Did you know California sued Nevada over "Greyhound Therapy?"
"Greyhound Therapy" is the practice of giving free bus vouchers to homeless people.
A mental health hospital in Nevada sent some homeless patients on a Greyhound to San Francisco upon their release. The discharged patients were given "care packages" of food (and Ensure), and psychiatric medicine and sent packing.
When these homeless people disembarked, disoriented and with little resources save for some instructions on how to get to a San Francisco hospital or in some cases, instructions to "Dial 911" upon arrival, authorities in San Francisco caught wind of it, investigated, and decided to sue Nevada.
I know a little about this because I spent some time in Sacramento working with homeless, or indigent, individuals in a law internship after passing the California bar. I was made immediately aware that a common practice, if not a daily one, is to give, indiscriminately, visitors to local homeless shelters bus passes. I did not ever learn if they were to anywhere in the country, but it was clear that were to anywhere in California. The thinking goes, "this bus pass will get them to relatives or people who can help them." I.E., mobility allows access to anyplace potentially better than where they are. In researching this issue, one homeless advocate asked, "How is this helping people? You are operating on the assumption that people that know them WANT or have the resources to help them. If that were the case, wouldn't they already be with them?" Although more complicated than that, it is a fair question.
So, what about the court case? The federal lawsuit filed by San Francisco's attorney general was one I expected to be a bruising indictment. I expected something very fact specific and damning. I was disappointed. It was incredibly boilerplate and written in general terms. The lawsuit alleges constitutional issues that are so prevalent in common parlance that the lawsuit filed is not hard to read or comprehend. And that's saying something!
The one conclusion I drew, which may be naive, is that California did it as a public relations gesture to embarrass Nevada and draw attention to the practice. The reason I came up with this theory is that it is SUCH a common practice in California to do that to it's own residents! I don't want to gloss over one distinction: I witnessed available vouchers in homeless shelters, not as part of a discharge package from a hospital. But, it's not a far leap to make. It's not a far leap because there is a certain part of the homeless population, the indigent, are in and out of psychiatric institutions oftentimes.
Which brings up the next issue, relating to the lawsuit: if it is not uncommon for certain segments of the homeless population to go in and out of a hospital, psychiatric or not, who is to say that they must be kept indefinitely? If they cannot be kept indefinitely, what is wrong with providing them with a free bus pass to anywhere they want to go? (People have a constitutional right not to be confined against their will! I sat in on several such hospital administrative proceedings addressing that very question pertaining to hospitalized homeless individuals).
The final irony?
The final irony is that the people sent to San Francisco by Nevada are now in decent lodgings, with a stipend, in addition to a food stamp card. They are, in fact, doing well. So, with that said, are they sorry they ended up in San Francisco? I have to think that the patients are not.
I did a little more digging and learned that Nevada has led the charge on reducing the budgets of state mental hospitals. A side by side comparison of the California state budget for the indigent and psychiatrically committed with Nevada's is astonishing. Nevada has far fewer resources. So, it's hard to not to sympathize with the Nevada professionals who said, "We have no way to take care of these people. California does."
Over the past five years, Nevada's primary state psychiatric hospital has put hundreds of mentally ill patients on Greyhound buses and sent them to cities and towns across America.