Friday, September 10, 2010

Stimulus Dollars

I have a patient Thomas, who is being evicted - for good reasons, BTW, even though most of his tenancy has been excellent. But along about January he went off his medications and gradually developed the idea that he was the rightful owner of the building he lived in, because he had paid so much in rent over the years. So he started canceling fuel deliveries until the people next door paid him, and went down to the town hall to demand a deed to the property, and other disruptive things.

He is a sweet man, really, and it is a sad thing that he has dug such a hole for himself. He lost his supermarket job, as well. He would have been eligible for medical leave, but he signed away his claim on this, insisting that he was not ill. The mentally ill do not deny their illness solely because it would be too difficult or embarrassing to face - though it seems that way when one talks with them, and such purely psychological rather than physical explanations are part of it - but because certain parts of their brains are impaired, and they are physically unable to reinterpret data once they have decompensated.

He's been accepting medications again, after some initial refusal, and is doing better, gaining insight. One of his problems which becomes my problem is finding new housing for him. He can't afford much. Section 8 housing has been a good solution to this over the years. You pay 30% of your income for rent, and the government picks up the rest. You don't get anything free, just at a discount, and you still have incentive to work and make more money. As government programs go, it's pretty good. But the waiting list to get on the program is about 3 years, which is a real difficulty for people who already have trouble handling their money.

In the recent stimulus package, money was put into a Bridge program, under which homeless people will get discounted rent as if they were on Section 8 right away. Thomas qualified on all counts (drug, assault, or sexual offender convictions disqualify you, for example), so he has a much wider range of apartments he can afford, and we can get him out of hospital (at $900/day) sooner, and get him into a safer neighborhood where this rather pathetic character has better hope of thriving.

And heck, it solves my problem, and I'm all for that.

On The Other Hand. Thomas should have put himself on the Section 8 list well more than three years ago, but he wouldn't, because even when well he has rather unrealistic expectations. Plus, he was well when he decided to go off his medication. So we are rewarding him for bad decisions. On the other, other hand, lack of insight is not entirely voluntary on his part, but a symptom of his illness. On the other, other, other hand, there are people just as sick or sicker who played by the rules, are toughing it out, and are still on the waiting list because they haven't been evicted.


boxty said...

More deets on the bridge program, please (Google was no help). There's a homeless guy @ our church here in California that could use such help.

There was a story in the news over the summer about some healthcare worker losing their job for revealing private details about a patient. Something about new federal rules on patient, privacy. I can't remember the details, but I think the healthcare worker didn't even mentioned the person by name. Anyways, I hope you're being safe about posting details.

BTW, have you tried the handicapped word verification? It sounds creepy.

Anna said...

I worked at a rural grocery store (incidentally was a major factor in be becoming conservative) and handled a lot of WIC/foodstamps. At the time, I felt the same feelings about WIC that you do about Section 8, until I found out that anyone was eligible and not just poor people. (Not a fan of foodstamps).

I agree with the ambivalence about helping people who have made bad decisions. It is a good thing to let them experience some consequences and sweat it out, but at what point do you rescue them from themselves. Especially when kids are involved.

Also, should we be helping people whose primary reason for poverty is their geographic location, another fine question.