Welcome to San Diego!
If you have arrived in the city without money or relatives living here, you are not alone. Whether you are a runaway teenager or a casualty of unemployment, drugs, alcohol or yet another mentally ill individual, you are not alone in San Diego.
My love affair with this town began after losing all my possessions and my sanity. The catastrophe and its wake of homelessness and despair inspired me to become an activist against destitution. For almost three years my struggle to show bureaucrats a solution to the low-income housing crisis has caused disappointments, but it’s a cause I won’t abandon. Ever.
A Word of Advice
I prepared a graphic to show the current situation on the housing front as I understand it. You will surmise there is a low-income housing and shelter crisis that presents a challenge for locals, tourists and you. Its revelation only points to a prolonged period of anxiety, laced with hardships. Got patience?
A. Here is a village with ten houses for its inhabitants.
B. Thirty-one people come, but there are not enough houses or temporary shelters for all.
Thinking of moving to San Diego? Here are a few choice questions to ask yourself:
● Are there enough jobs?
● Is there a support system for you when things get rough?
● Will you choose to become a roommate with someone if you can’t afford the usurious rents?
The Alternative Lifestyles
Broken acquaintances in programs I’ve been through usually clan with others who share similar backgrounds, especially when it involves money and drugs. Pushers can take the form of beautiful people, or crude as thugs. There is product to circulate, especially among the disenfranchised. Recreational drug use can affect people from all walks of life. Irresponsible and even criminal actions are a result of an explosive mix of chemicals and situations.
The fear of success is disproportionate to the fear of failure; it’s more comfortable to stay in a perpetual cycle of self-sabotage. What happens to the creatures caught in the vortex of addiction and poverty? Is rehabilitation an industry? Yes. Did it help me? Yes. My story is testament to a personal desire to live a better life after the shock of my suddenly painful circumstances.
Traumas in the City
Without guidance, any person could fall into a life of desperation. A lack of sexual education, support and a past marked by anger, abuse and depression are the culprits behind some of the worst tragedies I’ve seen around me. To continue receiving a supply of money, drugs or other favors, the most common bargaining chip is sex, at the expense of good health.
Arrests and convictions for soliciting services, incarceration, the lure of prison tattoos that result in the transmission of Hepatitis C… Many homeless people follow inevitable paths leading to an outcast status.
So many ostracized men and women among my peers exhibit symptoms of profoundly entrenched phobias. Ever wonder when certain behaviors originated? There are three case studies I can cite from my acquaintance with individuals who’ve suffered their whole lives, yet their strength holds hope and promise for others whose trust was shattered violently. Perhaps they may help others to recover. Names have been changed:
- Rodrigo became homeless around the same time I did. We met at a men’s shelter in Carlsbad. During a moment of bonding, we shared a pizza and pop. On the way back to the sleeping quarters, he confided in me the abuse his mother had inflicted by perpetrating acts of incest with him. She committed suicide when he became a young adult. He’s working on his recovery, choosing a better future by attending College to pursue an education in Music.
- Steve began his career in pornography and escorting after the shame of being gay brought self-flagellation into his character. Five rehabs later, he’s finally experiencing the first joy of using his people skills for a creative position. Overcoming the destructive pattern of removing the things he loved because of stereotypical parental punishment methods shines in my memory.
- Sylvia took the opportunity to look into herself for the few months she spent in a residential rehabilitation program. She grew to learn how to embrace the sum of her intellect, the crisp and authoritative voice as well as the experiences she suffered through the years.
Incest, rape and other traumas were the folklore that surrounded me when I was fortunate enough to gain the confidence of extraordinary individuals. How fortunate I’ve been to know even the most homophobic male I’ve met can trace his rage to childhood abuse.
Some sexual education standards pair homosexuality directly with the transmission of HIV. The fear of dying is a strong emotion upon which extremely aggressive attitudes find their anchor. Education has suffered low blows in San Diego recently. The quality of education is in danger, a warning sign of cultural degeneration. When I look at Francisco de Goya’s The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters, a premonition of things to come seems to rise in me.
Homelessness is only one of a few noticeable symptoms of social malaise in San Diego. How ready can anyone be to face inevitable disaster? I found out what I was made of during my worst episodes of anxiety, depression and fear.
The Crisis Stage
I learned breathing exercises, followed by meditation in a quiet place in order to visualize my options during an emergency, willing a plan to emerge with the goals of my safety and well-being foremost. Questions to ask yourself:
- Where do I go for help?
- Is there anyone I can call for support?
- On a scale of 1-10, how intense is my psychic pain?
Nothing prepares you for tragedy quite like the moment you know a safe return to your usual life is improbable. An alarm of mental and physical manifestations compels every part of your body to seek release from the fear. For some, the cognitive processes can become detached from reality, which could result in dangerous actions.
Rescue and Recovery
HOSPITAL | EMERGENCY ROOM | BEHAVIORAL HEALTH UNIT
When you feel your options are nil and feel suicidal or homicidal as a last resort, the safest place to enter is a hospital. Call 911 or walk into the closest Emergency Room for assistance with your crisis.
A recent development in law enforcement is PERT (Psychiatric Emergency Response Team), which should be called if you or someone you love is under mental distress and possible danger. This option is preferable to an escalation of violence, as training in mental health is necessary to gauge a situation in which an individual has a history of cognitive dissonance and trauma.
START (Short-Term Acute Residential Treatment) programs, also referred to as crisis residential programs offer a 24-hour crisis residence providing acute mental healthcare services to adults who are experiencing a crisis and require inpatient treatment. A Crisis Center is an alternative to hospitalization. To contact the nearest START program, dial 211. The San Diego Network of Care has a comprehensive list of facilities.
One of the most important requirements to enter a program is a referral from a Case Manager. These allies in your search for stability cannot operate alone; your participation and work is required to achieve success. Medical Case Management is the best match with someone who has a diagnosis of mental illness. The County of San Diego offers assistance in finding one for you. Honesty in relaying information about your medical conditions will sharpen the search to meet the right agent.
Taking a few (free) courses in mental health would be an excellent building block for harmony in schools, businesses and the home. I recommend:
- NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) offers a fantastic variety of classes.
- Mental Health America of San Diego’s Mental Health First Aid Training is -in my opinion a course that should be mandatory in schools and businesses.
- RI International’s WRAP (Wellness Recovery Action Plan) requires a High School Diploma or a GED to pursue at their offices in San Diego.
This lesson changed my views on addiction by showing the underlying needs of peers with substance use issues:
Behavioral Health, Housing and You
Because honesty demands accountability, I made the decision to bare my diagnoses, so I can share discernment that comes from a radical acceptance of life: Major Depressive Disorder and Type 1 Bipolar Disorder. Some people have hazel eyes, others’ are blue or brown; my conditions are just another part of me. Life does get better when you seek advice. Never let go of your curiosity and endeavor to find an answer for you.
My excitement grows with every level of education I reach; I feel more connected to the human in me by nurturing my empathy in an intelligent manner. Proxemics and now virtual reality threaten to erase all connection between us. Well, just know that if we meet, somehow, I’ll be glad to help you. Until then, think about how long you wish to remain in an ether of programs, waiting for a solution to arrive. Become active in public meetings with officials to exert power for change. Become active in your life. Be well and keep in touch!
Image 1 (top): Alyssa L. Miller/Flickr
Image 2 (housing representation) V-69 Digital Marketing
Image 3 (female) Alyssa L. Miller/Flickr
Image 4 (male) Simón País-Thomas/Flickr
Image 5 (face) Jeffrey Sitthi/Flickr
Graphics by V-69 Digital Marketing