Over the next few weeks, Our Town Reno will be looking into Melinda’s story, a recipient of a government program to help homeless suffering from mental health and addiction challenges get housing, but whose life in Reno in recent months has been anything but smooth sailing.
Melinda has been making her grievances and hardships known publicly at meetings, on social media and has established her own Facebook page “Secured Housing with Unsecured Minds”. She messaged Our Town Reno and invited us to her government-supplied residence when she was living there. She titled a photos series she made as “My lost dream”. It seems her cries for help are gaining little traction, at least for now.
Are Government Programs to Help the Homeless Effective?
The program Melinda has been in is part of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, SAMHSA. That's an agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Its mission is, in its own wording, "to reduce the impact of substance abuse and mental illness on America’s communities."
Like many government programs its intentions are well-meaning. But does this program work? Does it have serious shortcomings? Is money well spent? In this case, here in Reno are the homeless with substance abuse and mental health issues really getting helped?
Melinda was a recipient of a specific program called the Cooperative Agreements to Benefit Homeless Individuals or CABHI. As is inherent nature, government programs are full of acronyms, but also paperwork, detailed requirements, swamped employees, and bureaucratic logjams, which open the door even wider to slow and ineffective services, missed opportunities for help, and also abuse and corruption.
Our Town Reno will be looking into Melinda’s story, as the year and developments unfold, through her own words, and also by looking closer into the system she hoped would help her, but has left her frustrated. She’s also been through a lot, dealing with loss, fending for herself, and fighting for survival day by day, minute by minute out on the streets of Reno.