A 52-year-old woman, Karen Lee Batts, was evicted from a senior assisted living facility for non-payment of $338.00. Batts’ family says she suffers from schizophrenia.
The facility that evicted Batts was under the management of Cascade Management, Inc. and Northwest Housing Alternatives, LLC. The housing complex was designed for people with disabilities and financially limited seniors:
“The court records say only that she was evicted for being at least seven days late with the $338 rent for August.”
Martha McLennan, executive director for Northwest Housing Alternatives, stated that Batts had been two months behind in rent payments, and that employees had noticed erratic behavior in the months leading up to the eviction:
“Our staff reached out to her repeatedly, had Project Respond come reach out to her, had adult protective services come and reach out to her.”
“I see situations not uncommonly, where the person who needs the help doesn’t know how to ask, or can’t ask, or is in no shape to have that realization and ask.”
Unfortunately for Batts, privacy laws prevented the housing establishment from notifying family that her behavior had become erratic or that she had been evicted.
He family did try phoning, but Batts wasn’t answering. When her brother Alan Batts became concerned about her not answering her phone, he contacted the Portland Police to request a welfare check on his sister. The responding officer determined that Batts was not a danger to herself or others and reported that back to her brother. The police department’s abilities to do more than that were also limited by laws.
And Then She Died… WHY?
Have we become such an uncaring nation that things like this are now commonplace and acceptable?
According to Oregon Public Broadcasting (OPB):
“Batts is one of three people living on the street who have died of exposure so far in 2017. David Guyot, 68, and Mark Johnson, 51, also died of hypothermia this winter while living on Portland’s streets, according to the Multnomah County Medical Examiner’s Office.”
Winter isn’t even properly set in yet – and this is just in one city. What of other cities in areas frequented by inclement weather? Based on a survey from 2012, an average of 700 homeless people per year die from exposure to the elements and an inability to find adequate shelter.
Denver? According to a survey conducted by Metro Denver Homeless Initiative in 2015:
“On Monday, January 26, 2015 there were 6,130 homeless men, women and children counted in the seven county Metro Denver area.”
Detroit? Detroit has the highest expectation of death caused by homelessness in the nation:
“The number of homeless families and children in those families increased from 2014 to 2015.”
“There was a significant increase in the number of unaccompanied youth under the age of 18.”
How Do We Fix It? These Cities Are Doing It Wrong
The problem is being addressed in many different ways, but unfortunately many communities are not addressing it with an eye toward helping these people:
“Rather than finding ways to provide assistance to some of the country’s least fortunate citizens, lawmakers have developed strict regulations to criminalize homeless people’s activities, as if they were sleeping on the sidewalk and panhandling out of malice rather than necessity.”
When homelessness becomes visible, lawmakers in some cities have:
“…tried to eliminate its homeless population – many of whom are either mentally ill, grappling with addiction, or facing financial woes – by declaring them criminals (Spoiler Alert: it doesn’t work).”
The six worst cities for homeless people are:
Los Angeles, California
Nevada City, California
St. Petersburg, Florida
In these cities, being homeless becomes a crime and police can arrest people for something as simple as sitting at a bus stop if the officer decides that you aren’t really waiting on a bus.
How Do We Fix It? These Cities Are Doing It Right
Madison, Wisconsin has been cultivating the Tiny House Project, which grew out of the Occupy Madison movement. Using recycled materials, they build solar homes on wheels. Recipients perform community service in exchange for a tiny home.
Other amazing projects have been started in:
New Orleans, Louisiana
The various programs include outreach services, home-finding services, food and clothing assistance and other things that are unique to a growing homeless population. The National Alliance to end Homelessness (NAEH) maintains statistics on homelessness, compiles and disseminates educational materials, and serves as a bulletin board for groups that wish to find out how to help.
There is help out there, although not nearly enough to combat the rising number of homeless in our country. Take a stand – find a project and volunteer, or donate, or just spread the word that these people need help. It is only through participation that we will make a difference. You might save a life.
This BBC documentary is an hour long, but very eye-opening as to the extent of the homeless problem in this country.
Featured image from YouTube video.