If you don't already know, May is Mental Health Awareness Month. Mental Health America has been spreading awareness specifically during the moth of May since 1949. Mental illness is a huge contributor as a cause of homelessness. According to the U.S. Conference of Mayors, mental illness was listed as the third largest cause of homelessness. In 2017 554,000 people experienced homelessness in one night in the U.S. During 2017 the Treatment Advocacy Center stated that one third of people experiencing homelessness suffer from some form of severe mental illness. Mental health has always been an important topic in my own household. Kathy, my mom, has been suffering from bipolar disorder for the past 28 years. This time last year she was refusing to leave her room. To express the importance of mental illness through Naming the Homeless we decided to randomly interview 10 individuals during the month of May to see how mental health has (or hasn't) affected them and their experiences of homelessness. We will be posting one story a day for the next 10 days to share their personal experiences. Here are their stories:
This story is a little different than the others that we have posted. This a a compilation of perspectives on homelessness that we gathered from several different people when we took a the train to the Walter Rand Transportation Center in Camden, NJ. Within 15 minutes of our arrival I had witnessed someone choking, people selling things out of bags, someone vomit in the center of the sidewalk, arguments, and someone's run in with the police. We met Ruby inside the center. Ruby has been homeless for 6 months. Two years ago she owned a home. She had a husband that she had been married to for 36 years. She owned her own business. Now she sleeps in abandoned homes with her younger sister who is also homeless and is a recovering addict. Six years ago Ruby was raped around the corner from her house. Her attacker broke her neck and her arms and legs were paralyzed for four years. Her husband's health began to deteriorate and he died of a stoke two years ago. Unable to keep up with expenses she took refuge on the streets. Her husband fought in the Vietnam War and Ruby is entitled to funds from the Veterans Agency although it takes about a war to be processed. Until then she will remain on the streets. Marcus has been homeless for two years, mostly in New York. He returned back home to Camden to be closer to an ill family member. Marcus blames his homelessness on family members turning their backs on him when he was struggling financially. Since his return Marcus says some of them have reached out to him and offered him a place to stay but he refuses, saying that this is something that he wants to do on his own. Jennifer is a recovering addict who is returning home to live with her parents. She had been homeless for five years. Mary expressed her desire to give back to others like they have often times done for her. After accepting a sandwich she asked us if we would like to pray with her and she blessed the sickly, the homeless, addicts, and those who are struggling among others. To learn more about their stories please click the link!
Andy is a 46 year old home owner. That's right, he owns a home but is currently living on the streets. Andy's (ex) girlfriend of 18 years filed an (allegedly false) Protection from Abuse against him. He violated the PFA by enter his own home to gather some belongings before leaving again. He was also charged for constructing marijuana concentrates. Andy took these charges to court and tried to fight his sentence. He settled for six weeks of incarceration and six months of paying for his ex-girlfriend to stay in his home. If he wants to enter the house he has to first contact her social worker. In may Andy will be allowed to live in his own home again.
Something to know about me: I have three half sisters, even though I never think of them as anything less than a sister that I care about very much. Jasmine is my youngest sister and the only one that lives in the same house as me. She turned nine years old just last month. Ever since I started this blog she has been begging to be a part of it in any way she can. She even attended an interview with us one weekend. She had her pad with her to take notes and came up with her own question, I was very proud of her. Recently she done something that is above and beyond what she has already contributed. This is my message to her:
Jeanette's interview was completely unexpected, we had originally finished our interview for the day with Belinda. We were on our way back to the train station, passing out sandwiches along the way, when we saw Jeanette walking away from the station. We stopped her and asked her if she would like our last sandwich and her reaction was priceless. She claimed that our approaching her was a message sent from her children in heaven that they are watching over her. She admitted that she was feeling a little down that day and that our kindness really meant a lot to her. Jeanette is not homeless, she lives in a personal care home. Before she moved to the home she was homeless for two years and her story and all that she has endured throughout her 70 years is nothing short of incredible. *The spelling of Janette's name has been corrected.
Meet Belinda! She became homeless because she fell victim to addiction by both drugs and alcohol but is well on her way to recovery. She praised the A.A. meetings and drug rehab centers that she attends and truly believes that they are helping her and that she will one day no longer depend on any substances. She has been homeless for two years now and has been in and out of shelters. She would rather stay on the streets because of how restricting their rules and guidelines are. When asked if she liked shelters she replied, "I really want my own home."
It's reverse advent calendar szn!!!! The idea is that instead of receiving a treat everyday you contribute a donation item daily instead. From Dec 1-24 continue to add items and then on Christmas Eve donate the package to an individual in need, a family in need, or an organization like a shelter or a food... Continue Reading →
When we did our most recent interview in Philly a couple of weeks ago we also went out of our way to attempt to locate Constance and Chaz again. Constance was not in the area that we had spoken to her at previously but we were able to speak to some young women who had had contact with Chaz after the date of our interview.
Constance's story has been posted! She is 44 years old and previously relied on SSI for 18 years before it was cut off. She has been homeless for two years now and is waiting to hear back from SSI about her current application although this could take up to another year or even longer. Constance tries to remain hopeful but she says, "I get tired of sitting out here shaking this cup, sometimes I just want to throw it away."