Chasms

Posted: July 17, 2007 in Homelessness, Relationships, Veterans

Every person deals with the rigors of life in their own unique way. For those who become homeless, the same is true. Some are better at going through the motions of life as a homeless person than others, and some have an extremely difficult time with it. And some eventually become chronically homeless.

I don’t believe that is has anything to do with how well a person can or cannot adapt to changing situations. Anyone who has ever experienced homelessness will tell you that you do whatever it takes to survive. Still, there are those for whom homelessness becomes a purgatory.  

There is one couple who had been homeless for roughly three years when I first met them. Although they seemed to have a solid relationship, like most couples, they had their share of arguments and differences of opinions.

"Danny," a Viet Nam combat veteran, suffers from the effects of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and tends to be a bit more reserved and withdrawn from persons and events around him. "Linda," on the other hand is a social person – almost to the point of being obsessed.

Danny’s entire aim was to get himself and Linda off the streets and into a place of their own. Because of his PTSD, employment was more of a challenge than it is for the average homeless person.

He was able to get the needed counseling through VA (Veteran’s Affairs) and was classified disabled due to the PTSD. This means he is entitled to receive a modest monthly benefit. Also, it meant that they finally had the chance to leave homelessness behind. Once his benefits began, he was able to get them off of the streets and into a place to live – which they did for several months. The struggles didn’t end there however. A couple of months after they moved into their place, Danny and Linda separated.

As I said up top, some persons who experience homelessness become chronically homeless. Unfortunately that is what has happened with Linda. She had become so accustomed to the lifestyle of homelessness that she was unable to leave it behind. She had developed a co-dependency on the homeless support services agencies. Moreover, she was unable – and unwilling – to leave behind her new "friends."

For Linda, homelessness has become a preferred lifestyle. Danny, on the hand, wants nothing to do with any of the homeless. As far as he’s concerned, it’s a lifestyle that he gladly left behind; one that he wishes he had never had to endure.

Now he lives alone, and Linda is back on the streets. He has tried to reconcile with her and bring her "home," but she doesn’t want anything to do with him. As a result, Danny has gone through a period of manic depression, which further exacerbates his PTSD.

I don’t know how often such a scenario plays itself out across the nation, but I do know that it has happened several times here in San Luis Obispo. Chasms are reached that no one can breach – creating personal desolation.

Homelessness creates wounds of all types – with scars that unfortunately can last a lifetime.

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