Just before sunrise we respond to a corner market just south of “Squirrel Heights” and meet a young man hanging out near the dumpsters. It is obvious from our first impressions that he isn’t chronically homeless, as he’s mostly clean and composed. But what is his issue?
“I don’t know their circumstances and I don’t know how they got to the point where we found them…“
Two shifts later we arrive at a seedy trailer park for an unknown problem. Something about the dispatch info made us reluctant to go in without police, but unfortunately, we’d already arrived and the people inside were excitedly demanding that we hurry in. The double-wide we entered had more dirt than furniture, and inside, among the 4-5 other teenagers and two distraught moms, was a teen girl writhing and screaming on the floor. Apparently she’d eaten a bag of psychedelic mushrooms.
Less than 10 hours later, we arrive at an equally depressing trailer park, and walk into a even more filthy single-wide. A young woman was lying on the floor, unresponsive to our questions. However, with some encouragement, she told us she’d been drinking Yagers all night and wanted to kill herself.
Some of my colleagues are disgusted by these sort of patients. Some mistakenly link the sin with the sinner, and hate both. That’s a shame, really. Most of these folks are victims who have not yet acquired the skills to escape their situation. They don’t master their circumstances, they allow their circumstances to dominate their lives. It’s quite sad really – all the way around.
I don’t know their circumstances and I don’t know how they got to the point where we found them. But it doesn’t take a rocket surgeon to figure out how broken they are. It also doesn’t take anymore effort to have compassion than to have disdain. In fact, the compassion may take less of a toll on me, personally.
The young man we found near the dumpsters was shy, withdrawn, and barely able to function. He looked pathetic next to the strong, capable, and macho firefighters. It almost seemed as if he was trying to illicit even more sympathy by exaggerating his pain. It is my belief that the real issue was probably emotional. This was not an overnight occurrence, but was most likely his first venture into the world of homelessness. Unless he figures out the issues, which unfortunately, he probably won’t, he’ll likely spend the rest of his short life on the streets.
“The comparisons between these three individuals was unmistakable…”
The girl who ate the psychedelics will not remember being restrained, chemically sedated, or her own ranting. However, she is destined to repeat the pain of this situation, unless she learns to better control her emotions and not seek relief in chemical agents. She probably needs a better family and friends too. But how likely is she to seek remedy for the victimization she is experiencing? She isn’t responsible for being made a victim, but she is responsible for the changes and remedies she can seek.
The comparisons between these three individuals was unmistakable. It was as if three different people were icons of three different phases in personal destruction. First, a young girl from a dysfunctional home, seeking refuge from emotional, physical, or sexual abuse, she overdoses on psychedelic mushrooms in order to escape her painful reality. Next, the young man bails out of his terrible living situation. He’s too embarrassed to explain what happened. Someone hurt his knee and he grabbed his mother’s prescription meds and swallowed them in an attempt to escape the pain of a tragic homelife.
“You can judge these people if you want to – but what good does that do? “
A few years later, after multiple failed relationships, and a lot of really poor choices, a young woman lies on the floor after an attempt to drink herself into oblivion. She didn’t really want to have sex with the man passed out in her bed, but she didn’t want to be alone either. He wasn’t “the one” but at least he was someone. But strangely, she felt worse in the morning, all jacked up on caffeine and alcohol. Her encounter only reminded her of the abuse she suffered as a young girl – and now she just wants to die.
These people are broken. Our world is filled with broken people. Their ranks are growing, and pretty soon the broken will outnumber the unbroken. What then?
You can judge these people if you want to – but what good does that do? You can refuse to provide healthcare, counseling, housing, and food to these folks – because really, they’re just a drain on the hardworking people who pay their taxes, have jobs, and don’t break the law. But seriously – not reaching out to these folks is probably a far worse sin that what any of these poor broken people will ever do.