Saturday, April 17, 2010

Help for Arthur who was hearing voices

Just before "lights out" in the mission dorm Thursday night, one guy just out of jail, some distance removed from where I was, sat up on his upper-bunk bed and demanded attention of the 59 other guys in the dormitory.  A few of us listened.

He told us that he was hearing voices and that while he tried to lie still, the enemy was at hand and that he couldn't get the enemy to leave him alone.

He was obviously spooked, nervous and consumed with fears.

Most mentally ill homeless people in Sacramento don't get much sympathy from their brethren nor enough proper attention from the homeless-help nonprofits. And the primary element that's deficient, and all the more so with the economy in Sacramento as it is, is adequate funding for staffing for outreach and fundamental services for those who are cognitively impaired. [The mentally ill were tossed out of asylums in the 60s, and a great many have been left to fend for themselves out on the mean streets ever since.]

Many of my dorm-mates responded dismissively to the complaints of the man ― whom I'll call Arthur. A couple weighed in with derisive comments.

Me being me, I went over to Arthur and tried to assuage his fears in hope that he could get some sleep and that he could be led over to Loaves & Fishes in the morning where help was possible. Arthur seemed placated, if not assured, that he was safe and asked if I was an angel. I told him I was not that, but just another guy, one who fully wanted the best for him.  One of our dorm-mates then told Arthur that he could be secure by holding firm to his faith in God.

The next morning, Arthur didn't have any clothes in his locker — having thrown them away, he said — and was left with just the sweatpants he had borrowed as nightclothes. Happily, the mission provided him with some basic slip-on shoes and a T-shirt. It was cold that morning, but access to the mission's clothing room wasn't possible to outfit Arthur with a jacket.

I walked with Arthur the mile to Loaves & Fishes. He told me of the voices he heard, and that he was always worried about the enemy following him. He beseeched Jesus for aid and guidance, but was disappointed that he remained in his world of problems. At Loaves & Fishes, between the Wash House and Josef's help in Friendship Park, Arthur got fully, properly outfitted for the chilly weather.

Josef, an excellent park volunteer, took control and said he would get Arthur over to speak with a spiritual counselor at Side-by-Side, and with an assessment counsellor at Genesis. Great, I thought.

A little after noon, I saw Arthur in the park and he told me he had been at Side-by-Side and Genesis. He told me he was instructed to go to TLCS ― not an anagram that meant anything to me ― but Great, I again thought, another stop in progress that was being achieved in tending to Arthur's problems.

We went to TLCS , which was not far from Loaves & Fishes, and were told that nothing could be done for Arthur then ― that Friday afternoon ― but he should come back early Monday morning.

Friday night at the mission, Arthur did some things that were mildly disruptive of the sermon, displaying evidence of the schizophrenia that he appeared to be suffering from. Later that night, I learned Arthur had failed to claim his bed for the night and had been led outside the property gate. I gave up my bed such that I could be with Arthur to see him through the night.

It was a cold night that Arthur and I spent trying to sleep on the sidewalk in front of the mission where perhaps one or two dozen others were bundled for sleep. We weren't well prepared, but bundled ourselves as we could. Our chatter was pleasant, with Arthur talking about his fears and efforts to be true to his faith. At just before midnight, Arthur awakened me and told me of his dream of a tapeworm eating feces. Soon, he ascribed the dream as being one I had told him about and suggested that I was his enemy, and had no business talking that way. He seemed angry.

Nonetheless, I stayed with him as we tried to sleep on the sidewalk.  We each got intermittent periods of sleep. In the wee hours, Arthur said he was sorry and expressed gratitude for my help and friendship.

At 6am in the morning, I got up, and asked Arthur if he was awake.  He responded and I asked him to come with me to McDonald's. He said he was too sleepy and said I should go alone, which I did, with my promise of returning very soon.

To my happy surprise, Arthur showed up at McDonald's shorty, as I was consuming my muffin and coffee. I bought Arthur the same and things were OK except that Arthur felt compelled to get up to greet a customer of the restaurant he didn't know, and to tell me about flying saucers he saw that night.

Worries I had about how to keep Arthur all right till Monday morning were mounting. As Arthur and I left the restaurant, Fred, a longtime member of the Homeless Sacramento community, was in the parking lot. To my great surprise, Fred and Arthur knew each other quite well.

Fred immediately (and brilliantly) assessed the situation. "You've got to go to Manny at Clean and Sober," Fred said, bluntly, to Arthur. "You're mad and off your meds. That's got to be fixed, or you'll be in the drunk tank for thirty days. You want that?"

Arthur said he knew he needed to get to Schmick [the prime mental health facility].

"Then call 911 right now," said Fred.

I expressed my doubts, from things I'd heard, that the police did things like that now that they'd been downsized because of budget cuts.

"They'll do it," said Fred, with that crispness and certainty that was always there in his speaking.  "McDonald's has a phone."

Fred and Arthur then went in McDonald's' side door as I headed back toward the mission to retrieve my backpack.

As I got back near the mission, I ran into Lenny. I told him what had transpired at McDonald's. A firetruck passed us, heading in the direction of McDonald's, which Lenny, who used to work with the fire department, told me was a part of the response to the possible-5150 call.

UPDATE:  I had thought that Arthur was new to Homeless World Sacramento after a recent release from jail.  While Arthur had certainly been incarcerated for a long spell, he was well known to our area's longstanding homeless-community members.

The next day, after Frank had called 9-1-1 for Arthur, Arthur was back in front of the mission interacting with other guys out on the street.  He told me he had gotten the medication he needed.

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