Mayor Goes Undercover To Understand True Problem
ShareTap Staff 8/15/2017
Politicians are often blamed for being too far removed from the real problems of the people. Maybe this is why many of the laws and decisions they make, don't actually make an impact on the real world problems faced by average people.
One city mayor is out to banish that notion once and for all. When faced with a crucial decision of whether or not to open a new homeless shelter in Salt Lake City and where, the Utah mayor Ben McAdams chose to get his own facts.
Instead of relying just on charts, numbers, and fellow advisors, Mayor McAdams decided that it was crucial to experience homelessness first hand. So after leaving his wallet behind at the office one day after work, the mayor decided it was time to tough it out on the Salt Lake City streets.
With the exception of a handful of county employees, the mayor kept his plans under wraps from the media because according to the Deseret News:
"I was concerned that it not look like a publicity stunt in the face of human suffering."
Dressed in jeans and a hoodie, the mayor decided to spend his first night on the streets of the city's most troubled neighborhood of Rio Grande. The weather on that March night was near freezing and the mayor struggled to keep warm as he spent the night huddled by the side of a building.
Out on the streets in that terrible weather, with junkies, dealers, and homeless people all around him, the mayor admits to being shocked at the conditions and not feeling safe. He wondered why anyone would chose to be out in such surroundings when shelters had beds available. He apparently didn't have to wait too long to get the answer to his question.
The mayor spent his second night at a men's dormitory shelter, where even though it was a bit warmer (in the 40s instead of below-freezing) things were no less chaotic - as he saw men breakout in fights over bunkers, and junkies using narcotics and drugs. In fact, he was even given the advice not to use the restroom at night because it was not safe.
It was the kind of information he would have never known about just sitting in his office. The Utah mayor now has a lot to say after his terrifying experience.
Mayor McAdams' wife had been hesitant about the mayor's decision to pull this off, but clearly, it was a valuable experience in deciding whether to open a new shelter, where, and how to make it safe so that homeless people would actually use it. According to Deseret News:
"I don't want to focus on my brief firsthand experience because I know there are people who see the same and worse every single day. The things I saw in my very brief time were shocking and reaffirmed my commitment to take action now."
The type of action that the mayor hopes to take involves providing safer shelters, closing the unsafe ones, providing psychiatric help, and providing more nurturing accommodations for those who are homeless with children. And while all of this might sound like a no-brainer, they weren't exactly the types of causes directly supported by his constituents.
Mayor Ben Adams, who had convinced Speaker Hughes to accompany him on his 3-day field trip, told Deseret News:
"One of my frustrations at the time was that I felt that I was alone. Political leaders for decades have kicked the can down the road, and I knew that we had to do something ... finally woken up and realized they cannot sit on the sidelines any longer."
The Mayor and the Speaker are both excited to get rest of the policy makers onboard in revamping the current system.
Sources: Deseret News, NY Daily News FB Image Credit: Facebook/Mayor Ben McAdams, Flickr/chrstphré cæmpbëll, Flickr/Rosyln Taber