keep them behind a locked gate

After meeting opposition at every proposed site, the plan to create permanent supportive housing for the chronically homeless all over Knox County has ended where so many wanted it to be, Lakeshore. Pessimistic voices argue that this keeps the mentally ill homeless near mental health services. Optimistic voices argue that Lakeshore is lovely and one of their favorite places to go for a walk. How many of those voices have ever been inside the locked buildings at Lakeshore? How many had no idea there are still patients at Lakeshore? How many understand that Lakeshore is not an out-patient medical center, but a crisis stabilization facility? How can they miss all the news reports that identify Lakeshore as the forensic facility for people whose dangerous crimes may have been connected to personal illness?

Do I take my children to the trails at Lakeshore? Of course I do. The difference is that those buildings with locked doors aren’t invisible to me. I am constantly aware of their presence and the seriously ill people inside them. People who are struggling to survive. People in very real pain. People who have been victimized by their extreme vulnerability. Human beings in locked rooms, in locked buildings, behind locked gates. Lakeshore is a hospital and no matter how much they have to sell their land to stay in business for the people who desperately need care, it is still a place where sick people go to get better.

Is permanent supportive housing a place for people with special needs who lack the support systems needed to fully function in society? If so, why isn’t it being put in neighborhoods with other people? Group homes belong among other homes. Apartments cluster with other multi-family housing facilities. Where are the other families living at Lakeshore? They are not there. Where can the PSH residents go when they need a cup of sugar? Shall they knock on the hospital door? Even the Lakeshore chapel was sold to make additional parking for soccer moms. That’s not a community. It’s a business. It’s not a business that will hire them though.

Oh, ha-ha Cathy. You’re so stupid to claim Lakeshore is not a community. Look at all the people walking their dogs and watching children play soccer. If a crowd of strangers decided to let their dogs poop on my street, they would not make this a community. Community is the all of the neighbors who know each other. Community is the ability to walk next door for a cup of milk or collect a neighbor’s mail when they are on vacation. Community is knowing that everyone in this neighborhood recognizes my children and keeps an eye on what they are doing just as I know and watch over their children. Community is not a place surrounded by gates and designed for lock-down protocol. Not gates to keep the scary out, but gates to control the residents and keep them inside the facility. Gates to keep the mentally ill and now the homeless out of sight and out of mind.

The people who don’t want this site discussed because they think this is the issue that will put someone in or keep someone out of the mayoral office are helping nobody. Constant media attention has made politicians completely ineffective people whose primary goal is their next elected office. The only decision politicians make that isn’t based solely on campaigning are the ones they make when they take off their britches. I know that the League of Women Voters could revoke my membership for saying that, but I suspect they recognize frustration and aggravation as the predecessors to focus and motivation.

2 thoughts on “keep them behind a locked gate

  1. My mother worked with the criminally insane at Lakeshore when she was pregnant with me, before she had to quit because of the risks. During my childhood, she worked as case manager/crisis counselor and worked to put those who had been in long term hospitalization into apartments. I think maybe Reagan decided to cut funding or states claimed to not have the money or something.

    These people for the most part could not hack it on their own even if they stayed on their meds, which was a constant problem. I remember some would go missing for days, some would call in the middle of the night because they couldn’t change lightbulbs, etc etc.

    I think for the seriously mentally ill, it would probably be a good thing to be near Lakeshore because some of them should actually be allowed to live *inside* mental institutions permanently (but no one wants to pay for that). But for those who have the possibility of being treated successfully…I agree that a normal community would be important.

    It makes me so mad that people (some of them even my friends) are so against the housing being in West Knox or anywhere near their friends and families. It such a “us and them” sort of mentality, but I know that most families have someone in them who is mentally ill or drug addicted (whether they admit it or not)

  2. If this was a step-down that the Lakeshore patients could graduate to, that would be great. It sounds more like this will be housing for people who are not ill enough to be hospitalized and have been on the street for years. Watch the chaos when another site is suggested as people insist that all PSH be at Lakeshore. The people in charge NEED this program to succeed. They will carefully choose people who can succeed in the community they are placed. If they are all kept inside Lakeshore’s gates, we are limiting their potential.

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