Editorial: Homeless and on Facebook

kt logoThe Kingston Police Department’s Facebook page is a boon to the community — it’s a real leap in keeping Kingstonians informed about what the police are up to and who’s being charged with what. It’s served as an effective interface for people to funnel information to the KPD, debate the merits of this arrest or that one and the law in general and in some cases, allows a defendant to plead his or her case in the court of Internet public opinion.

This week, the ongoing debate about what to do with the poor and mentally ill in the community blew up all over the KPD’s FB. The catalyst was one Joseph Mannello, 57, who picked up a misdemeanor theft of services charge and a violation trespass charge after, police allege, he walked into the Super 8 and helped himself to the breakfast reserved for the motel’s paying guests.

First-blush reaction — the Internet in general and Facebook in particular is great for committing first-blush reactions to history —  was outrage that a homeless, presumably hungry fellow human being would get locked up for merely trying to eat something. “Shame on the motel,” posted someone. Why didn’t he go to Queens Galley, asked another.

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Then Diane Reeder jumped in to point out that while the Galley does in fact serve meals to anyone who asks, this particular person cut himself off from that by “physically endangering one of our staff.”

Reeder continued: “He IS homeless. He IS hungry. He is also mentally ill and indicative of a greater problem. He needs more help than he is willing to accept and those who would endeavor to help have their hands tied.”

That didn’t convince everyone, though. “Good lord let the man eat ur going to starve a man cus he has no place to live …buy the man a meal,” posted Gordon J. Angier.

Then some Super 8 personnel started posting. A man identifying himself as the general manager of the motel wrote that they’d had a long history with Mannello and that he’d been repeatedly warned to stay off the premises. His posts, which went on to point out that the Super 8 (which does show up as the setting for many of our police briefs, it has to be said) was not “ a homeless shelter, an assisted living facility, a food bank, a drug distribution or treatment center” and that they do try to get people who look like they need help some help. In between were all the arguments one reads or hears when talking about the mentally ill, welfare recipients and homeless: they need help and what the hell is wrong with you for not wanting to help; put them all in jail; bring back the psychiatric institutions; people are too kind; people aren’t kind enough. Not surprisingly, 100-plus comments in the thread failed to generate a consensus.

In that way, this little blip on the Internet is a fair microcosm of how we deal (or don’t deal) with the problem of the mentally ill. We’ve gone from the unsatisfying solution of massive internment — visit the crumbling campuses of the old state hospitals in Hyde Park and Dover Plains to get an idea of the scale of institutionalization back then — to the unsatisfying solution of medication and living, sometimes unsuccessfully, in the community. What do we do with the people who are what the suspect is alleged to be: mentally ill, dangerous and thoroughly unpleasant? Try again to help? Protect ourselves and our property? Sigh in relief when he gets taken off the street and put into jail, knowing full well that he won’t get the help he needs and will be back out on the streets sooner than later? Advocate for more resources for the homeless and mentally ill?

Solving the problem is hard and costly, which goes a long way to explain why it hasn’t yet been solved to anyone’s satisfaction. Thing is, though, the members of our community who suffer aren’t going away and that means the problem isn’t, either. Concludes Tiffany Chambers, the last poster on the thread: “i think i want to eat some granola and hug someone… you people are SICK.”

There are 3 comments

  1. Pam Krimsky

    I think the mentally and the chronically homeless are not necessarily the same problem…Individuals must me serviced on the basis of their needs as individuals. The idea that homeless people should have the right to keep sleeping on the streets is abominable to me…Yes, approach a homeless person and ask if they want to go sleep in some shelter a night or two and they may say no…Do you really know what goes on in those ‘shelters”. We need to give these people the opportunities to access housing they are able to pay (or not) for. And the mentally ill, in a functioning society, would have somewhere to live, someone to look after them and be provided with food and medical help. I think that’s the least of what a society is responsible to provide.

  2. James

    The KPD Facebook page is disgusting, and frankly I think all the community support on there reflects the narrow mind one often finds in the first capital of New York. If you are a brown person, there is a good chance your photo will appear on there. However if one of Kingston’s finest went to high school with your mom, or if your dad goes to the same rod and gun club as the police, you are often free to beat your s/o or get arrested with coke possession and you will likely never appear on there. Look at the % of brown people on that FB page and look at the % of minorities in Kingston. Based on the arrests page, you would think Kingston is 15% white!

  3. nopolitics

    Nunsense!! What appears in the papers is not reality. KCR(That’s Kingston Community Radio) began to tackle these issues in a way that did not feature Ray Rice railing against “those people on Broadway” for the umpteenth time of unrelenting sterotyping and bigotry(which then leads inevitably to discrimination–on paper unlawful but in practice done all the time. The phrase “mentally ill” should be banned from the lexicon because it seems to posit bigotry instantaneously from both those who have intellects to know better and those who do not(anyone can backchannel me for examples of each). The result of an actual discussion–instead of the mindless bigotry arising out of stereotypical images and all the bigotry and stereotyping that comes with it–was interesting. Dr. Fraude called out this Dr. Carol Smith on the issue of supposedly this big problem with overprescription of pain medicines(let us not forget that the bigoted state of NY first charged Dr. Longmore with “practicing medicine while mentally ill” then the Feds charged him with same and Judge Kahn–a wise judge—didn’t throw the book at him over it).(Another stereotype that with low income and mental illness–two things inseparable because the mental health system SUPPORTS AND REINFORCES FINANCIAL POVERTY–everyone is out to get pain medication upon the belief and premise that the motive is to sell such drugs on the street or become an addict yourself–an idea actively promoted by all phrases of government and certainly not benign as a social influence at all, as Dr. Fraude correctly and aptly pointed out with appropriate assertiveness to Dr. Carol Smith, the latest government employee/shill to assert only the government line). A discussion on Psychiatry and its validity actually ensued on the radio as well with Dr. Hanovic and Dr. Fraude. It was actually full of good stuff wtihout all the emotive reactions normally found in such a discussion whether in support of the mental “health” system or not. Other media outlets are too timid to follow suit, including this one. Shame on the Kingston Times and shame on you, Mr. Barton. James talks about bigotry and favoritism. Dan Barton talks the same old media talk and walks the same old media walk–thus not contributing anything at all except more of the same.
    The former Mayor of Kingston proved himself a huge bigot on the emotive phrase “mentally ill”, publicly posting on a website THIS publication once used for its public comments a huge discourse on the phrase “Deinstitutionalization”, the point apparently having been that he was hellbent on demonstrating his intellect by so doing whilst in my judgment and that of many others nothing he did managed to prove to anyone his lack of intellect, brainpower, openmindedness, and creativity was an essentially permanent condition. I propose using those as a jumping off point first of all to speak about behavioral stability in the elected leaders of Kingston–a hot topic these days, sadly. The media however is a Johnny-Come-Lately to THAT discussion because it is more TIMID than would be an infant seeing a wolf jumping into his stroller. The little smarmy schmoozy media in Kingston has awakened from its timidity only to find that in the same person–Mr. Barton–we see both appropriate-sized criticism of the current Mayor’s behavior AND a clinging to the past bigotry of the mainstream media–while all the while positing to pose as an alternative newspaper to the demonstrably bigoted Freeman on the subject.
    Moreover, “what timing”;while Rob Reiner extolled the “timing” of his former co-star in the television series “All In The Family”, the timing here coincides with the death of Jean Stapleton, who played the stoically unbigoted-yet-ignorantly-presented Edith Bunker to the character that became synonmyous with bigoted people: Archie Bunker.
    There is a simple truth here, which no one enjoys confronting but that is true, in that mankind tends toward bigotry of SOME kind. This is because, as Psychologists(those who study actual science instead of how to get the most out of business)tell us, our brains do not like and indeed disdain anything unresolved or idiomatic or facts that seem disparate or in conflict with one another, and the brain, as a result, opts for resolution(even though that sometimes/often results in bigotry). Democrats at one time, took this knowledge and passed laws against certain types of bigotry(and not others, which is in itself a bit discriminatory if not bigoted against bigotry of certain types and not others). Such laws can and are broken by many people, including those calling themselves Democrats. But they are laws for a purpose, and one’s day in court over bigotry(always ugly and often injurious)is something that is necessary.
    Reporting on someone being charged with the crime of taking breakfast at the Super 8 while not being a paying customer(in which case he failed to place himself at risk of bedbugs at least), and then prior being accused–accused—of physically assaulting someone at the Queens Galley(not charged, not tried, not convicted but only accused–a story heard frequently from folks charged with being “mentally ill” which then leads to instant conviction in the mind as well as sentencing. That’s how the mental “health” system works–and very muchso on the taxpayer dime to benefit whatever hospital is running the illicit activity per the constitution and an elementary understanding of human rights as well. THAT’S something EVERYONE should be mad about. But the media ALWAYS defaults to portraying those accused of mental illness as GUILTY–and then logically presuming this “NEED” that then needs to be addressed with some tired old “SOLUTION”. We never, as Dr. Thomas Szasz did throughout his career as a Psychiatrist and academic in this state and immigrant from Hungary, question the PREMISE as a means to reach more EFFECTIVE and LOGICAL and MEANINGFUL solutions to anything.
    That “sawnnnng”…..should make “THE HIT PA-RAAAAAAAA–AADE!!”

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