“If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles.” Matthew 5:41
One of the biggest ways Caridad has helped the homeless is to change the attitudes of those living indoors. Caridad exists to humanize the homeless. Homeless are people too, homeless are just people who have had something overtake them beyond their ability (mentally, emotionally, financially, physically) to cope with.
Please imagine with me for a minute; do you have an IPod or portable music device you use to get through the day? For some of you older readers you may still own a dinosaur, a Walkman. Personally, I have discovered that by listening to music it motivates me through what would otherwise be a daunting and miserable workout. If I listen to music I can even endure jogging. (Please note I am no marathon runner, but simply can now complete a mile without dying.)
Whenever I leave the gym I turn off the music so I can hear the cars. But, imagine with me if you couldn’t turn off the music. What if you couldn’t take the earphones off? What if you had to walk around with them on all the time because they were stuck? What if you tried to go to the hospital to get them removed, and the staff said they were so sorry, but there was nothing they could do to help you because it was a condition.
Now imagine if not only were you unable to turn the music that was playing in your head off, but you had no control of the selection and volume. What if the music was Pig Destroyer blasting at various levels around the clock? For those of you that enjoy Pig Destroyer, what if it was The Carpenters? All day, every day, music you couldn’t control on endless loop. How could you think? How could you sleep? After a few days like this how could you function? Would it affect your interactions with others?
If you thought drinking would temporarily mute the music in your head, would you drink a little drink? Maybe one or two at first, then one or two may lead to more, anything, to make the music stop, right? You remember fondly the days when there was no music playing and you could live your life. You miss those days.
You go outside in an attempt to get away from the music. You sit in a park because you have drunk a bit too much and fall asleep. You wake up it is night time; you forgot to pay your rent and got evicted because your world has been in a tailspin since this music thing started. Alone, in the dark in the park, you are now homeless. How did this happen? The depression kicks in. Would you attempt suicide to make the music and the pain stop?
This little exercise is similar to something that someone with schizophrenia may experience.
The Reagan administration, in 1981 cut spending by the federal government In accordance with the New Federalism and the demands of capital, mental health policy was put in the hands of individual states. Cuts in funding for mental health services continued throughout the 1980s.
A combination of antipsychotic, antidepressant, and antianxiety medication is used to treat schizophrenia, but with budget cuts these medications are harder and harder to get for free or at a low cost.
About 80% of those I encounter on the streets have been diagnosed mental illness. Sadly, many of them are undedicated. When I look at a homeless person sitting on the street, I see potential. It is wonderful to see the life changing effects that getting indoors and getting medication have on a client.
This is my challenge to you reader, I urge you to volunteer at a local homeless agency, not just feeding but simply asking what they need help doing and doing that job no matter what it is. One of my greatest volunteers is a gentleman that comes in for hours and simply puts paper in files for me. This frees our staff up to transport clients to appointments. If you aren’t comfortable serving like this, then I challenge you to write to your state and federal representatives. Encourage them to support programs that help the mentally ill, encourage them to not support bills that cut funding for mental health help.
Many of our homeless friends haven’t found their voices yet, or their voices haven’t been heard. You live indoors, educate yourselves, open your minds and please help by humanizing the homeless.