Letter to the Editor

Mentally ill not to blame

Chairman, Save Our DowntownApril 7, 2013 

I agree with Deborah Cash that we need more police in downtown San Luis Obispo, but not for the reasons she stated. Her survey asked if those invested in the success of downtown thought there was a problem with transients (one could only answer “yes,” or not answer the survey at all), as well as with anti-social behavior.

Of course my reading of “antisocial behavior” focuses on the predominant acts of violence and vandalism committed by middle-class, inebriated young males … not the homeless or the mentally ill. It is a tragic aspect of our culture that homeless people, in addition to suffering the hardship of their condition, are subjected to alienation and discrimination.

It is even more tragic that alienation and discrimination often spring from incorrect myths and stereotypes that surround homelessness.

Let me share two facts about the homeless and the mentally ill (who are being demonized by gun enthusiasts). According to the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty, one study based on Baltimore arrest records shows that homeless people commit fewer crimes against people or property than the rest of the population.

According to the BYU Kennedy Center, only 4 percent of the mentally ill commit violent crimes. Most mass murders are done by workingclass men who’ve been jilted, fired or otherwise humiliated.

So keep downtown safe by curbing the number of alcohol outlets and please stop demonizing the homeless and the mentally ill.

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