New Haven activist Wendy Hamilton wrote this previous article detailing her efforts to help a homeless man named MC find housing. The following article is an update on those efforts as the cold weather arrives.
September: I find MC and make sure he still has a wallet with IDs. I explain three winter options; death by exposure, jail (temporary housing with meals and some healthcare) or housing provided he loses his current contagious skin condition.
Privately I speak to a “secret” hospital source who advises me on how to admit MC at St. Raphael’s, the “friendlier” ER. He omits the fact that I need a legal connection to MC. I find this out the hard way later.
MC refuses my option because it requires days or weeks without booze and smokes. I tell him to call me when and if he’s ready. Meanwhile I offer a large “donation” to social services if they can move him up the housing list — which does not happen.
October: I wait. Dr. Perri Klass writes a sobering New York Times LINK article about prevalent contagious skin conditions. We are all at risk. I write a letter to Yale Public Health School policy wonk complaining about Yale’s lack of concern. No reply.
As fall continues, I consider a potential product for homeless called a RUMPL, LINK made of polyester and nylon. It weighs three pounds including the nylon sack. The company sends a sample, which I give to a homeless six-footer with a cellphone for feedback. I’m still waiting.
November: It’s colder. I go to the Homeless March with my lawyer. LINK I find out Sassy and Rendezvous are leaving Chapel Street by the 15th. This is another sad sign of our decline. I consider buying what’s left of their winterwear for Cafe Sunrise clients.
Nov. 2: I find MC shivering in two parkas and a sweater and very upset that the local deli has 86’d him. I walk over to the deli to find out that the kindly owner has allowed MC to rack up a bill over $1,000. I pay it. I warn MC to use his own cash from now on (from SSI). MC says he’s ready to go to the hospital tomorrow.
Nov. 3: MC arrives late, very intoxicated. Then we had the endless cab wait (if you add all the phone numbers you get the average wait time).
We get to the ER, first in line, and MC is whisked away without me. I explain I need to speak to the MD, to no avail. I am not “legal.” HPPA, LINK an unenforced joke, is mentioned as a lame excuse.
I call my attorney. She arrives quickly with a power of attorney form for us to sign with MC but we are forced to wait. When a nurse comes to get me in, three cops block and threaten me with arrest.
Two hours later, we get i. MC is sedated with Ativan. The nurse refuses to witness a signing,which means MC will go AWOL once he is awake.
Even worse the RN tells my lawyer his stay will be brief anyway. Without power of attorney I can’t question or advise his care, and I am his only advocate. I am guessing I am screwed, and so is he.
I am finally able to reach a doctor by phone. I beg her to call me before he is discharged.
Nov. 4: No call.
Nov 5: While walking down Chapel Street early Sunday I am greeted by MC, drunk, smoking, and in his old filthy clothes and shoes. He doesn’t remember any particular MD or any diagnosis. He is still itchy. I tell him several times to meet me on Monday in the park at 1 p.m.
Nov. 6: Monday, my attorney and I wait for over an hour. MC is a no-show.
posted by: HewNaven on November 9, 2017 1:49pm
Great! Contagious skin disease?! Where’s the link??
posted by: 1644 on November 9, 2017 1:58pm
Wendy, it seems MC has considered his options and chosen option A. While that may be distressing to you, and while your concern is admirable, whose life is it anyway? Frankly, it seems you are treating MC like people treat their pets. My cat is happy, even insistent on going outside, oblivious to our warnings of coyotes. Nonetheless, my wife tries to keep her locked inside, for her own good, lest she be eaten. Please note, if you want the power control MC’s life against his will, you need to be appointed conservator of his person, as Brittany Spears’s dad had (has?). A power-of-attorney will enable you to make decisions for him, but not to over-rule him. Moreover, it can be revoked by him at anytime.
posted by: 1644 on November 9, 2017 2:21pm
Wendy, I should add that your attorney should know that a power-of-attorney which MC signs while drunk or sedated would not be valid. The nurse was right not to sign as a witness.
posted by: GroveStreet on November 9, 2017 2:45pm
Can’t help someone who clearly doesn’t want it. If you want to spend money on him, buy him a ticket to Florida, where he won’t freeze to death.
posted by: EarlyBird on November 10, 2017 10:33am
I agree with GroveStreet: at some point you have to accept that MC is a grown adult, capable of making his own decisions. That his decisions are disastrous for his well-being are unfortunate for him as well as society at large. I encourage you to consider another place to utilize your considerable goodwill and energy.
posted by: wendy1 on November 10, 2017 3:29pm
Thank you all for the comments. I have offered to put him and others on long distance buses but people get attached to home territory (like me). After so many years I feel some kind of affection for this guy who I cant even hug and he was sober last spring when he asked me to help. I realize it’s been a “pilgrim’s progress” through American poverty if you like, but I’m not ready to give up. As a former nurse and as a citizen I feel I must continue to try. I wish Yale and the city felt the same way.
posted by: OhHum on November 11, 2017 5:42pm
Back in the late 70’s and early 80’s I was director of Traveler’s Aid in New Haven. I saw many of the Homeless in the City, as they would regularly make the rounds to all of the City agencies. Some were families, others were singles. All had very sad stories to tell. At the time there was very little I could do for them. The singles I could send to the YMCA for a night or two. I could get them two meals at a small diner near the agency. I’d refer them to other agencies to see if they would help. There has always been limited resources for the homeless. After several years at the agency I kept seeing the same faces over and over, kept hearing the same stories with an occasional creative twist. I did send many people to Florida in the Fall as Greyhound at the time had a $99 dollar ticket to anywhere in the U.S. Most would be back in the Spring as I would see them when they got back. After awhile I got tired of being played by the homeless. I realized that what I thought was doing the right thing for them was merely enabling them to continue an irresponsible lifestyle. There is nothing anybody can do for people if they don’t want to do it themselves. Some people will come to the conclusion that the help offered is in their best interest, Unfortunately many won’t.