Being Homeless

When our society made the decision to shut down large mental institutions assuming people would be better treated in the community, (which this article describes, ) even when it is clearly not in their best interest; the results for those on the very bottom of society, the homeless (particularly the mentally-ill homeless), is tragically spelled out in this Sacramento Bee article.

An excerpt.

Wayne Holland died Monday morning without shoes or a shirt.

He may have been cleaning up – or trying to escape the heat – when he fell into the Sacramento River near the I Street Bridge, which he was living under before he died, according to his brother Thomas Conway. Holland was 60 years old.

“He was a transient,” Conway said. “He’s been off and on doing that for years – he’s either there under a bridge or in prison. … His family loved him, and we’re going to miss him. But we kind of expected to hear this one day.”

Holland, along with an unidentified male whose body also was discovered Monday off Garden Highway near Interstate 5, was one of two people found dead by police this week who were reported as possibly being homeless. Their deaths shed light on the high risk of mortality faced by those who live outside.

According to the Sacramento County Homeless Deaths Report, released in December 2013, approximately 38 percent of the 501 homeless people who died over 10 years in the county died outdoors. A map of the deaths studied indicates that homeless deaths are largely located in the downtown area and tend to follow transportation corridors.

The study also found that the number of homeless deaths remains consistent throughout the year. Bob Erlenbusch, executive director of the Sacramento Regional Coalition to End Homelessness and principal author of the report, said the elements continue to take a toll on the homeless regardless of the season….

The lack of adequate nutrition, shelter and regular health care take a toll on many at Loaves & Fishes, particularly those with pre-existing conditions such as diabetes, asthma or mental disorders, said John Hallsten, a medical student who provides voluntary first aid at the shelter.

“I’ve seen some pretty swollen limbs and bloody body parts,” Hallsten said. “Sometimes people just have huge bleeding wounds on their faces and they just don’t notice them or don’t care. And if you don’t treat them, it can get bad.”

Adhering to medication dosages also poses a problem for transients, who often carry all of their possessions and misplace pill bottles and inhalers along the way. Sister Libby Fernandez, executive director of Loaves & Fishes, said she hopes health care for the homeless will improve as more of them apply for Medi-Cal, but even that will take some effort.

“Getting on a regular routine of maintaining your health or monitoring your health is very difficult for a homeless person,” Fernandez said. “We have a free Mercy clinic here, but it’s for episodic health care needs. We are really trying to help our homeless guests get qualified for insurance. But even if you qualify, how do you get to the doctors and make those appointments?”

Retrieved July 26, 2014 from

About David H Lukenbill

I am a native of Sacramento, as are my wife and daughter. I am a consultant to nonprofit organizations, and have a Bachelor of Science degree in Organizational Behavior and a Master of Public Administration degree, both from the University of San Francisco. We live along the American River with two cats and all the wild critters we can feed. I am the founding president of the American River Parkway Preservation Society and currently serve as the CFO and Senior Policy Director. I also volunteer as the President of The Lampstand Foundation, a nonprofit organization I founded in 2003.
This entry was posted in History, Homelessness. Bookmark the permalink.