Over the last few decades, the social safety net for people experiencing mental health crises, and other crises that are exacerbated by conditions of poverty, has been shredded. There are state and non-profit organizations that are doing wonderful, meaningful work on these fronts, but many people in Carbondale slip through the cracks. Often, people rely on the police to handle situations that the police are the wrong people for. The police, by the nature of their job, carry with them a threat of violence that is simply inappropriate in many situations. Yet there exists no comparably resourced team of people whose job it is to focus on compassionate responses to people in crises where the threat of violence is inappropriate and counter-productive.

As climate change intensifies, it is the poor who will suffer most. Poverty is, of course, difficult to measure, and complicated by the fact that SIU students in Carbondale could be counted below the poverty line. But if we look at the poverty rate among adolescents, age 12-17 (thereby subtracting college students from the equation), we see that it is estimated to be 42.6%.

The effects of poverty – especially childhood poverty – are extensive, and the city and state are currently not in any position to address these problems that have arisen through the destruction of a well-funded, humane social safety net.

We propose, therefore, that the city of Carbondale needs to create a social safety net of its own, composed of Care Workers whose job is to provide or connect people with the resources they need to negotiate difficult times. There are many such people in the community already, a network of people who care for each other and strangers. The city needs to hire and support some of these people to start performing the jobs that are currently too often left to the police.

In the first year of the Carbondale Spring initiative, the city will:

  • set up a full-time non-police emergency number.
  • Hire a team of 15 Care Workers composed of therapists, social workers, holistic healers, and just average do-gooders whose job it is to help people to meet their nutritional, emotional, and spiritual needs by connecting those suffering to existing resources.
  • Task those Care Workers with proposing and creating care infrastructure that currently don’t exist, but are needed to address the needs of those suffering most in the community.

Cost Estimates:
15 Care workers: $450,000/year
Fund for Care Infrastructure: $200,000
Estimated Total: $650,000