A new grant from the Missouri Foundation for Health will help train more City police officers to identify and assist citizens with mental illnesses.
The program trains officers to work as team members with mental health professionals to sidestep the sorts of escalating crises that could be dangerous to both citizens and police. This training will be particularly useful in officers’ interactions with homeless people, many of whom have serious, and usually untreated, mental illnesses.
As usual, I expect to hear protests from some self-described advocates for the chronically homeless. And, as usual, I have little patience for most of their complaints. They live in communities that do too little for homeless people, but they feel comfortable criticizing the City, the Downtown Partnership, and the homeless services providers in the City for what they do.
The City spends about $15 million a year on homeless services compared to about $2 million in St. Louis County and to almost nothing in the rest of the suburban municipalities.
I know what SLU law clinic director John Ammann will say. He’ll argue all day that the region’s services must be concentrated in the City because the region’s homeless are concentrated in the City.
One, that is false. A large percentage of the calls to the City’s homeless hotline actually come from the suburbs.
Two, the argument is backwards. The reason there are so many homeless people in the City is that there are so many homeless services in the City. If more suburban municipalities would start doing their fair share, more homeless people would seek services and shelter there.
Of course, that is exactly why so many communities refuse to help. That’s the sad irony.