Mental Illness for one Homeless Man

Complex Challenges for Clinic Outreach

a homeless person's camp
A homeless person’s camp

Helping Hands Clinic outreach works in the field to find mentally ill homeless people in order to help them get access to services. We met John, who is both mentally ill and homeless, through two homeless women. John shares many problems that other homeless individuals have. His mental illness, though, creates unique challenges. Increased isolation, phobia, paranoia, and psychotic symptoms handicap outreach workers, when trying to connect. Then, when a connection is made, future action to follow through on a good idea can be lost. Following up after their first meeting was like starting over.

When we attempted a second meeting with John, it was as if they had not met before. Delivering shelter, in the form of a screened room, can be challenging, too. In this situation, the area where John lived was fouled by garbage and human waste. It piled on the ground and hung on lines, filthy and putrid.

Including a screened room, we provided John with a couple of chairs, a small table, and a bus pass. We also invited John to visit Helping Hands’ Monday night clinic for a meal and access to a clothing closet. In the big picture, though, getting to the clinic would involve taking a bus that stops three times before it reaches HHC, and a round trip could take approximately five hours to complete.

Complex logistics involving time consuming travel and long wait times, are required to access services for John. Added to that, for him, are problems related to homelessness in general. Having strong body odor, feeling invisible, and being abused by people he might encounter, are just a few of them.

One week after we visited John to deliver the screened room and furniture, he received a call from a woman who said she knew John. She had helped him get Food Stamps, and her family had helped him for several years after his family connection was broken. Her news for us was that John was missing.