New Approach to Homelessness Needed

First published in the April 30 print issue of the Burbank Leader.

I have been reading a lot about homelessness issues lately, and as a person with a learning disability and physical disabilities related to age, I cannot understand for the life of me why we refer to the mentally ill as “ill” instead of as “disabled.”

Sadly, many of these homeless people have no independent living skills, sometimes resist housing because of ridiculous rules. Many do not know where to turn for help.

All of these deficits are common among people with intellectual disabilities, autism or Asperger’s or other severe learning disabilities.

These homeless souls need more than just mental health treatment — they need to be tested for any type of mental disability they may have, not just paranoia or schizophrenia.

Many of these disabled people have a lot to contribute to our society as long as they receive the proper guidance to do tasks correctly and get disability benefits as long as they have a conservatorship that promotes or praises their “each-step-of-the-way” accomplishments.

A lack of a sense of self-worth may also cause drug addiction. Heading homeless people into programs that help them overcome self-pity or self-doubt, by getting them involved in job-hunting that matches their skills and letting them know how valuable they will be to their co-workers or work teams, will help those who feel worthless feel worthwhile.

Gov. Gavin Newsom’s CARE Court plan is a good idea and I like that he uses the term mental disability. But sadly, there needs to be a much broader diagnosis of mental disabilities to include autism or Down syndrome or schizophrenia and to drop the word “ill” from labeling any of these conditions.

The city of L.A. and its surrounding counties need a whole new approach to the homelessness crisis. It simply cannot go on the way it currently is.

Jodi Lawson

Burbank