Rob!n is a friend and “homeless” person who slept in the doorway of a neighborhood shop in north county San Diego. Ze(n) also shared that ze was adopted and ze’s old name was “Jeff”. Honestly, it truly doesn’t matter what Rob!n’s name is because ze is “Perfect” to #me too.
People like Rob!n and ze have shared a connection many times before. Just between “you” and “me”, ze often share food with people like Rob!n. Ze check in on them and ask how Zey are feeling.
During a more substantial conversation with Rob!n three months ago, ze shared that ze needs medication and a pair of size 11 shoes. Gratefully, ze had the ability to help and more than enough to buy Rob!n what ze needed. Then, ze realized ze also had a lot of time on ze’s hands because ze had just lost a job, and that created a unique opportunity to spend a lot of time with zis Rob!n.
During our conversations, Rob!n also shared that all his bank accounts have been unified and that ze is in contact with the secret service. While ze’s not really feeling confident about zis part of ze story, if you know someone like Rob!n it was a great fairy tale that made ze smile to hear. As we walked away, ze hugged zis person, ze kissed me lightly on the cheek, then we made plans to spend time together doing some art in our public park on the regular.
<~How to Help a Rob!n~>
It’s common in our culture to operate under the assumption that most people without homes suffer from schizophrenia, addiction, or have otherwise created their own problems. However, statistics from the National Coalition for the Homeless confirm that only about 16 percent of the homeless community suffers from addiction. The major contributing factors to homelessness include:
- home loss,
- systemic poverty,
- lack of affordable housing,
- and a decline in public assistance programs.
Additional factors might also include violence, illness or a lack of affordable health care. If you know someone who is “homeless”, there is still hope and ze can help ze write person get back on za feet by:
- Peace~ing the streets
- Help Rob!n sell ze ART..!..?
- Sing to the homeless
- Meditate near them @ home + @ work
- Stand together
- Coming from a place of non-judgment
- Finding out what ze needs
- Providing support
- Vocational training
- Crisis assistance programs (if wanted)
<~How 2 Talk 2 a Rob!n~>
Take time to listen to the homeless. “You” can honor any illness and share your compassion with others by reflectively listening and remaining present, even if their conversation strays from reality. Remember that reality is what ze chose to believe and if you have time to dive into the magical powers of ze internet, which is often filled with stories that stray from reality, you have time to listen to ze “homeless”. Respectfully ask questions, then try to follow the plot and enjoy the moment.
Recognize symptoms of schizophrenia and do some research. Some signs are more noticeable than others, and by getting a sense of even the symptoms you don’t observe, you will have a better sense of what the person you are talking to may be going through.
Do not assume ze are dealing with a person with schizophrenia. Even if the person displays symptoms of schizophrenia, don’t automatically assume schizophrenia. Ze definitely don’t want to get it wrong by deciding the individual has or does not have schizophrenia.
- If ze are unsure, express to friends and family the situation of the individual in question to find ze wise choice.
- Do so tactfully, by saying something like “Hmm..wanted to make sure ze don’t say the wrong thing or do something wrong and wanted to ask: does X need more help than ze do? So sorry if ze’s wrong, it’s just that “I” see some of the symptoms and still wish to treat ze respectfully.”
Take an empathic perspective. Once you have learned about the symptoms of schizophrenia, do ze best to step into the shoes of the individual suffering from this debilitating disorder. Taking the person’s perspective, by empathy or cognitive empathy, is a key factor in successful relationships because it helps one to be less judgmental, more patient, and allows a better sense of the other person’s needs.
- Although it may be difficult to imagine some of the symptoms of schizophrenia, you can still imagine what it is like to be out of control of ze mind and possibly to not be aware of this loss of control or to not fully grasp the real situation.
Speak to the individual the way ze would to anyone else, while making allowances for anything that feels unusual. Remember that ze may hear noises or voices in the background while ze are talking, making it difficult to understand the Ze(n). Do ze best to talk clearly and calmly, as nerves are often frazzled from hearing voices. Ze’s voices may even be criticizing ze as you talk. The voices aren’t about “you”, so have compassion and if ze has ze opportunity to listen and an agreement that touching their hand is allowed, do so very lightly. If ze are a spiritual person, ze would also recommend saying a silent prayer of gratitude for knowing the person as ze do in that moment, then waiting patiently. In every instance (so far), the voices resolved almost immediately.
Be aware of delusions. Delusions occur in as many as four out of five people with schizophrenia, so be aware that the person may experience these while you are talking. These may be delusions that you or some outside entity such as the CIA or a neighbor is controlling zis mind, or viewing you as an angel of the Lord, or anything else, really.
- Get a sense of the specific delusions so you know what information to filter through in the conversation.
- Keep possible grandiosity in mind. Remember that ze are talking to someone who may think as if a famous person, authority or ascended beyond the realm of ordinary logic.
- Try to be as agreeable as possible while talking. Don’t be overly flowery or flattering with many compliments, though.
Never speak as if the person isn’t there or gossip with ze’s friends about how crazy that person was later. Don’t exclude ze from future/present/past conversations, even if there is an ongoing delusion or hallucination. Typically there will still be a sense of what is going on; that includes being hurt by your talking as though the person is not around. If ze need to talk to someone else about ze, say it in a way that you are sure the “homeless” person wouldn’t mind hearing if ze was in the room.
Check with other people who know this person. You may learn a lot about how best to talk to this particular person by asking the friends and family or (if applicable) care-taker. There are a number of questions ze might want to ask these people, such as:
- Is there a history of hostility?
- Has there ever been violence mentally, verbally or even physically, including any arrest(s) or supplemental medication(s) they might be taking to induce the illness?
Have a back-up plan. Know how ze will leave the room, if the conversation need to end or if ze feel that ze’s safety is threatened.
- Do ze best to think ahead of time about how you’ll calmly reassure and gently talk the person out of anger or paranoia. Maybe there is something ze can do to make the person feel at ease. If, for instance, ze feels the government is spying on ze, offer to cover the windows with aluminum foil to be safe and protected from any scanning/spying devices.
Be prepared to accept unusual things. Keep an even keel and don’t react. Ze person with schizophrenia will likely behave and speak differently than someone without the disorder. Don’t laugh at, mock or make fun of any faulty reasoning or logic. If ze feel reasonably threatened or in imminent harm, as if threats might be carried out, call the police. And if you feel it is write and ze are strong and brave enough, stay there with ze patient as interactions with the police have too frequently resulted in the death of the patient at the hands of the police.
- If ze imagine what it must be like to live with such a problematic disorder, ze will realize the gravity of the situation and that such problems are nothing to mock.
Understand continued use of alternative therapies or medication. Ze don’t have to participate in what is medically right for another, simple as that.
Avoid feeding their delusions about “you”. If s:he becomes paranoid and mentions that ze are plotting against ze, avoid talking to yourself, including making cell phone calls around that person and/or offering too much bold eye contact, as this might increase the paranoia.
Above all: Be patient.
That’s it for now on how to help the homeless. Ze guess is that if you spend some time with a Rob!n, ze will find you are being helped a lot in return too.
If ze appreciated this article or ze wants to support Steph Bird and Birdanity in the future, ze can support ze through Patreon <~ Thanks for ze support!
As ze wish,
This is first part of a Community series, ending with a Question to consider. As ze progress, feel free to leave a Reply or Comment here. Thanks for reading and sharing.
How do Ze help others?