Dreams of Home
Near 5:30 now, Sun low in the sky, pace of people coming and going gathering momentum. I'm lying in the middle of the street, right outside the front entrance of the California State Building and office of the Governor, at the intersection of Polk and Larkin. ADAPT has surrounded and blocked off all the four intersections surrounding the State Building. Just over a month after the bombing of the World Trade Center by those who hate America and its dream of freedom, it is because America stands for freedom, the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Liberty is guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States, to all citizens without regard to race, gender, or age, except those born with or acquiring disability. States felt nursing homes appropriate setting for people with disabilities, but now with the Supreme Court's Olmstead decision that no longer holds viable. Rather than rebuild, we want alternatives explored or at the least mentioned.
When en route to San Francisco, I felt an awkward sense of almost guilt for challenging the authority of our Government in such sensitive times as these. But people are dying. Inside Laguna Honda hundreds of people will pass their lives housed in nightmare situations and yes, they deserve their freedom. Lucky to be on the outside, I feel duty to the 2.2 million people incarcerated in nursing homes across the nation. The Government would house us in institutions, and in some States have doctors help us die, rather than fund a directive like MiCASSA (Medicaid Community Services and Support Act) to improve the overall health of all people elderly or with disabilities. 400+ members of ADAPT chanced flying here from all across the country to stress how important community based services was to our own right to freedom.
If it is not a crime to be disabled in California or America, why then are people routinely confined to the restrictions of a long term institutional facility at a cost of 120,000 to 155,000 dollars per person? Laguna Honda houses patients 30 at a time in huge single room wards at a cost of $330-420 dollars a day while community based services are cheaper and provide people with disabilities the one thing we want - choice. For what they spend to keep people locked away in medical facilities, we could lavish in all sorts of luxury.
20 minutes since the Chief of Police warned us to move or be arrested. Pressure is mounting for the San Francisco Police Department to clear us out, so traffic and evening rush hour can resume. Hundreds of people have been looking on for hours, some supportive of our cause, curious on details and information, some too angry to care about what we're doing. Gathering their stories, the media reports all we want is choice for those who know no freedom or joy in their lives. As long as choice is not incorporated into long-term care in California and this country, we will continue to fight, gather, protest, and get arrested.
We've been taken to the darkest, deepest recesses of some of the shadiest, most nightmare places known to human history in the name of prescription and treatment. Medicine was deemed necessary to subdue our peculiarities. They want to keep the freaks out of the neighborhood mainstream, saving us only for the circus and boarding houses. Laguna Honda was proof of everything wrong about long-term care policy. Less than 50 miles from Berkeley, home of Ed Roberts and birth of the Independent Living Movement, the rebuilding of Laguna Honda was a slap in the face to the efforts of the Independent Living Movement. We could not quietly allow this to happen.
Yesterday, we single file strolled around the perimeter of the hospital, brooding in a feeling of eeriness, damp in low-lying clouds, light drizzle, and the harsh wind forcing our endurance. Like 'The Shining' Laguna Honda's beautiful profile from the street could not obscure the barred outer windows, chain linked fence, or uniformed guards. Straight out of 'World's Most Creepiest Places,' we could not believe how many buildings line row after row, behind the well-managed tiered manicured front lawns of the main building. 1200 people spend their every day in these walls while many had expressed their wishes to get out and live different.
Just a matter of time before we get MiCASSA passed and all people in nursing homes or in danger of going, will have choice. Hopefully soon people with new injuries will never have to experience the terror of being on the verge of going into or actually being in a nursing home facility without plausible alternative. Makes no sense to save us and then warehouse us for years and years in a place we choose not to be anyways. This moment, getting arrested here in the streets of San Francisco, supporting choice and MiCASSA is just one more moment leading up to the history of that moment when legislation will finally Free's Our People!