There is a feeling that all the public agencies and nonprofits are shirking responsibility to help those who suffer most and are most in need of help.
The state and county are in trouble and it is known that services they provide or fund to help poor or mentally-ill people have been among the first to be severely cut or ended in response to the budget crisis. Advocates for the mentally ill and families that include a mentally ill member are not politically powerful.
Schizophrenic people, and others enduring other types of mental illness, can seem to be placid, and even serene, which masks their suffering.
I have heard that there is a man who now frequents Friendship Park who has been institutionalized for causing fires and is now acting oddly and is likely off his medication. He needs help, but there is none forthcoming. A young mentally ill woman who has been frequently taken advantage of comes to the the Loaves & Fishes facility and cannot get aid.
A man named Brian who I am seeing sitting on the curbside, baking in the sun, is looking particularly emaciated these days. I would bet he needs attention.
My bunkmate at the mission has been talking at night in the disturbing way he often does, disrupting men trying to sleep. While the night manager of the mission is keenly compassionate for this man, and other men who are mentally unwell and come to stay at the mission, and aids them spiritually, with food, clothing and being tolerant of many of their eccentricities, my bunkie needs another kind of help which seems to be unavailable anywhere in Homeless World these days.
One thing I would want is for some of the Friendship Park Greenhats [i.e., employees] to be educated regarding odd behavior of Park denizens, and in basic health aid. It is my understanding that no Greenhat has much social-work education nor knowledge of the interior-world of addicts or mentally-ill people.
Many Greenhats that are employed by Loaves & Fishes are chosen from amongst Jesuit Volunteers who have served a year in the Park. It is well known that gaining employment at Loaves & Fishes most easily comes after first volunteering at the facility for a long period of time. That avenue of getting hired shouldn't supercede the need to acquire "talent" that is needed to better help vulnerable or greatly-needful homeless people.
My suggestion to Jim Peth and Garren Bracket, co-directors of Friendship Park, and Libby Fernandez, L&F CEO: Train some of the current Greenhats in how to understand the umwelt of addicts and mentally ill people and deal with persons who are out-of-control or otherwise appear to be disturbed. Train them, too, in how to know if someone is a 5150 candidate.
Such training needn't be formal nor expensive. There are Internet sites and books that can be identified as valuable educational texts.
- "The mentally ill on the street": a blogpost in Sacramento Homeless blog.
- "The Lost Virtues of the Asylum," an essay by Oliver Sacks in the New York Review of Books.
- "The first-person dimension of homeless Sacramentans suffering from Schizophrenia": a blogpost in Sacramento Homeless blog. [See, too, the links at the end of the essay.]
- Schizophrenia and the Fate of the Self, a book by the brothers Lysaker. [Available through the public library's LINK system.]
- In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts, a book by Gabor Mate on addiction. [Available through the public library's LINK system.]