Helping the homeless: How even in the hardest cases, there is hope

by Symptom Advice on January 11, 2012

He knows it’s all in his head.

Everyday is a battle with paranoid schizophrenia. things are going well for Sebring now. For three years, he has held down a full time job and paid for his own apartment. It took him more than 30 years struggling with drug abuse and homelessness, though, to get the upper hand on his mental illness.

Mental illness ranks third after substance abuse and lack of affordable housing on the list of the most commonly cited causes of homelessness. between 20 and 25 percent of the homeless population in the United States suffer from some form of severe mental illness, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. The percentage nearly doubles if lesser illnesses like clinical depression and anxiety disorders are taken into account.

When it comes to beating homelessness, it’s these people who often struggle most, said Neil Donovan, executive director of the National Coalition for the Homeless. many turn to illegal drugs as a means to self medicate.

“Pulling out of homelessness is hard,” Donovan said. “Mental illness makes it exponentially harder.”

But there is hope. Sebring is proof of that.

Sebring, a short, stout man who keeps his cinnamon-colored facial hair trimmed in a neat goatee, smoked his first marijuana joint in the fourth grade.

His grandmother, who raised him, was a chain smoker. one summer evening, he snuck a cigarette from her stash and took it behind the chicken coop. he lit. he inhaled. And he gagged. The smoke burned his lungs. It tasted terrible. That might have been the end of it, but, just then, his uncle came lumbering through the bushes. Watching Sebring hacking and hacking, the uncle shook his head.

“Don’t smoke cigarettes,” he said. “I’ve got something better.”

The following decades were a drug-induced blur. Sebring became a drug dealer. he got kicked out of one school and failed most of his classes in the next. he isn’t sure when he started experiencing symptoms of schizophrenia. It was hard to tell the drug hallucinations from the schizophrenic ones. he couldn’t sleep because the voices in his head were too loud. he self medicated by doing more drugs.

“The voices were relentless,” he said.

“Leave the state,” the voices told him. “You’re an alien.” “The FBI is tracking you.”

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: