Unstrangely, when you sit down and hear the story of a person who is in one, or all three, of those categories, you also hear a story of abuse, abandonment, and tremendous hardship: usually beginning with broken relationships (sometimes broken by illness or death) followed by the failure of various kinds of institutions and social safety nets, and addiction.

If after all the problem was “them” (rather than ‘us and them’) the need is still clear: for a warm place to sleep, food, and dry clean clothes; help for the kinds of things that would make even the most evil-seeming addiction a welcome escape.

Of course, not everyone who has that story (abuse, abandonment, hardship) has that ending… and yet so MANY people do.

To think of this forces you count also the suffering of the people who do not break so visibly and spectacularly; the walking wounded who may not be counted, because they have not yet fallen- the people they care for and are responsible for — and everyone around them, who is very likely suffering, too.

— — — — — -

Gayle, mother, and wife of a disabled veteran:

Gayle: We were homeless, it was not fun. It was not because we we’re stupid or lazy, etc. It was just a set of random circumstances. We got out of that situation with help from friends.

(ME: Perhaps you were closer to the edge that you realized? It was only friends between you and ongoing homelessness.)

Gayle: Yes. And we are a walking wounded family due to illness and war injuries, and some developmental issues. What I’ve found is that there are surprisingly few, effective options for healing or care. Even doing all the right things doesn’t guarantee that things will be better.

(pause for a moment in Gayle’s story)
Let’s list these
[developmental issues]
[war injuries of veterans]
(and a notable lack of effective, available help.

[war injuries of veterans]

(In my experience, an astonishing number of the homeless and disabled are war veterans. If we can afford a war, we can afford to care for veterans and their families all their lives. If we don’t, we cannot. Individuals and families bears the cost of war if the government does not.)

Illness happens at the best of times: and illness (along with a woman having a child) is one of the strongest predictors of an economic downspiral (in other words: when you have to choose between life and death)

[developmental issues]
Developmental issues: What makes the struggles of having children look easy? Having children with developmental issues does.

For all of these things: “…there are surprisingly few, effective options for healing or care.”

There are sometimes options. 
They are not necessarily good, nor effective options. 
That makes everything much, much worse.

Gayle: When you are on the razor’s edge, you cannot afford to invest time, or money, into something that does not work.

[no matter what it is: AND: this is a time that people become desperate enough to buy things from hope not pragmatism: we will come back to that later.]

Gayle: Sometimes random circumstances make things better, or worse. It helps to keep an open mind, so that perception of an event doesn’t prevent one from seeing potential opportunity for overcoming. And a lot of faith & prayer, and hard work. And leaving your pride out of it. I find myself increasingly exhausted/fatigued. I wanted to throw in the towel yesterday due to a new, difficult complication. But I’m the only fully functional adult here and that’s with MS and diabetes (genetic, not bad food choices).

[Sounds like Gayle is accustomed to hearing that she caused the diabetes from bad food choices, doesn’t it? I wonder who said that to her?]

Gayle: Sometimes the only thing that keeps me going is the fact that I’m the only one that keeps us going. Caregiving is both unbelievably hard, and good, at once. Also, often, extremely lonely. I can see why people turn to substances (or a myriad of other things) for escape. I refuse to have any alcohol in our home because of this, also refuse medical MJ even though I’d qualify.

(If so much depends on one person, more than human endurance is required, and human beings are human. What you are looking at is a catastrophic break which would have consequences for the entire family, and anyone who depends on them. This is an unsupport broken-bridge disaster ready to happen.)

So I asked Gayle: What can we DO?

Gayle: It’s all complicated. No easy boxed answer. But, we can take care of the PERSON’s needs first: housing, safety, food, water, bathing/clean clothes, medical/dental care…[human] connections. I think that gives people a good start. And no judgment.

I have an idea, it’s a stupid one: what if we had a magic wand that turned judgement and shame and blame into food, shelter, and human connection?