Stephen’s a regular client of the shelter. For the past several months, he’s joined their Street Patrol. Looking for the homeless for two or three hours a day in alleys, dumpsters and parks. Handing out hygiene kits and lunches. Informing them of the shelter as a place to eat, shower and obtain clothing.
Stephen’s shoes are from the shelter.
What is your biggest struggle?
“Mental health. I’ve had issues since I was nine years old. I remember walking around thinking, ‘I wish I was dead’. Nine year olds are not supposed to be suicidal! But, that’s the straw I drew. I had a sister who was extremely academically talented come before me. And, a developmentally-challenged sister come after me. My younger sister had German measles at 9 months of age. It fried her brain. Literally. She lost her sense of pain, too. Which is a problem as an adult. She has a tendency to develop kidney stones but has no pain. That can lead to bad complications, can’t it?”
“Anyways, I was a depressed child. I was put on antidepressants in grade school. I’m told I am bipolar now. But, I consider myself unipolar. My mental health stabilizes for a long, long time. Until there’s a death in the family or some other trigger.”
What would you like people to know about living in poverty?
“I come from the States. I’m a social libertarian. There’s no place for me over there. I tend to think along the lines of a group, not the individual. The government helps quite a bit, but there needs to be re-structuring. So those people on the “roles” can live at least at the poverty level.”
“How do I say this without sounding cynical? With poverty, there’s only one way you can go. And, that’s up!”
“Think of your life as a three-legged stool. One leg is your mental state, another your physical state, and the third leg is your spiritual state. If even one leg is out of whack, well, you fall all over the place.”
“Right now, my mental state is good. I’m stabilized on psychiatric medications. I haven’t had a recent incident to “set me off”. I’ve lived in the same place for five years. That’s stability.”
“My physical state is good also. I’m 63 years old. So, I take cholesterol medication, heart medication and something for my prostate.”
“And, my spiritual state is well, also. I find helping out here at the shelter—doing street patrol for fifteen or twenty hours a week—very beneficial spiritually.”
“I think, too, it all depends on if you look at things from a linear or cyclical standpoint. Look at history; there’s a beginning and an end. That’s linear. Or, do you view life as cyclical? That we move on from here to another cycle?”
“I think what people living in poverty need to do is not isolate themselves. Don’t be an ostrich! Don’t bury your head in the sand! Talk to other people; be social! It will help you spiritually.”