Obviously a lot of the homeless people on the Beach are substance abusers. The words “mentally ill” get thrown around a lot to describe them. But it is a well-known fact among treatment providers that substance abuse mimics the symptoms of mental illness. There is even a formula for people in recovery; for every year of heavy drinking and/or drugging, one month of sobriety is necessary for a mind to clear and start functioning correctly again. After living clean and sober for as many years as it takes, in many cases the “mental illness” symptoms vanish completely and permanently.
It’s also a well-known fact that living with the consequences of our choices is a powerful and necessary spur for us to get and keep our lives together; that’s only common sense. What I’ve watched for years is our homeless facing no consequences. They are handed food, clean clothes and shower facilities. All they have to manage is a place to sleep outdoors at night. Therefore their disability checks can go straight to alcohol and drugs, and that’s just where they go. Anyone with eyes can see it. This has a name; enabling. These people get visibly sicker with time; their addictions decimate them. This is called helping people?
There are excellent resources in Ft. Myers, affordable and open to everyone, to assist those with mental health and/or substance abuse problems. Or we can choose to tax ourselves and build our own local facilities to help people make real changes in their lives; maybe we had better look hard at our own choices.
The existing programs on the Beach were created with good intentions. I think we all know what the road to hell is paved with.
Bonnie Mc Laughlin, LMHC
Fort Myers Beach