I work in a supportive housing program designed to assist people who had had experiences of mental illness. They are the most vulnerable in our society. People in this housing have survived living on the street, couch surfing, and single room occupancies maintained by bad landlords. But now they have a chance for dignity.
At a ribbon cutting ceremony at the Mercy Housing Johnston Center Residences was a rare example of grace under fire in Milwaukee. A few years ago the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel published a series called Abandoning Our Mentally Ill highlighting the terrible conditions under which people living with mental illnesses were being housed. The shortage of safe, affordable housing was a key component of a failed system. The results of that failed system show up in the grim statistics at the Psychiatric Crisis Center.
Pop Quiz Time: Is it easier to check on the progress of a chronically homeless person in safe secure housing or in a rooming house? For bonus points, you may also ask about, what if the person lives in a car or a park or with friends and family depending on which night of the week you inquire.
If you are African-American you are more likely not to have financial and emotional support to help overcome these types of problems.
Milwaukee is a strange, terrible, racist and sometimes wonderful place, and today was an example. African-Americans were well-represented in the group of residents and helpers at the ceremony. There was the mayor, social workers, bankers, developers, advocates and (though never mentioned) some federal elected officials.
The much maligned federal recovery act helped provide the funding that paid for the construction. most definitely, Congresswoman Gwen Moore helped to secure those funds. And President Barack Obama who made the stimulus package his top priority, was there, too. So, you can either believe the uninformed opinions of a bunch who don’t understand what government can and should do or you can understand that thanks to Mercy (and a lot of others) some people who had been living on the streets or in shelters will be having a happy thanksgiving. Which story feels better to you?