When officials at Haven for Hope opened the $100 million center this spring with a mission to change the lives of the homeless, they failed to anticipate one major hindrance to that aim: the sheer quantity of prescription drugs that many are hauling onto the campus and adjoining courtyard.
The result, staff and the homeless say, has been a worsening climate of mistrust punctuated by medical emergencies, a mass search and accusations of stolen medicine, all fueled by an influx of scarcely monitored drugs, many of them powerful narcotics and mind-altering medications.
“It's mind-boggling,” said George Block, Haven's chief operations officer. “And with all the 78 (social service) partners, we didn't have somebody for a dispensary. That's something that's needed, so we've been scrambling for the past eight weeks.”
Well, goodness. Who would ever have thought that homeless folks might have drugs? Even if we go along with the liberal meme that all homeless are merely folks who have through no fault of their own fallen on hard times, it stands to reason that some of them would have prescription drugs. Conservative practicality comes in when we realize that some folks are gonna be doing illegal things with those prescription drugs:
Mirroring a phenomenon on the streets, the homeless on campus sometimes sell their medications to others for cash or other items.
“It's used for barter, absolutely,” said Ann Hutchinson Meyers, vice president of transformational services at Haven. “Some folks on the campus take medications as responsibly as you or I do. But there are some folks whose use is inappropriate.”
How in the hell could they be caught flat-footed? And how the hell could this have seemed like a good idea:
Some courtyard workers have histories of homelessness and drug addiction.
“We shouldn't be passing out the medication,” the staff member said. “The reality is that every time something turns up missing, who's going to be the first ones they look at?”
He added, “There's always missing meds. Almost every shift.”
Emphasis, of course, is mine.
Haven for Hope was sold to the people of San Antonio as something without even the possibility of a downside. It would be built in an area where the homeless congregate anyway, it would consolidate services which were previously scattered across the city, and puppies and butterflies would be in abundance. (Left unsaid was the theory that this would move the homeless out of ready sight of the tourists who mostly keep to downtown, but it was the obvious undercurrent.)
I tend to have doubts about anything the city council promotes with such breathlessness (I now live about five blocks from the Alamodome, which was sold to the city with the promise of an NFL team). The San Antonio Current, while far from my favorite publication, has done a good job of outlining several issues, not the least of which is the city's leaning on any groups that didn't fall in with Haven for Hope in an attempt to push them out of the helping game. (For the first time, groups handing out food downtown are required to get a permit as if they were cooking and selling the food; a small shelter run by a local church was suddenly decided to be uninhabitable, etc.)
Still, I expected a bit more from the Haven for Hope people than this. Most of the people running this shelter aren't exactly new to the game, so how in the hell were they caught by surprise here?