Cindy’s Story: When Mental Illness Meets Homelessness
When I first met Cindy she was chilling on the sidewalk with her cane and her belongings. She wore a funny little hat with tassels down the side and layers of clothing.
Cindy was chronically homeless and never wanted help. She just chilled on the sidewalk, or sometimes I would find her sleeping behind a bus stop and I would wake her up to give her some water and ask if she was ok. Every time she had the smile crooked smile, and said she was good.
Today I brought her to a clinic to get a mental evaluation. We walked side by side and she stopped to pull up her pants.
“You’re fly is open.” She stopped with her cane in and tried to pull it up.
“I cleaned this pair last night and put it on top of my other pair and the zipper doesn’t work.” Her jeans were twice her size and I looked down to help her. There was no zipper.
“Just pull them up and roll them at the waist.” She tried to pull them up over her stomach the best she could. She had never been to a mental health clinic before, or at least she never said she had, and wanted to make a good first impression.
I opened the door to the clinic and we faced more than a few stairs.
“That’s a lot of stairs.” She started to make her way up the line. I recalled a few months ago when she said it was hard for her to make it to the recycling center. It was two blocks away and at every few steps she had to take a break and rest because her legs were bad. There was a lot that was bad about Cindy. She had a tumor removed from her stomach, and gallbladder issues, and a gigantic heart filled with laughter that was left in the streets.
It took me months to build rapport and get her to accept services. After almost a year, I finally got her accepted to a program that agreed to link her to housing, and get her off the street. She took one look at the “housing” option and walked straight back to her bus stop.
She still sits there today.
Homeless woman with cane image available from Shutterstock.
Loberg, E. (2013). Cindy’s Story: When Mental Illness Meets Homelessness. Psych Central. Retrieved on May 6, 2015, from http://blogs.psychcentral.com/manic-depression/2013/07/08/cindys-story-mental-illness-meets-homelessness/