As our pop culture goes into Halloween mode for a few more days, we will see a fantasy play out. It includes zombies and the "walking dead". But there is a less-hip manifestation of incoherent people roaming the streets. They are the homeless mentally ill who live in a dark world of psychosis.
Many of them can be helped. But it takes a level of compassion and ambition from society. Masses of Americans will spend significant money to complete their favorite costume for the Halloween festivities. Some of us are donating a commensurate amount to the local homeless ministries who are impacting the lives of those who suffer mental illness on the streets. That's not to say all the homeless are ill.
It's cold outside. A few years ago my son befriended a homeless orphan who was in foster care until his 18th birthday. Then young 'Micky' was dumped by the state and his untreated mental illness led to a paranoia which kept many people from helping him.
I built a tiny shelter for him and dropped it off one cold October evening, near the cardboard box Micky was sleeping in. That led to increased trust and more people helping him. Eventually, the Department of Mental Health helped him (through one of their contractor agencies). Micky soon moved into a room they provided. He got minimal healthcare and some treatment for his condition. That same state mental health contractor hired him to maintain the residential complex and his life was progressively enriched in many ways.
The local agency helped him reconnect with distant relatives and Micky eventually moved to another state where his relatives could provide that intangible support which no govt. or healthcare professional could.
It starts with little things that ordinary people do. Mental health care doesn't start with big government. It starts with us. But a sensible public safety policy includes a cheaper solution than criminal incarceration (which is the default current policy, because of the lack of a clinical infrastructure with the means of handling the current population).
He's Not a Zombie, He's Just Ill