Spencer Troxell is an atheist social worker (a rare breed!) and he explained why he chose this line of work earlier this year:
The spirit that led me to my current station was the realization that there was no other kingdom, and there was no greater glory to be found in the needless suffering of my fellow primates…
Homelessness offends me on different levels. On one level, I’m offended by the sheer callousness with which mankind can treat his fellows. In a society with a supposed safety net, an awful lot of people end up hitting the concrete pretty hard. I am also offended for selfish reasons. Isn’t it obvious to everyone, that if you want yourself and the people you love to be safe and sound and free from the twin sins of want and ignorance, maybe it would be a good idea to make sure our neighbors are safe from them as well?
I feel a sense of urgency compelling me to try to contribute positively to our current (and only guaranteed) situation, and since I am able to do this kind of work, why shouldn’t I?
Spencer works at a large (secular) homeless shelter in Ohio and he just wrote a piece for the Cincinnati Enquirer about the broken health care system as it concerns the mentally ill. I’m not an expert in the subject, so it’s an enlightening piece to say the least:
Cincinnati’s Drop Inn Center has a safe shelter for individuals experiencing homelessness to stay in, and — hopefully — to receive further appropriate services. A large portion of the population at the safe shelter could be classified as the “most difficult to serve.” These are individuals who are experiencing various degrees of behavioral decline as a function of either substance abuse or mental illness. Among this population is a sub-group of individuals whose behavior is such that — for the safety and peace of mind of other residents of this shelter — they must be asked to leave until they have received treatment that would allow them to function passably within the community.
When these individuals are not in the safe shelter, they are roaming the streets. They’re sleeping under bridges, on benches, in doorways, or in the jail house, because their behavior has caused them to break a law that has led to their arrest. It is possible for mental health agencies or police to “put a hold” on a person (requiring police to take them to the hospital for observation for up to 72 hours), but treatment cannot be administered without permission. Often these individuals are released to the street for the cycle to begin again, often only stopping when a severe enough crime is committed to warrant sending them to prison for prolonged periods of time.
He offers one possible path to a solution in the article.
Those of you with more knowledge about how this all works can chime in about whether his proposal will work.
In any case, if you’d like to support a secular homeless shelter, the Drop Inn Center in Cincinnati seems to be in good hands. If you donate, let them know you’re a friendly atheist 🙂