Pushing Limits

Charlene Love: Disabled and Homeless

Charlene Love. Photo by Shelley Berman
Charlene Love. Photo by Shelley Berman

Oh, the dreaded holidays…have to find time to clean the doggone house…but…

What if you didn’t have a house to clean? What if you were homeless, not only for the holidays, but everyday?   Meet Charlene Love—formerly homeless, on the fringe, disabled, and an activist.

We usually don’t think of homeless people as part of the disability community but in Sonoma County, just for one example, nearly two-thirds (63%) of the homeless reported one or more health issues in 2015.  Over a third live with psychiatric or emotional limitations. Many others live with drug and alcohol addictions. And, 30% of the homeless, almost a third, live with a physical disability.   It is not uncommon to find wheelchair users in shelters or even in outdoor encampments.

In progressive Berkeley, the City Council has just instituted new laws against the homeless. Part of the law requires all homeless people to keep themselves and their possessions within a 2-foot square. On the other side of the bay in San Francisco, the homeless are being disappeared altogether to clean up for the big super bowl party…got taxpayer money for parties, but not for social welfare.

Often homeless people have a complex mix of severe physical and emotional disabilities. Chronic diseases, such as hypertension, asthma and diabetes, are hard to manage under stressful circumstances. Acute problems such as infections, injuries, and pneumonia are difficult to heal when there is no place to rest and recuperate.

According to National Health Care for the Homeless, homeless people are 10-20 times more likely to suffer disabling health conditions than other low-income people.

It’s clear that the disability community needs to claim and become advocates with our homeless members.  We are a community of poverty and, like all poor people, are at risk for homelessness as the gap between rich and poor increasingly widens.

Shelley Berman and Adrienne Lauby produce and host.

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