There is a different post today at goodmorningfloridakeys.com, which you should be able to reach by clicking on this link: ADD, bipolar disorder, causes and transformation – Florida Keys and beyond
By Alfred Lubrano, Inquirer Staff Writer
POSTED: August 06, 2013
Americans disdain the poor – and science proves it.
When people were placed in neuroimaging machines and shown photos of the poor and homeless, their brains responded as though the photos depicted things, not humans – a sign of revulsion.
Advocates for the poor aren’t surprised, saying enmity toward the needy runs thick.
Antipoverty types cite as evidence the ubiquitous calls from state and federal officials to cut food stamps and energy assistance; eliminate or reduce General Assistance, Social Security, Medicaid, Head Start, and welfare; fingerprint anyone receiving benefits; and so on.
“Americans react to the poor with disgust,” said Susan Fiske, professor of psychology and public affairs at Princeton University and the designer of the neuroimaging tests. She has studied attitudes toward the poor for 12 years.
“It’s the most negative prejudice people report,” greater even than racism, Fiske said.
That’s an everyday truth in Philadelphia, said Zarah Teachey, 58, a formerly homeless woman from West Philadelphia who now counsels others.
“You’re looked at like you’re trash,” she said. “It’s like they think you want nothing out of life. Like you’re not still a person.”
Adam Bruckner’s brain would have lit up with his personal prejudices when he was younger, said the youth director at Helping Hand Rescue Mission, a Philadelphia faith-based organization that works with the poor and homeless. To him, homeless “bums” contributed nothing, like women on welfare who he believed had babies to score government cash.
“Then I saw the money you get isn’t worth the stretch marks,” he said. “Once I met the mom, and the homeless person, it changed me. I saw the humanity inside.”
People are savvy enough not to vocalize that the poor sicken them, Fiske said. But as a social psychologist, she can dig deeply enough to learn what loathing looks like in people’s minds.
“And,” she said, “once you’ve dehumanized a person, it’s easier to neglect him.”
That kind of neglect is always on display, even without a brain scanner, said Sister Mary Scullion, cofounder of Philadelphia’s Project H.O.M.E., which helps the homeless. She was named one of Time magazine’s World’s Most Influential People in 2009.
“We’re losing part of our humanity,” she said. “These were the seeds to the Holocaust: That some lives matter more than others.”
Prejudice against the poor increases during hard economic times, said John Dovidio, a Yale University psychology professor.
“Our society is based on the idea that if you work hard, you get more, and if you have less, you deserve less,” Dovidio said.
That’s why, he added, many Americans don’t accept the notion that low-income people are deserving of support because they’re disadvantaged by adversities outside their control.
“You got to look [poor] people in the eye and tell them they’re irresponsible and lazy,” conservative TV host Bill O’Reilly once said. He added, “That’s what poverty is. . . . In this country, you can succeed if you get educated and work hard. Period.”
Those widely held ideas were buttressed years later by the equally prominent broadcaster Rush Limbaugh, in a now-famous 2010 radio diatribe directed at low-income children in the summer, for whom free school lunches are unavailable:
“There are . . . things in what’s called the kitchen of your house called cupboards. . . [where] most likely you’re going to find Ding-Dongs, Twinkies,. . . [and] potato chips.. . . If that doesn’t work, try. . . McDonald’s. . . and if they don’t have Chicken McNuggets, dial 911 and ask for [President] Obama.” He added, “There’s always the neighborhood Dumpster,” where he advised hungry children “to . . . dive and survive until school kicks back up in August.”
Listeners heard racial overtones in the monologue, and in many Americans’ minds, poverty and race are linked, Dovidio said: “People stereotypically associate blacks and Latinos with poverty.”
For a lot of people, it’s easier to say that all minorities are poor, and that all poor people have only themselves to blame, than to recognize that inequality and unfairness abound, and that not everyone gets a fair shake in a complex world, Dovidio said.
His Yale colleague Elijah Anderson, a sociologist famous for his studies of the Philadelphia streets, understands the race-poverty linkage.
“Black skin is a marker for being lower-class,” Anderson said. “Race and poverty are often conflated, associated with the iconic urban ghetto.”
Mariana Chilton, director of the Center for Hunger-Free Communities at Drexel University’s School of Public Health, agrees.
“Racism and bigotry blanket our country in a suffocating way,” she said. “And if there’s no sense of a social bond among people, then it’s easy to view others as non-human.”
In poverty-prejudiced America, few believe that the American Dream – that anyone who tries can make it – is flawed, noted Nicole Stevens, a cultural psychologist at Northwestern University. It’s easier to blame the poor.
“People focus on individual responsibility, but fail to see that the dream is not accessible to a large segment of the population,” Stevens said.
Not everyone living on society’s lower rungs will allow negativity to influence them, though. Joel Murph, 58, a homeless man from North Philadelphia, said he resists labeling.
“I won’t allow people to think of me as less than,” he said at Project H.O.M.E., where he stopped in to wash his clothes.
“I have enough trouble on my hands to worry about how somebody views me.”
Contact Alfred Lubrano at 215-854-4969 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Maybe at some bizarre level it’s Divine Comedy, but I’m still in the it looks like hell on earth phase.
The wise people running Key West removed all public benches, so homeless people could not use them; nor anyone else.
Even as the Key West Citizen editorial today flummoxes Mayor Cates’ proposed new full-service assisted-living homeless shelter, my interjected thoughts in italics:
Do benefits of homeless center justify the costs?
When hearing the words “consultant” and “government” in the same sentence, a healthy dose of skepticism is prudent, along with a wary eye on the public till.
Current subject in hand: Consultant Robert Marbut’s report, “Homeless Services Gaps Analysis of Key West and Monroe County.”
Robert G. Marbut Jr., Ph.D., a recognized expert in this field, was hired by the city of Key West to study its homeless issue. This past week, he reported his findings and recommendations to the City Commission.
For the most part, the report recommended what Mayor Craig Cates has been advocating for two years: the creation of a new homeless shelter that consolidates all services in one spot and is open 24 hours a day.
This is not surprising, because Marbut has specialized in creating such facilities and, in part, that’s why he was hired.
Far as I know, that’s the ONLY reason Marbut was hired.
Is this a classic case of an “independent” consultant, paid by taxpayer dollars, to provide the desired outcome sought by a city official?
Or is this truly a “fresh” solution to the chronic homelessness problem that has plagued Key West for as long as we all can remember?
Marbut’s concept is the development of a comprehensive social program housed in a new, centralized location.
Specifically, he recommends combining two city-owned buildings and properties on Stock Island, the former Easter Seals building and the building leased to the Florida Keys Mosquito Control District, into what he terms a “Mini Homeless Transformational Center.”
His vision includes combining current functions of Keys Overnight Temporary Shelter (KOTS), the soup kitchen as well as part of the Star of the Sea operations.
Marbut’s wish list for services provided by the center is extensive.
Besides providing overnight shelter and up to three meals a day, his recommended services include individualized case management, access to medical, vision, dental, substance abuse, mental health and legal services, personal clothing and property storage, hygiene services including hair cuts, daytime activities, skills training and job placement.
I think all but 3-meals-a-day already is being offered by various agencies scattered about the area; Marbut wants to put it all, including St. Mary’s 1-meal-a-day soup kitchen, in one location.
When coupled with our vacation-like weather and atmosphere, the proposed center sounds like a homeless person’s utopia.
Maybe homeless people have a different point of view? You’d know, if you ever were homeless, which this editorial’s author has not experienced.
Speaking of weather, Marbut states that the idyllic weather, beaches and palm trees attract homeless individuals from around the country.
And the idyllic weather, beaches and palm trees mostly likely will continue to attract homeless people from around the country. Hawaii is having the same experience with homeless people arriving there from the US mainland.
Though this observation is not news, it is interesting to note he estimates that there are 1,422 homeless who are “unsheltered” in Key West — nearly 99 percent are non-natives — representing 6 percent of the city’s population.
This estimate is more than twice the estimated 658 homeless reported countywide by the Southernmost Homeless Assistance League (SHAL) in its annual census in January.
It seems a recount by an objective third party is in order to sort out this dramatic discrepancy.
And who would this “objective” third party be? Marbut used hard statistics from the county jail and the city’s homeless shelter to arrive at his numbers. SHAL’s survey was doing by walking around and trying to county homeless people in plain sight or found in the mangroves, woods, etc. I propose The Citizen locate this “objective” third party and pay him/her to do the “objective” survey and report its result.
To place this into perspective, KOTS only has 140 beds, thus serving less than 10 percent of Marbut’s homeless estimate. It operates only at night at annual cost to the city of $440,000.
Marbut told me he saw the new shelter having 260 beds and not costing much more to operate than than KOTS. The cost of redoing the old buildings to suit a homeless sheltler and be ADA compliant is not yet known.
Additionally, county officials estimate they spend more than $1.2 million dollars a year in jail and medical expenses for the chronically homeless.
Marbut says homeless should not be sent to the jail for homeless crimes, sleeping outside, open container, etc., but should be taken to the new shelter. Sound’s good but if Marbut’s KW homeless count is close to accurate, the new shelter will leave about 1,000 homeless people unable to get into it. Where do they get taken for being homeless, sleeping outside, open container, etc.”
Marbut also blames the “culture of enablement” toward the chronically homeless as the reason for the growing problem. He defines enablement as street feeding, distribution of clothing, goods and cash not tied to coordinated service programs.
He recommends the entire community change from a “culture of enablement” to a “culture of engagement,” which he maintains will reduce chronic homelessness.
This is easier said than done; especially in a city that is visited by an average 7,500 tourists per day, as they are attractive targets for panhandlers.
My time living on the street and spending a great deal of time on Duval Street when I lived on the street and thereafter, Key West officials greatly overstate the frequency of homeless people panhandling (begging). Key West officials don’t like professional street performers, street musicians, street joke tellers performing for tips on Duval Street, either. Except for the daily sunset celebration on Mallory Pier, Key West officials only like tips paid to employees of Key West businesses.
Marbut’s study does not address detailed means of implementation or budget estimates.
However, it begs the question: Once built, how do you require the chronically homeless to engage in the center’s programs without trampling on their constitutional rights?
You can’t force homeless to use the new shelter. Marbut told the City Commission, and later told me, if you put all the homeless help services and the soup kitchen in one place, the homeless will go there, they will mostly stay there. That has been his experience with other shelters he was in on being built. Time will tell if it will work that way in Key West of Weird.
Marbut’s vision calls for a big leap of faith between his concept and experiencing real and lasting results in solving the problem of chronic homelessness.
And you guessed it; this proposed “big leap” will no doubt translate into big money — taxpayer money.
Yep, Mayor Cates won’t be paying for it, that’s for sure.
Our advice: Don’t proceed without pinpointing costs through an objective cost-benefit analysis.
– The Citizen
I wonder if there is any way to pinpoint the cost of something this city has never done before and has no clue how it really will turn out. Regardless, Mayor Cates and some of the city commissioners and many Key West residents don’t seem to care how much it ends up costing. Their motive is to try to get homeless people out of Key West at whatever it costs, and they hope the new shelter will do that.