Thoughts from Steve MacConnell, President & CEO, on 2/20/13

//Thoughts from Steve MacConnell, President & CEO, on 2/20/13


Mental Illness and Gun Checks

There has been a lot of talk about mental illness and gun violence, although the large majority of the mentally ill never commit a violent crime.  But there is a missing piece to the debate on gun violence.  Rather than the mentally ill, it is the stigma of mental illness that should be addressed with the strength of urgency.  Although most of us have been touched by mental illness, either directly or indirectly, in our families, friendships or fellow workers, there is continual reference to the mentally ill as nuts, wackos, and according to the NRA's Wayne LaPierre genuine monsters.

No one wants a child with mental illness any more than a child with cancer.  By stigmatizing, won't we drive even deeper the willingness of family or friends to come forward?  For instance, the automatic screenings for those with a criminal record or are mentally ill.  Forcing an environment in which individuals are less likely to seek treatment seems contrary to reason.  Rather, education and greater access to treatment should be the goals.

Abby Rapoport, in the American Prospect refers to this unwanted backlash as punishment for those who seek help.  I agree. 


Mental illness and Stigma: A Double Whammy

We all tend to judge others.  Why?  Does this make us feel better about ourselves?  Do we think it is funny to judge?  Or do we judge because we don't understand the challenges of people with mental illness?

Whatever the reason, judgment and stigma pointed at mental illness hurt.  Sally must fight the battle of recovery from a major mental illness as well as the stigma she can sense.  Two hills to climb. Three hills really, if you count Sally judging herself.

Work at the Mayo Clinic has identified the following effects of stigma:

                Lack of understanding by family, friends or others whom Sally knows

                Discrimination at work or school

                Difficulty in finding housing

                Bullying, physical violence or harassment

                Inadequate coverage by health insurance

                Sally's own belief that she will never succeed or overcome her challenges

That sounds extremely painful to me.  I need to watch what I think or say about others who have disabilities caused by mental illness. 


Cincinnati Kids are Hungry

According to Mark Payne's piece in the June 1st issue of Article 25, Cincinnati ranks third in the nation in child poverty.  Almost 30,000 children are hungry in our city. They don't have a chance.  Georgine Getty of the Interfaith Hospitality Network has said: You can't be doing the job of being a child when you're hungry.

I send checks every year to various charities who serve children and families in poverty.  Many, I am sure, do the same.  Of course these gifts are generous, making our region one of the most charitable in the country with donations far exceeding many larger areas, according to United Way.  Cincinnatians are generous.  They have good hearts.

Nevertheless, the haunting knowledge of those 30,000 hungry children still remains.  So despite good hearts and despite generous gifts, Cincinnati's children are not fed.  This means that logically something is wrong in the way we think about our priorities.  I know that it is hard to look at poverty; hard to see hungry families and hard to face the developmental impact that poor nutrition can render.  We must turn around and face these issues or the 30,000 don't have a chance.


What Constitutes Poverty for Female-headed Households

The newsletter Spotlight on Poverty has suggested that regardless of the stated poverty level for purposes of receipt of benefits available, the lives of the working poor or those close to the poverty level are living substantially more difficult lives during an economic downturn.  This problem is exacerbated by state and local budget deficits.

Even during the best of economic times, female-headed households, particularly African American ones, tend to be one of the most vulnerable segments of our society.  The struggles of these women during tough economic times, reports Spotlight, are even more challenging.

None of the choices available to these women are very satisfying:



            Food Stamps

These programs have substantial bureaucratic barriers and delays.  Even women who successfully apply for and receive such benefits struggle to maintain them. The final question asked by Spotlight:      Is this the kind of safety net we want for this population, or should women have better options to which they may turn? 


Early Childhood Education Programs Combat Poverty

A recent report released by the Center for American Progress emphasizes the importance of Early childhood education in helping to lift children out of poverty.  Preparation for kindergarten, followed by reading skills achieved by the third grade are critical in developing young adults who may not later be in need of assistance program.

The report cautions that there must be coordination of such programs, and strong federal support to achieve early learning standards expectations.


When is Homeless Not “Homeless”

Commentators in the media have been loose with their use of the word homeless.  The City of Cincinnati has a goal of moving persons from Homeless to Homes.

For instance, the Anna Louise Inn has served as housing for women for 103 years.  These women are not homeless as the Inn is their permanent home and they pay rent.  Should they move to another apartment or home, they are not homeless, but rather have simply moved, as you and I have done many times.

There is one homeless shelter currently in Cincinnati, and another under construction.  The former is the Drop in Center.  The latter is the homeless shelter for women being built by the YMCA on Reading Road across the street from United Way.

The Anna Louise Inn, on the other hand, serves the city's goal of living in a home, and its current renovation plan will provide Permanent Affordable Housing for women.

So, women living in the Anna Louise Inn have homes, and in keeping with the Charles Taft family's original gift of land and building in 1909, will continue to be attractive affordable housing for women into the future. 


The Impact of Poverty on Childcare

In February 2012, The Greater Cincinnati Homeless Coalition issued a study on policy recommendations entitled Family Homelessness and Housing Stability. The study, backed by a solid methodology and in depth research, explored the five year period of 20052011.  Reading this Study made me sad, mad and ashamed.

Sad in that during the study period, almost 30% more children have sought childcare assistance from Hamilton County. These children are only  eligible if from a working family with household income at or below 125% of the Federal Poverty  Level. The study reminds us that there is a cap on this assistance, so the underserved cannot be measured.

Mad because I have not recognized this tragedy and done more sooner.

Ashamed because I serve children  in this area of work ,via our four early childhood centers, funded by Head Start and supplemented by county and United Way  funding.

My work in Human Services is rewarding because I can be a part of touching a child's life.  I am haunted, however, by the knowledge that there are so many more children and families lonely and in the shadows of the underserved. 


The Impact of Homelessness

According to the National Center on Family Homelessness, the United States has the largest number of homeless women and children.  Not since the Great Depression have so many families been without homes.

Homeless families comprise roughly 1/3 of the homeless population. Approximately 1.5 million children will experience homelessness over the course of a year.  In any given day, researchers estimate that more than 200,000 children have no place to live.  People counted in the single adult homeless population are 2.3-3.5 million annually.  Homeless women often suffer the most.  What happens to their children?   Where can safe, affordable housing be found?

When is the business community going to say this is wrong?  When will one woman or one man, of substantial business presence, stand up publicly and say this is wrong?

We all know that each citizen deserves safe housing.  Until each of us gets involved, this tragic problem in our country will continue to be neglected.

By | 2013-02-20T10:03:44-05:00 February 20th, 2013|