, fire and brimstone sermons were eschewed. But we kids got the message which some unfortunately later forgot but thankfully wound up in A.A. like their uncle did.

Minneapolis papers and all small town newspapers once regularly listed A.A. and other recovery group meetings, and now would you believe, 411 has twice given me non-working numbers for Alcoholics Anonymous Intergroup. Now waiting for an internet group to call back. 1 800 314 2684 gives some general alcohol/drug information

But above all, the mayor and all desperately seeking answers to the latest homeless problem must search the Internet for homelessness and alcohol/drug dependence. Incidentally, also found there was a 1990 L.A. Times piece about my Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church’s Cocaine Anonymous group which I surprisingly had read on a Los Angeles visit. Titled “The Neglected Weapon in the Drug War,” it described these weekly meeting’s high success rate, which experts said couldn’t be done.

Surely AA and other 12-step groups must not be the neglected weapon in the war against homelessness. Or overlooked in the war against gun and other violent and anti anti-social behaviors. Or ignored in the greatest overarching drinking problem, while remaining employable and housed, but when under the influence, saying or doing things one wouldn’t do sober, or failure to say and do what is needed.

Responsible drinking in general so needs to be stressed – medics now limit women to one drink daily and two for men. Hey, but happily, no limits on coffee or tea. It can be done if enough of us try