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  1. #1
    Registered User dudeijuststarted's Avatar
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    Default Social Services along the Appalachian Trail

    I had the opportunity to work at a busy hostel in the southern portion of the AT as the NOBO herds came through. For the most part, despite the year-over-year reputation, the "bubbles" weren't particularly difficult to handle. I'd summarize this generation of AT thru hikers as respectful and really enjoyable to be around. However, other issues arose that I feel the responsible AT community could shine a greater light on.

    Homelessness has been an issue on the AT for as long as I can remember (and I'm sure for far longer than that.) In many cases, those displaced folks who attempt to call the trail home are respectful, find a way to pay for their stay, and abide by the rules. However, the trail angel community itself is misguided, often picking up and dropping off "hikers" into the AT trail towns and businesses, only to turn the car around and drive away, leaving us dumbfounded as to how the situation should be handled. In fact, I've seen police do this. Upon arrival, business owners are faced with the challenge to accommodate or put their other guests at risk of potential violence, theft, etc., or (commonly) general unease at the hands of an unstable individual. This is incredibly stressful and serves no one. There is a misconception that "hostel" means "shelter" and "trail town" means "social services abound." This is absolutely not the case and serves neither the wayward person in question, those attempting to serve the community, or those bystanders who are out here enjoying the trail intentionally. As fantastic as it sounds, severe mental health issues are not going to be alleviated by walking in the woods. We've seen this time-and-time again.

    Historically, it seems this issue has gotten the response of "social workers / cities should stop telling the homeless about the trail." This is not going to happen, and with unprecedented economic crisis the situation has greatly worsened. As I am not a social worker, I ask..

    "How can the Appalachian Trail community better handle the influx of homelessness and mental health issues?"

    Some ideas come to mind:

    - A trail-wide network of shuttles to nearby shelters (homeless shelters, not AT shelters) and cities providing social services
    - Broader education posted in trail towns, pointing those seeking a solution in the right direction and not back to the hiker boxes
    - A broader commitment by angels, hostels, and trail town services to gently send folks in the right direction prior to unintentionally worsening the person's situation

    From time to time, this issue comes to a boiling point and shatters our community. How do we stop that from happening, and how do we come together as a loving community and care for those who come our way in a methodical, responsible manner?

    I'm very interested in your thoughts on this. Thanks for listening.

  2. #2
    Registered User JNI64's Avatar
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    Not the ATC'S problem............

  3. #3
    Registered User JNI64's Avatar
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    A big heart and in the right place!
    I think you should volunteer more!

  4. #4
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    Good idea and much better than wringing and washing our hands every time someone goes over the mental edge, BUT ... like first aid, there are guidelines that need to be followed, and there are organizational liability issues if we talk about more than educating the AT community in what to look for and how to respond.

    https://www.mentalhealthfirstaid.org/

    Sent from my SM-T813 using Tapatalk

  5. #5
    Registered User dudeijuststarted's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by windlion View Post
    Good idea and much better than wringing and washing our hands every time someone goes over the mental edge, BUT ... like first aid, there are guidelines that need to be followed, and there are organizational liability issues if we talk about more than educating the AT community in what to look for and how to respond.
    https://www.mentalhealthfirstaid.org/
    Sent from my SM-T813 using Tapatalk
    Thank you for this link! I will take a deeper look at this. I received another call today regarding a hostel waking up to find an unregistered guest, having been driven in from Asheville, asleep with his dog in one of their $50 rooms, with $10 to his name and no gear. Caring is one thing, being wholly unprepared and untrained for this problem is another. It won't be long until the trail goes digital just for security's sake.

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