By Randle Loeb on Jan 10, 2009 | In Caring and Surviving, Citizenship and Stewards By Randle Loeb
We heard impassioned speeches from various legislators and then we saw what the State Human Services staff attempted to slip past the public on Friday at their meeting of the Human Services Board. It was an exercise in destroying the confidence and integrity of the public with respect to open and fair hearings on matters of public policy as they attempted to slash funding and cut out grants amounting to ten million dollars. The Director maintained that she holds the prerogative to do whatever she wishes.
Similar exercises are being carried out in the halls of the state legislature as a slash and burn extremism settles in to the order of the movement of the pit and the pendulum toward cutting out all propriety of care of the most vulnerable people in our state. Some astute leadership was napping with an eye open and noticed the explosive character of the state director of Human Services and her staff. She had previously promised that there would be no nipping and gutting of precarious programs that serve the most seriously limited people in this economic wasteland.
We cannot afford to cut out any support for the poor anywhere. There is no room for economic squeezing of the old age pension, the aid to the needy and disabled, the care of the indigent, health and behavioral health care for people, resources and staffing and especially emergency grants for providing drastically overburdened social service providers with a modicum of safety. The reason that this is a fact, is that the implications for families, for overstuffing jails and prisons, for depleting the already drastically overburdened resources will mean long term ill effects on children, families, workers and people who are struggling to survive. Many agencies serving poor people are going out of business.
The nation lost 524,000 jobs in December, the worst loss since the 1930s. This does not count the millions of people who have given up looking for jobs or who have stopped trying to find a job in their field and are settling for work for a fraction of what they are able to earn. This does not consider the increase in the number of unemployed to record numbers over the last three months that will surpass the total population of Chicago.
Unemployment rates have crossed 7% nationally, and are over 20% percent in some urban cities in the United States. Many economists with long histories of experience predict that this economic crisis will continue to burden the poor long into 2011, and that the percentage of unemployed will reach 15%. During the Great Depression that number of unemployed reached an apex of a quarter of the working population. Faith communities have been forced to open their doors to provide a place of refuge for these people and across the region there is no room at any inn. Drastically reduced funding for the Denver's Road Home, for the United Way, for the major social service organizations is pushing people who work, out the door and into the might. Many of the places that the poor will seek will include jails as the place of last resort for people with mental health and substance issues. Many of these people do not feel as safe in shelters as they do in the jails.
One official for the state Division of Housing suggested that people will be doubled up, youth will be staying with family and friends or they will be outside. As we do the Point in Time Count on January 27 this year we are looking at an increase in homelessness throughout the front range of one quarter of the total number of 10,000 people, most of whom are families. In Colorado Springs an encampment is already usual and customary for many outcasts of conventional means for housing. As the economy grows weaker and more pronounced closures of malls, corporations, homes, and industries is commonplace, there will be no other outlet for the poor. The rise of the shanties and shacks is staggering throughout America. People who can offer sustenance and a helping hand are panicking as they see the mushrooming evidence that the market place economy is broken down and bleeding. Can we sustain a world where people of unprecedented wealth can do whatever they wish, and allow people to live with little else than a blanket in a cardboard box down by the river? There is a shelter that offers this as a token of modest care when their overflow rises above their required limits.
We are calling for a Front Range economic stimulus plan that includes emergency shelter safety protocol like the FEMA board and the Red Cross provides for roads and public safety. We need a plan by the Denver Regional Council of Governments, the Urban Municipal League, the Metro Mayor's Caucus and the County Commissioners that defines public safety and emergency housing for everyone and every category of behavioral health, with distinct options for preservation of life.
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