On The Mend

Posted: February 6, 2008 in Goals, Health, Homelessness, Housing, Money

It’s been a quite some time since I’ve published a post. It wasn’t by choice however. It’s been a forced "absence."

The reason has been due to trying to keep up with the responsibility of contractual agreements I have as far as work is concerned. Mostly, however, it’s been due to some health issues. Amid the medical procedures and tests that I’ve had to undergo over the last couple of weeks I just haven’t had any time left over to blog.  

The health issues that I’ve had to deal with actually began somewhere around Thanksgiving and over the ensuing weeks just ended up getting worse. I’m a bit ashamed to admit that I just ignored the signs. I should have known better – and truth to tell I do know better – than to ignore my health. There’s no excuse for it. At least there is no excuse that I’d be willing to accept as valid.

The biggest aggravation with dealing with my personal medical needs has been all of the waiting between appointments, tests and procedures. But, they needed to be attended to – and as Suckerfish director, José Lemus, said to me less than a week ago, the priority is for me to get healthy again. He’s right. That’s what I need to do. Then hopefully, I’ll get back on some regular schedule.

The health issues I’ve been dealing with all started with my feeling blah. And the feelings of blah seemed to deepen with each passing day. I was feeling fatigued almost constantly. I would have spurts of energy and then – WHAM! – it was like hitting a brick wall which would leave me feeling completely exhausted. All of this I attributed to mercilessly pushing myself as hard as possible to get ahead in life.

Most of that is due to my being transitionally homeless – as I term it. This period in my life is pivotal. It’s like having been on a constant uphill climb then suddenly being able to see the crest and knowing that in just a few more steps and I’d be able to finally see the other side. The desire and the anticipation of trying to put homelessness behind me permanently created within me this drive that would not allow me to slow down.

After having experienced homelessness for just about 26 months, I’ve been left drained emotionally. The need – and yes, it is a need – to find a way out of homelessness has often times left me like a fish out of water gasping for life. In either case, it has caused me to become my own task master. Although for some that would be a good thing, for me it hasn’t been. I didn’t remember the first rule of being self-motivated: moderation.

The result is that I didn’t keep up with scheduled doctor’s appointments. Or else I re-scheduled them. There were appointments I canceled and didn’t re-schedule. Absolutely not smart on my part. I have to admit, that when it has come to my health, lately I haven’t been the brightest bulb in the chandelier. In fact, I’ve been pretty dim-witted. And, I’m paying for it now.

Sadly though, I’m not the only person who often times neglects their health in lieu of trying to survive. Many of the homeless that I’ve come to know in my community also have problems when it comes to taking care of their health. I’m certain that it isn’t something that is specific to SLO county. I’m sure that most homeless everywhere in the our nation don’t take great care with their health. And, I can understand why.

When you stop to think about it, for most homeless the priority is trying to survive amidst communities that do not really want them around. The constant struggle to have something to eat, the need to find a place to sleep and such other basic needs generally consumes the majority of a homeless persons’ day. But it doesn’t stop there. The following day things will pretty much follow along the same lines: trying to survive.

It is this need to fulfill these most basic necessities of human existence which is the primary focus for persons who are homeless. Chasing the American dream is WAY down on the list of things to do. It’s even more difficult for those homeless who have dependant children.

Consequently, health needs take a back seat to everything else – that is until things get so bad that the homeless person has no other choice and eventually finds themselves visiting the emergency room. The problem with all of this is that it costs us, as a society, so much more than it would if we were to find a way to help re-integrate the homeless back into the community.

The ever rising cost of health care due to the corporate greed of the pharmaceutical companies and health care providers, the increasing number of Americans who do not have health care coverage: all of these costs eventually come out of the pocket of the taxpayer.

In Seattle, Washington the "Housing First" program has dramatically reduced the number of emergency room visits by the homeless. The reason is that, by providing a stable living environment, these programs have empowered homeless persons with the ability to focus on something other than pure survival. It gives them the opportunity to think in terms of moving ahead in life rather than thinking in terms of trying to find something to eat and a place to sleep.

Wouldn’t it be nice if, as a community – as a nation – our first goal in trying to reduce the numbers of homeless would be to find suitable housing arrangements for them?

It would certainly be a step in the right direction, because after all, what most homeless Americans want is a place to call home. And having a place to call home creates a far better incentive to do something productive to maintain that home.

The only incentive we give the homeless when we turn our backs on them and treat them like the scourge of the earth, is to make them withdraw further out into the shadows.

Maybe it’s time we began to seek true remedies to this devastating affliction called homelessness. We need to be willing to treat the root cause and not the symptoms.

It’s going to take more than a "take two aspirins and call me in the morning" attitude if we are going to heal our nation of homelessness.

Oh… by the way.

… please forgive me if I don’t publish a post everyday for the next week or two. I’ll do the best I can to post as often as possible, but I’m still on the mend.

  1. AnAmerican says:

    Good to see you back to your blog. Sure hope you heed some of that good advice about taking care of yourself and let your body heal.
    Our health encompasses so much more than just a disease free body. Our mental outlook and our emotional health have a profound effect on the way we interact and our ability to thrive. Survival is but one part of living… our Consitution even guarantees the right to the “pursuit of happiness”, doesn’t it?
    Unfortunately, not just the homeless are facing healthcare issues in this country… seems this is one issue that all Americans face on a large scale. Along with food and shelter the right to have health health care services is one that is a basic human right. I do hope our country takes a turn soon in our attention to these social issues that need fixing… we spend more money than any other country in the world on healthcare yet fail a large portion of our citizens with access to healthcare services. Seems we can do better on all fronts with making sure all our citizens have a fair chance with basic needs.
    Thank you for posting the “Housing First” link… if there is a will there is a way, we just need to change our focus.
    Take good care!

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