Learning About the Tough Streets

By  Anthony F.

               Clyde Owens is in the residential treatment program at PASS at the Salvation Army, which is helping him and the other men come to term with there substance abuse and other poverty related issues.  He has been in the program for twenty months and is now ready to live in the community and allow someone else to take his place at this agency.  This will free up a bed for another person who wants to turn his life around.

             The question that I put before him was, “What do you think was the most important element missing in the homeless community?”  Owens said healthcare for homeless people was the most important necessity missing in the homeless community.

             I was somewhat surprised because I thought for sure that housing and food was going to be the highest priority.  I immediately began to switch my role as the interviewer interviewer to the caseworker, which is what I do for a living.  I informed him that the Department of Human Services offers medical treatment to individuals who have no income and take prescribed medication.  I thought that I had an answer for what he claimed was missing in the homeless community.  Again to my surprise he began to educate me on the fundamental of being homeless and the need for healthcare.

             First, he talked about using the example of being diabetic and having to take insulin intravenously with a needle.  He said that yes, the DHS will provide the medical but when a person lives in a shelter and others become aware of the clean needles they become open prey and a victim for crack heads and addicts who will steal those needles for their own illegal drug use.

             Secondly, “Where do you store the insulin medication that the doctor has prescribed?”  Owens asked.  There is no place to store medication because a resident can’t put them in the refrigerator.

             Thirdly, when medication or needles are stolen, which is not unusual, the doctor may honor the request the first or second time, but they will impose limits on what they will reissue.  The rush to judgment may cause doctor to suspect homeless people of selling their medication or needles.

             Lastly, those who take insulin need to eat on a routine schedule to feed the insulin, because balancing the right nutrition intake is important to maintain quality health.

                  This was far beyond the scope of my reality because I was thinking like someone with a permanent place to live.

             I asked him what he thought was the solution to this problem.  He replied that it’s as easy as ABC.

             He states that there needs to be a healthcare facility that’s open twenty-fours a day, an open door health care for the homeless.  They could dispense the medication at the appropriate times, monitor the intake of medication, and assure that the clients are being routinely seen by doctors.

             I am beginning to understand that I need to do a pardigm shift and begin to think more universal and not so limited in my reality thinking and begin to be cognitive of the community to which I’m relating.

  Copyright Homeless Grapevine Issue 34 April-May 1999