It Is Socially Acceptable to Discriminate Against Disabled Persons in Employment and Housing

It remains socially acceptable to pick on people with mental disabilities. We are discriminated against in employment and in housing. We are essentially forced into segregation kept from participating in mainstream society. We are forced to live on meager incomes. We have been criminalized, locked-up, humiliated, overmedicated, shunned and abused.

“Homelessness Has Faces” Art by Rodney Bell

by Jack Bragen

Our society is unfair and inhumane toward persons with mental disabilities. We are, in fact, a minority group, yet we are denied recognition as such. It remains socially acceptable to pick on us.

We are discriminated against in employment and in housing. We are essentially forced into segregation by means of the outpatient care system. We are forced to live on meager incomes. And we are kept from participating in mainstream society.

Most people take for granted being able to live in a nice home, in a nice neighborhood, with a spouse, children, plenty of food to eat, bills paid, and vacations. This is the “white picket fence” version of the American dream that baby boomers were led to expect.

Despite economic woes in the United States, a lot of people live this way and take for granted that if they need to pay for something, the money is available.

Yet, when you have a disability and can’t work a nine-to-five job, lack of income is a big limitation (unless you have a wealthy benefactor). Lack of money limits one’s choices, and through the associated hardships, it can cause extreme discomfort.

Adequate, safe, affordable housing is a rare and precious commodity for people with disabilities. On the amount of income that people get on SSI, they need low-income housing coupled with Section 8. Section 8 housing has earned a bad name among property owners, and most will not deal with it. This means that most disabled people cannot live where they choose. The rentals that still accept Section 8 are usually in dangerous, drug-infested neighborhoods, and the units are often substandard.

Many people with mental health disabilities are forced, by circumstances beyond their control, to live in an institution of some kind. This is just fine with many well-to-do people who believe persons with mental illness are no more than a nuisance. However, for someone with a mental disability, just as for any human being, living in an institution is at the bottom of the barrel of human existence.

Persons with mental health problems are subject to the disdain of successful people who do not understand why we can’t just “get a job and be normal.” We have been systematically deprived of a societal niche. We are ridiculed for being different and for behaviors caused by our condition. We are stigmatized because we do not always behave in a socially acceptable manner.

Persons with psychiatric conditions are subject to cruel treatment in mental hospitals and outside of them, perpetrated by people employed (hypothetically) to help us. The mental health treatment system is about isolating patients from the rest of society so that we don’t bother people deemed part of “mainstream” society. The agenda is to keep the population under control, much more than it is about helping us get well and succeed in life.

Persons with mental illness are an excluded group of people. We are made to feel unwelcome in numerous places; some of these might come as a surprise. People in mainstream society often behave toward us as if we didn’t have the right to exist. They believe that we are not good enough to be in their presence.

Persons with mental disabilities are misunderstood. We have been criminalized, locked-up, humiliated, overmedicated, shunned and abused. This is because people in mainstream society have the ingrained impulse to bully those individuals who appear defenseless, if doing so can be rationalized.

“Waiting.” Art by Rodney Bell


Why Republicans Hate Obamacare

 by Jack Bragen

Even now that Obamacare is finally going into effect, Republican leaders are still watching and waiting for ways to foil the Affordable Care Act, a significant achievement of the Obama administration.

I believe that the main reason why Republicans hate it so much can be summed up in one word: Malice.

For all its flaws and shortcomings, Obamacare still would allow poor people to get medical care. The Republicans can’t stand that idea.

Obamacare could allow disabled people to go back to work. A major barrier to disabled people getting off disability benefits is that the medical benefits under disability are, for most recipients, absolutely necessary. Typical jobs that a disabled person might be able to obtain are not always those with high wages and do not often include medical benefits.

With adequate medical care as a given, and including the fact that under Obamacare there would be no penalty for a pre-existing condition, a huge burden is taken off those disabled people who would like to try to go back to work.

When disabled people start to get too much money, they are drained of this through “share of cost,” which is a way of charging for medical benefits. Going completely off disability benefits, rather than working just a little bit, is out of the question for most disabled people who need medical coverage. Obamacare, when it is in effect, could become a great economic equalizer.

My father (never disabled) was forced to keep working well into his 70s by the fact that he needed the medical benefits. He had health problems that forced him to quit work and eventually led to his demise. Had he been able to stop work sooner, he might have lived a lot longer.

Obamacare is also an attempt at a more compassionate system. The Republican Party has proven, time and again, that they are not about compassion — their mission is to fatten the wallets of those who are already wealthy. Anything that merely helps people and which furthermore, costs money, is contrary to the Republican platform.

A final reason why the Republicans hate Obamacare is that they can’t stand to see President Obama be successful in his job.  This is the same kind of malice that made the Republicans fight so bitterly against the Clinton Administration. This is a petty form of meanness which obstructs human progress.

Berkeley shelter closes

The closure of the largest homeless shelter in Berkeley leaves many with nowhere to go

Writing for the Street Spirit: My 17 Year Journey

Writing for Street Spirit has awakened in me a sense of responsibility toward others. Street Spirit is a way for people silenced by big money and big media to have a voice.

Animal Friends: A Saving Grace for Homeless People

“I wrapped her in my jacket and promised I’d never let anybody hurt her again. And that’s my promise to her for the rest of her life. In my mind she’s a little angel that saved me as much as I saved her.”

A Testament to Street Spirit’s Justice Journalism

The game was rigged against the poor, but I will always relish the fact that Street Spirit took on the Oakland mayor and city council for their perverse assault on homeless recyclers. For me, that was hallowed ground. I will never regret the fact that we did not surrender that ground.

Tragic Death of Oakland Tenant Mary Jesus

Being evicted felt like the end of her life. As a disabled woman, she saw nothing ahead but a destitute life on the streets. She told a friend, “If I’m evicted tomorrow, I have no choice but to kill myself. I have no resources, no savings, no money, and nowhere to go.”

They Left Him to Die Like a Tramp on the Street

Life is sacred. It is not just an economic statistic when someone suffers and dies on the streets of our nation. It is some mother’s son, or daughter. It is a human being made in the image of God. It is a desecration of the sacred when that life is torn down.