03 August 2009

The Rights That Come With a Roof

Sam's always hated Ron. It's not that unusual; love and hate flow here like they do anywhere else (except people may be more vocal about it here). It was a bit innappropriate how often he would come up to our floor, swagger around with his black-santa-sack full of who-knows-what and talk about how much he hates Ron... but our ideas of what's normal and what's not have changed to the point of being very used to things like this. He was always willing to pause in his rant to greet me (Hey bay-be! I sho' do love ya, bay-be!)

Sam's mental illness has been escalating lately, though. Last time I walked past him on my way in and said "Good morning," he just looked at me, open-mouthed, wild-eyed, and threw his arms in the air as if answering that greeting was far too trivial a task for someone who had his thoughts racing through their brain. Sam's anger was now targeted towards anyone close enough to point a finger at (You kille' my whole family! I'm go burn down yo' house!)

It was soon after that Sam became a danger, not only to himself, but those around him. So many of the people I have met since working here have fallen victim to the twisted grip of mental illness, especially without many places that can assist in paying for psychotropic medication. Sam started attacking people with his fists instead of his usual bomb-threats, and lately, has hardly been discriminating whose jaw they hit.

This weekend, Sam lost it--he beat Joel (peaceful, pony-tailed Joel) until blood flowed from his face faster than obsenities flowed out of Sam's. Of course, we called the police in Joel's (and the rest of the public's) defense, and this was their response:

"I'm sorry, but if it's a homeless person on a homeless person, there's nothing we can do."

I've heard a lot of strange and baffling ideas of the rights of those who are currently without mortgages and rental agreements, but not one of us can make sense of this one. The best I could do was take Joel and his wife into my office today and apologize to him, telling him that we are paying attention, that we want the best of Sam and for him, and we know what happened, and we wish we weren't so powerless when it comes to making our sidewalk safe. Joel just smiled through his black and blue eyes, because he had just recieved word that one of the subsidized housing properties had a space for him and his wife.

"We're going to get a place, Anna. Then we'll be somebody."

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