Let me reiterate, being homeless is very stressful. Add to that any mental health imperfections you may have, and they will no longer lay dormant, or hidden in your denial. Yes, stress exacerbates mental health issues, pretty much in the same way that that putting stress on a broken or bruised bone hurts like hell.
Sadly, in today’s world, few people know and understand the true nature of homelessness, even those people who are put in charge of homeless service facilities. Even those with educational backgrounds in sociology and psychology don’t have a clue about homelessness. There is no “school of homelessness” anywhere in the world. At best, someone may have taken one or two classes on the subject, as an elective. These people who are put in charge of homeless facilities, more often than not, jump to inaccurate conclusions about the nature of homelessness and homeless people, and the policies and directives they develop for homeless services often do more harm than good.
The biggest and most obvious problem is that city leaders put the burden of caring for homeless people on government. Homelessness is actually a health issue, mainly a mental health issue, but it includes all other aspects of health as well. Homelessness is a health issue because homelessness affects the wellbeing of people. Just whom would you rather decide what’s best for your health? A doctor or a politician?
But I digress.
Homeless people are already living with a great deal of stress just from being homeless. And often times the decisions made by homeless facility administrators only adds to that stress – that stress becomes problematic for everyone. Especially for the mentally ill, the stress level often becomes too much and they crack under the pressure, resulting in a psychotic episode. For others the stress makes they extremely defensive. Then when a homeless person feels threatened, he/she becomes combative. Verbal and physical fights often result. Being that many homeless service providers have zero tolerance policies for any kind of misbehavior, including fighting and even arguing, it is the shelter itself, and it’s administrators, that are guilty of creating the scenarios that lead to people being banned from their shelters.
City officials are more likely to misunderstand the difficulties of dealing with homeless people, being that they’ve never actually dealt with homeless people themselves and are more interested in appeasing their constituency than in doing what’s right for the homeless. Yet they are often the ones to decide homeless services policies and procedures. Homeless shelters attract a wide variety of people looking for help, and many are dealing with very complex issues that require specialized handling. For this, the employees of homeless service providers really need to be trained on dealing with this great variety of people. Besides case manager work, homeless service provider facilities have many other services to offer, but facilities usually hire the wrong people to handle those positions. What often happens is that the facility administration hires a bunch of club bouncer types. Or the get recently homeless people. Or they hire people coming right out of jail or prison. This may be a good service to recent ex-cons, but it’s harmful to the homeless they are supposed to be helping.
Bouncer types, the recently released from prison types, etc, all have one thing in common, they all come from environments where intimidation is the rule, intimidation is how things get done, they use intimidation preemptively, hoping to prevent a bad situation, they assume that every situation ha the potential to go bad. The thing is, when you just assume that every person is a potential problem, you end up creating a very stressful, and hostile environment. Everyone running the different services starts off expecting to have trouble out of everyone. Sure, facility employees may occasionally run into a difficult person, but the majority of homeless people will never cause problems. Still, being treated that way has a negative affect, and will certainly worsen the condition that homeless people find themselves in. Treating everyone as if they are a potential problem will only cause problems, and will increase the stress on everyone, and will actually be the cause of the problem they were hoping to avoid.
Even worse is when these people who have no real training on how to deal with homeless people become over confident in their positions – often there is no real accountability for them to answer to – they develop into a clique, often they assume they have full run of he facility, they become more of a goon squad than security and other personnel. They do favors for those of the homeless they are friends with and will be less than courteous to those they don’t know or don’t personally like.
All of this creates a great deal of animosity between homeless people and homeless services workers, a problem that exists just below the surface, and will explode into anti social behavior when triggered.
The Homeless Guy is currently living in San Diego California, where he was born and raised. And, he is observing homeless life in San Diego and comparing to other places where he has been homeless.