It’s like an unstoppable cycle: Authorities rescue them, send them back to their hometowns or home provinces with pocket money and place those with mental concerns in institutions that can offer care and rehabilitation.
Then weeks or months later, some of the homeless people are back in the city. Authorities rescue them again, and the process is repeated.
It seems that there’s no ultimate solution to keeping homeless individuals off the streets.
The Cebu City Police Office (CCPO) has recently revealed that it will join the Cebu City Anti-Mendicancy Board’s (Caib) rescue of homeless people, including children who are begging in the streets.
Lt. Col. Janette Rafter, deputy city director for operations of the CCPO, was quoted in a report as saying that police officers will regularly accompany the Caib personnel because some of the homeless resist during rescue operations.
Is this the Caib’s solution to a recurring problem? Homeless people are not armed. Are the police trained to take care of the homeless, especially those with mental concerns?
The presence of homeless people in the streets is not just Cebu City’s problem. Other urban cities in the country have been dealing with them also.
The real problem is homelessness, which the United Nations (UN) describes as a human rights issue. The UN said 1.6 billion people worldwide live in inadequate housing conditions, with about 15 million forcefully evicted every year, and it added that homelessness could happen to anyone.
Solving homelessness in the city would be a complicated undertaking. The Cebu City Government could perhaps start with a study on the homeless people—are they all residents of Cebu City? Where did they come from? What are the reasons why they became homeless?
If sending these homeless people back to their place of origin is not the solution, then the City could perhaps include them in its housing project for informal settlers living within the three-easement zones of waterways.
For the homeless people with mental health issues, the Cebu City Government could perhaps build a facility for them. Creating the Behavioral Health Unit, as proposed by Councilor Mary Ann de los Santos in her draft ordinance, could be a good start.
The City can also hire more social workers and healthcare professionals who are trained on dealing with people with mental concerns.
Some homeless people with psychological issues could put the lives of pedestrians at risk if they run amok. Their lives are also vulnerable—they could be harmed by people who despise them and they could die during a typhoon or they could drown in a flood.
To say that the presence of homeless people is a problem is demeaning for these individuals because they are also human beings who are still breathing. Some of them can feel pain and hunger. But even those who are already numb, they are still humans because they are still alive.
Homeless people need help. But keeping them off the streets requires a scientific and wholehearted approach from the government. Mere rescue of these individuals is a band-aid solution.