Apologies to regular readers about the light posting, I spent the week running down opportunities for real life volunteer work and I have to learn about homelessness, so am back to the Internet for the goal-direction and learning tools.
I remember when getting off the streets meant you can walk into a 24 hour drop in center at 2 AM, upset, hysterical, crying, and a nice social worker would take you in and make you a sandwich. Sit next to you on the couch and listen to your problems, then give you a blanket and squeeze your shoulder and tell you it will be all right. And when you wake up on your own schedule, the social worker pours you a cup of fresh coffee, offers you a cigarette and asks how you slept. The two of you sit at the kitchen table with a telephone and rolodex, which the social worker matter-of-factly refers to as “resources”, and starts dialing numbers, flipping through the cards. Food stamps, clothing, housing, transportation, employment. There is a sense of purpose and a real clear focus. None of it on a broken brain, all of it on essential needs, a walk up Maslow’s ladder, step-by-step, nothing more and nothing less. Reality based. Problem solving. At the end of the day you have 3 appointments, you’re still sad, but you believe in the things you have to believe if you’re going to go on. People will help, problems can be solved, I don’t have to fall off the radar, I can get attention and still be safe.
Thirty years ago this was how it went for me the 3 times I had no place to go, because dignity, boundaries and empathy were built into the model. What the hell happened? There was no psychiatric assessment, no “behavioral health” component, no substance abuse checklist, no prefabricated codes of conduct. There were offerings that relate to mental health, yes, presented without emphasis, because they must have rightly understood that to go beyond offering resources, with a punitive, coercive and paternal process would add to my degradation, which has to lessen if a person is going to tap into their will, which doesn’t just pop up automatically once it’s defeated. Homelessness is defeating. The helper’s role is to inspire hope, so you can stand up, square your shoulders and go forward.
I just don’t get it. This week I’ve been talking to homeless people, because it’s cold and they’re just standing around. It’s not that they’d rather go it alone, it’s that they are meant to go it alone, to die. I know this because a few years ago you could hand your food stamps out to a homeless woman and she could walk into the store and get something to eat for herself and her child for the first time all day. Human Services went to debit cards in order to stop that practice. The message is clear, play by our rules or they can die.
The one thing that keeps me from being homeless is my house. Tis a gift to be simple, folks.
I’ve lived in my own mobile home for ten years, and the most stabilizing thing in my life is my mortgage. I’ve had one episode of major depression in the last five years, didn’t leave the house for 2 months, til the threat of losing my roof sent me to the psych clinic for the Effexor. Which I took until I got better, and discontinued after 3 months because I was allowed to, because I no longer needed to, because I am not in the system, where an un-medicated brain is seen as better off dead, according to all the
latest scientific research genocidal maniacs.