Family and Caregiver Schizophrenia Discussion Forum

Our homeless loved ones


#1

I’ve heard many in this group mention their loved one was homeless. I’m really having a hard time with this when I see it. I mean they can barely be self sufficient, even with the best support, how are they surviving being homeless? I’ve also heard the phrase “living on the streets”. How is this possible? How are they surviving day to day? Are they going to shelters, at least at nite, to sleep? How are they surviving the cold? What are they eating?

I just can’t wrap my brain around this “homeless” concept for the MI. Homelessness is a tough concept to grasp even for those who don’t have sz, but to think of our loved ones with sz “living on the streets”, it just sickens me.


#2

When the government started shutting down mental institutes decades ago, the local governments were supposed to set up community help for the mentally ill. The costs to the local governments were tremendously high, and the state “saved” money by shutting down the institutes that existed previously. My mother worked in a state mental hospital. The conditions were deplorable. However, shutting down the hospitals meant turning seriously MI homeless as shelters have rules and MI cannot follow the rules so can’t stay in the shelters… After all, the hospitals were locked down facilities. Society has nothing like that except for psych wards and jails.

Long story short, the MI were mostly forced to become “wards” of their families (or families were forced to become caregivers), or homeless, or get jailed. The jails are housing a big percentage of MI homeless people now, and the judges know that.

Here in Florida, since weather is kinder, there are many, many MI homeless, and they learn to cope: what food kitchens to go to, what woods to sleep in, what churches provide help, how to get free (limited) medical, etc. It is a whole “society” that I was unfamiliar with until recent years. MI homeless often come here from other states. I met a woman recently who moved down from the cold up north. However, women, particularly are at risk, as woods living for a woman often becomes sexual assault or slavery to a male protector. It is not a good scene.


#3

My mother was a nurse in a state mental hospital as well, before she got married. She would say the same thing. My parents actually met at the hospital…my dad was also working there.

My work is in downtown so I see a lot of homeless people, some of them are MI. I see them pushing shopping carts with garbage bags of their stuff. Some go to the library to spend time there or sometimes to get out of the cold.


#4

@oldladyblue, our society as a whole leaves so much to be desired. And we call ourselves the most civilized, humanistic country in the world (shaking my head).

We are most certainly forced to be caregivers, because none of us want our loved ones being homeless. But it still seems to happen a lot. I can’t imagine any one of us wanting to do this full time and voluntarily were we to have other options that we can comfortably live with.

My mother died in a nursing home (full blown Alzheimer’s and I could no longer care for her @ home). Similar conditions @ the nursing homes-deplorable.

It seems I went from taking care of my mother to taking care of my son. But it’s so different with my son, he’s 24, he can’t just go to a nursing home nor would I want him to.

Agree with you 1000%, I’m sure these group homes and long term care facilities leave very much to be desired. It’s like society and the government is saying we don’t care about the MI, so if you don’t do something, they’ll most likely die on the streets.

Since my son is now in the category that society has turned its back on, I see things with so much more clarity. No more rose colored glasses. He is now one of society’s rejects.


#5

My husband (schizoaffective, dual diagnosis, unmedicated) is homeless. After my working six days a week just to survive and facing rent increases, we made the decision to leave CA and live with a family member in a remote area. However, he had never lived anywhere else and it was too much of a change and stressful for him. He ended up going back to our former town in CA, which is currently saturated with homeless from fires in 2018. He reluctantly tried to sign up for housing, but there is no availability. His psychologist tried to get him to admit himself to a hospital, but after being in the system almost ten years, he is extremely reluctant to take any kind of meds again and does not want to end up in the State Hospital again. I have been having trouble finding work and am unable to help him financially.

Although it pains me greatly that he has chosen to be homeless, somehow he has been able to survive for a little over a month, with a soup kitchen twice a day, one backpack and a sleeping bag. The weather has been cold recently, but not dangerously so. I am able to pay his phone bill, which keeps him happy, listening to music or using the internet when his phone is charged.

What I would like to happen is that I will eventually bring my income up enough that I can help him stay in a motel a night or two or that by some miracle, low-income housing will open up again and he will be able to have an apartment. It’s not just the system that is broken, but his own stubbornness that keeps him from having a home. For all the stories of homeless loved ones, it always encourages me to hear of the people who are able to help their loved ones and I try to take tips from them, what has succeeded.


#6

So sorry to hear about your husband. I hope he can somehow find low income housing and get off the streets (and I hope he decides to get off the streets). The problem I think is the condition of some of these facilities. Who can blame them for leaving?


#7

Thank you! Many facilities, nursing homes and transitional homes, are poorly managed and do not exactly inspire trust or a desire to utilize them, even for those without MI.

I wish we could all simply purchase homes for our loved ones to keep them safe and warm.


#8

@LifeIsHard, how I wish we all could. Society doesn’t want the MI cohabitating with them, how I wish us caregivers had the revenue and the means to take all of our loved ones with MI and live elsewhere, away from “normal” people. It hurts enough to see someone you love with sz, but when society shuns them, it’s a double blow. Your username “lifeishard” resonates with me. I feel life Is a difficult journey, and I find myself battling something everyday, and it’s not all related to my son having sz. I think life is hard for many people, just in different ways.

Just trying to take each day as it comes, and deal with whatever it may bring. Always in “waiting” and never completely @ ease.


#9

Sigh, you put your finger on it @mbheart , I used to feel so guilty when my daughter was in crisis, because I would have given anything to find somewhere else for her to go, I was soooooo stressed at having this situation forced on me. It was ONLY when I found that there truly was no other option for her living arrangements (me or homeless) that I stopped directing anger at the world, myself and at her and accepted that I must become a full-time self-paying caregiver.

I probably would have put her in a crummy group home if one had been available… I was so emotionally drained.

Money is the whole reason there are no hospitals, extended care, or group homes for the MI in my area. The government doesn’t allocate enough money because most citizens wouldn’t vote for such a thing. That’s why the state hospitals disappeared three decades ago: funding from the government stopped. “Normal” citizens don’t understand the need for expensive care for the severely MI.

I have to snort at myself here: it’s sort of like Trump’s wall… the only real support he is getting is from the border protection agency and its employees… I hate to compare myself to that situation, but it is sort of similar trying to get money for supporting the SMI: expensive, and most people don’t see the need unless they have a loved one with SMI.


#10

@oldladyblue, I totally get the feelings of guilt. I’m also dealing with guilt for how my son’s childhood was. I left his raging alcoholic father when my son was 9, and my son was drug back and forth from the bitter divorce. Extrememely traumatic for him. I think I mentioned environmental factors in one of my earlier topics. So yes, I was dealing with guilt from all possible angles. It did do a number on me mentally, emotionally, and yes physically.
People often say you have to forgive yourself. This is hard for me because I see what might have contributed to my son’s condition as a result of what I did (divorcing his father), staring @ me in the face everyday. Sometimes I feel I’m being punished for my decisions when my son was young.

Like you, I had to just finally accept the fact that there was no one else and there was no place else. There was only me. To step up to the plate.

I see only one consolation in all of this. Everyday that I’m alive and helping him, I feel I’m somehow making up for his awful childhood. Although there really is no way to make up for something like that.

I’m sure there were other children with horrible childhoods (sexual abuse, homelessness, foster homes, physical abuse), and perhaps they are now living healthy normal lives. For whatever reason, my son didn’t make that list. And I also realize genetics play a factor, although there is NO history of mental illness on either side. Unless Alzheimer’s is somehow considered MI. My mother had severe Alzheimer’s.

I m @ a place now where I do the best I can for him, think about his future and plan for it the best way I can for when I’m gone, and just take one day at a time. Whatever catastrophe comes my way, I will deal with. But the waiting game is what is killing me. Never knowing when/what/how.

I hope your daughter continues to improve and that makes your life alittle easier so you can breathe alittle.


#11

It was probably the best thing you did. I would be proud of yourself for removing your son from that environment not guilty. The rest well that’s how it just panned out due to parental rights.


#12

This is something that my son said at one point. I wrote it down and have it posted at my desk at work:

"The truth about life is, it’s sad, but it’s as nice as you imagine it to be."

Really interesting at so many levels.


#13

Thanks, Vallpen. I have no major regrets for getting involved with my husband. I knew his history (although I didn’t fully understand how severe his illness was). We had a number of nice years together and when we are able to talk on the phone, we still have good conversations (and we are both hopeful, even if it is not realistic, that we will see each other again). I am thankful for meeting and getting to know him. This life experience also helps me have more compassion when I encounter other MI folks, especially the homeless ones.

When I signed on and posted to this forum after lurking for years, I was in a state of crisis, as I have noticed with many posters. I appreciate the kind comments and all the discussions because I haven’t been able to find help anywhere else.


#14

I could so see my son saying this, thanks Vallpen.


#15

My son is homeless–when he isn’t in jail. We still don’t know if he is “actually” sz yet. Nobody wants to diagnose him when he’s on meth, but as soon as he goes to jail, they put him on very strong anti-psychotics. Sometimes, he still hears the voices for months anyway. When he doesn’t, is it because he’s off the meth, or because of the meds? Good question. He’s a legal adult, and has the right to keep us from knowing details. With no real diagnosis, we can’t even try to get any kind of guardianship or even custodianship. So, he lives on the streets, showing up at our house every now and then to beg for food or something. I pick up clothes at thrift stores or donated clothes from our church now and then, plus I keep protein bars on hand so I have something to give him when he comes by.
We don’t let him inside anymore because he threatens us. It is absolutely horrible to watch how he wastes away–partly because he’s starving, and partly because he goes back on meth when he gets out. He shoplifts, does dumpster diving, or midnight “car shopping”–trying car doors to see if he can steal anything–to survive. He makes short-term friends and crashes on their floors now and then. We’re just glad that he’s currently in jail while it’s cold out.


#16

@JaninAZ, how AWFUL! I’m so very sorry. To see your child wither away like that (whatever the reason behind it), is probably the most gut wrenching, heart ripping thing in the world. I think I have it really bad, and then I hear about the homeless with or without MI, and I feel somewhat blessed.

Truth be told, my son could technically be only 1 step away from being homeless should he get evicted as a result of something destructive that he may do while living in his apt. He cannot come back home with me. I’m treading on thin ice everyday, never knowing when he’s going to decide to just stop his meds, and of course he will slip into a major psychosis. I’ve heard coming “off” of antipsychotics can be pretty detrimental. I hope to never find out.

I will take him wanting to isolate, I will take him being “flat” with no emotion, just please dear god don’t make my son homeless.

Again, I’m soooooo sorry, my god, so sorry


#17

Oh gosh @JaninAZ I do understand about being glad he is in jail while it’s cold out. It’s sad that you’ve had to watch your son devolve because of the meth and the psychosis.


#18

struggling with the homeless thing right now
Son came home from hospital 2 weeks ago and promptly stopped taking meds.
Paranoia and delusions are already back
I am fearful to let him drive, He just leaves and is gone for hours on foot
He says horrible things to my husband and I
What do we do?
Where does he go?
So much more background to this, he just
cant live at home
brokenhearted and don’t know what to do


#19

@caregivermom, this sounds all too familiar. My son left on foot and was gone for hours, sometimes days. His first major break, he was 19, gone for 3 days, Police found him, took him to hospital, he stayed in hospital for 3 months. They diagnosed him, got him on meds, and the social workers helped him get on SSI. With that, I was able to find him his own place. They were reluctant and hesitant about finding him a long term care facility or a group home, mostly because they were probably overcrowded and there was a waiting list. They put the pressure on me for housing after I insisted he could not come back to my home to live with me. They gave me extra time, they said they would do the paperwork to get him approved for SSI, and that they would help speed up the process, but it was on me to find him a suitable place. My worst 3 months ever in my entire life! Correction, the worst past 5 years of my life! Nothing compares to something like this. You can never prepare for it nor can you ever just get used to it and peacefully accept it.

My point is, is your son on SSI? What are your thoughts about getting him his own place? My son was only 19 at the time and too young to be on his own, and I felt horribly guilty, but I really had no other option.

He is now 24, and he’s had his share of ups and downs, mostly because he just decides to stop his meds on his own. When they stop abruptly like that, it’s a nightmare. This past summer he was in & out of hospital 3 times within 2 months, mostly because he stopped taking meds after getting out of hospital. He’s somewhat stabilized now, but I never know when he’s going to decide to just stop again. My nerves are completely shot.

Driving is out of the question when they get like that. They lose all coherence and a sense of reality. It’s dangerous. I always took the car keys when I knew he was in a “state”.

I don’t have much to offer you as far as a solution because I don’t know the whole situation, but if you are financially capable, you finding him his own place may be an option. If you’re 100% certain he can’t live with you.

The cycle seems to be getting picked up by the police and they are either jailed or hospitalized. And then where do they go from there? That is the question.

Hope you can figure out a livable solution for all of you.


#20

This forum has helped just to listen to others and suggestions on how to handle things that arise.
My Unofficially adopted son is 29, now homeless for the last 3 weeks, fortunately he is resourceful and is sleeping in a camper in an old supports driveway. He is schizo affect. at least that is what his therapist thinks after working with him for over year now. He presents very well and even admits that after he leaves her office, he can only maintain for about an hr. then he back focusing on who is following him and who has put stuff in his food or car door or sprayed him while he was in the store. Then today, he asks to come over and visit with me and the dogs who adore him. He was great, we even spoke about his unwillingness to accept meds and what that is all about. His biological mother was a heavy drug user and it is stuck in his head that all pills are bad, he cant move past it. He is so smart and hard to watch him as he has basically starved himself, lost over 100 lbs in about 7 months? He has helped my mom in last 2 days with her chores of feeding horses and cleaning stalls but his wellness only lasts short spurts. He insists the law has implanted a GPS in his ear, obviously hearing voices, although he calls it chirping in his ear. I am so happy when I see him functioning and then my heart breaks when he goes back to his delusions. He at least spoke about why he does not want to take the meds. His therapist and myself keep trying and never give up but it is so exhausting and heartbreaking. I explained to him, it is like us watching him drown with our hands tied behind our backs. I will continue to fight for their rights and our rights as caretakers to have the ability to communicate and assist in whatever way works. The saying “they are not in danger of hurting themselves or others” is a bunch of crap. They deserve a better life and nobody will do that for them unless we continue to fight for them. Very inhumane… Our society is lacking the decency to treat them like people that deserve the help.!!!
Hang in there people, things have to change.