I am very sad tonight. While a number of our unsheltered friends are very sick, I visited one today in ICU. She doesn’t have long to live and I was told family needed to come “now.” Thanks to Facebook and Messenger, I found them and sent the alarm.
She has two daughters, both educated. One has high credentials in academia but not able to save or even influence her mother’s habit of 30 years in drugs and on the streets.
She wanted a drink of water but none could be administered. She was told today she doesn’t have long to live and told me she is scared. We’ve had this discussion numerous times. She cried and lamented the years of bad choices that caused irreparable damage. I have followed her for 10 years, the ups and downs, the steps forward and back.
As I looked her, feeling waves of irritation mixed with compassion, sorrow and misery, I wondered what else we could have done. This I know. If housing of any kind had been made available, there would have been an opportunity for managed care which includes safe sleep, healthy food, yes, clean needles as she worked her way to clean and sober living.
In the end, she will die from a combination of cirrhosis of the liver, Hepatitis C and HIV, ulcerated limbs among other things, having likely contaminated many people along the way.
One day, two years ago, a very important person in the health care system for Ventura County moved a mountain and got her into the temporary system of managed care–just because I asked him to. In the end, against all hope, it wasn’t enough because it was temporary and that is because that is all there is.
When this is over, I will request a review of the cost of her health care within the system of the Emergency Room to help determine once and for all that the cost of one person like her can cost taxpayers a million dollars a year. It’s been proven true by many other homeless individuals.
The cost of a one bedroom apartment plus utilities would be about $15,000. Health care professionals by the dozens are attending her now, so even that cost would be reduced. The entire community would benefit from having a healthier individual not using city streets as a toilet and exposing other homeless people to this array of life threatening illnesses.
I will cry when she is gone. Her fight will be over but not mine. There are many who will fight on until one day there is enough political will within the healthcare system and community leaders to provide housing opportunities and managed care for those in the homeless population who want to live normal lives. Will some resist this opportunity? Yes, and that is because they aren’t ready to release the very demon that is killing them. Complex, isn’t it?
Meanwhile, we stay ready so that when they are, someone will answer.
Many Meals provides a weekly hot meal and food pantry and is a part of the Whole Person Care Program under the Ventura County Health Care Agency, led by Dr. Johnson Gill and attended by an amazing battalion of dedicated health care professionals. They are supported by a contingent of amazing mental health counselors and advocates led by Dr. John Schipper and assisted by the Behavioral Health Advisory Board, led by Elaine Crandall and Patrick Zarate. The weekly shower program is providing one more component of Whole Person Care. The connections made at the Richard’s Drop-In Center keeps the dots aligned as we bring services and caring people into the mix through the week, including Church in the Park on Sundays.
To conclude, tomorrow’s heartwarming and healthy meal is whole wheat spaghetti with homemade (mostly) spaghetti and generous amount of meat sauce, (thanks to the food rescue team to the Santa Paula School District) tangerines (thanks to our partners at Food Forward), hot buttered carrots thanks to Garman’s Pub, chips, cole slaw with raisins and pineapple thanks to Food Share.