The Forced Psychosis of Being Homeless
I enjoy being around positive and community-minded people.
I spent this morning and the better part of the afternoon with many of them in a helpful seminar listening to Mr. Donald Dahlheimer from Elmhurst, a licensed specialist in the identification and treatment of mental health issues. We were all there because we are volunteers and site mangers for the homeless in the northern tier of South Suburban PADS – an organization devoted to helping those in need of emergency shelter during the colder months.
As you might have experienced, the colder months have broken down the front door quickly. And we’re busy. Our shelter reached well over its occupancy in the first two hours of opening this last Thursday. It’s a blessing that we have another “sister” church to send our guests to after dinner.
In our current state budget morass, the homeless are just one group of the many marginalized and impoverished who stand as serviceable pawns for the drawn-out battle between an intractable Governor Rauner and his nemesis Michael Madigan. When will their suffering call forth enough pressure by the comfortable in our state to make one of the two uncomfortable enough to budge?
No one has blinked yet.
And, if Thursday night’s numbers are indicative of what’s about to come, this winter will be harsh indeed.
The Illinois Department of Family Services estimates that about 48,000 people are served by state funded shelters each year.
Public schools in Illinois saw a 7.7% increase in the number of homeless students in the last measurement – the 2013-14 school year. That number was over 59,000 students in our state who were homeless. 20,000 of these students are in Chicago.
|While we shoot, let's put the poor in-between.|
Mr. Dahlheimer (sorry about the digression) was there to help us work with the many of our guests who arrive in a mentally agitated state or with severe mental health issues. How do you interact to provide safety for someone who is in a heated conversation with a non-entity?
The presentation was clinically informative, but wasn’t nor would any program ever be able to provide the outline of reacting to a specific situation. On the other hand, I found his PowerPoint’s description on “Common Symptoms When Psychosis Is Developing” disquieting.
Mr. Dalheimer’s list of “Changes in thinking and perceptions” for those entering a psychotic period was exactly what we should expect from any person becoming or enduring homelessness.
· Sense of alteration of self, others, or the outside world (e.g., feeling that the self or others have changed or are acting different in some way)
· Social isolation or withdrawal
· Sleep disturbances
· Reduced ability to carry out work or social roles
· Odd ideas
· Difficulties with concentration or attention
· Unusual perceptual experiences (e.g., reductions in or greater intensity of smell, sound, or color)
I watch the homeless walk among us during the day, and I witness the looks and comments they receive. This is not a sense of alteration; it is an accurate comprehension of alienation.
I see the results of a month or more on the street – the need to become loud, to drop social convention for protection, the acquisition of distrust, the necessary loss of personal interactions.
I perceive the wariness of loss of possessions or meds, the indignity of sleeping next to an unknown stranger only a foot away, the unnerving soft padding of people moving about all night for a variety of reasons.
I observe the difficulty of a battered parent with five children trying to organize their studies and ready them for bed in a strange and unusual environment filled with strangers.
I fathom their schemes for quick and sudden relief from the present, sometimes fantasy or, worse, sometimes the lotto – or maybe substance misuse.
I often excuse their failure to comprehend the byzantine procedures of the system that has granted them kindness momentarily but demands reintegration as well as paperwork in return.
In my experience, being homeless in Illinois is not dissimilar from experiencing a “Developing Psychosis.”
|Give me what I want or they get it.|
According to Social Justice News Chicago, many programs to assist the homeless, especially the children, will start shutting down if the budget impasse continues. Worse, “Once the shut down, even if funding is restored some of them might not be able to just reopen, which means that the infrastructure for hoping the homeless will be lost,” according to Julie Dworkin, the policy director at the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless.
Tell him to present a budget. Call the Governor’s Office please: 217-782-0244