A story from our Behavioral Health Department:
“I met Scott in May 2006 during outreach shortly after being hired at St. Martin’s as an outreach worker. Our goal was to identify at least 10-15 seriously mentally ill individuals and coordinate treatment that resulted in either permanent or transitional housing.
I first met Scott near Concrete Park downtown adjacent to Qwest building. The Police knew him as Linus (Peanuts) because of all the blankets he carried around with him. He must have had a least 5 blankets, a duffel back and no telling how many layers of clothes on. He looked dirty. His clothes were stained and he always appeared to have some type of dirt or mud on his face and hands.
At first Scott wouldn’t talk to us on outreach encounters. He would just stare. We’d offer him water and snacks and he would appear to simply ignore us. He would only take the snacks after he’d thought we left. Some days, he would see us coming and he’d pick up his duffel bag and five blankets and try to book it. Other days he would just sit there.
Over the course of the next 2 months, we tried all kinds of different strategies to get him to at least talk to us. We tried to make contact with him at least three times a week. Slowly but surely he began to respond. At 4 months, he agreed to have lunch with us and at 6 months, he agreed to stay in a motel room and try a different set of clothes.
After a nice stay in a motel room and hot shower, we were certain he wouldn’t want leave. But after about a week, he told us he wanted to go back home – to Concrete Park. So we took him back. For the next couple weeks we had told him we had an apartment available and that it was his if he wanted it. And for the next couple weeks he regressed back to pretending to ignore us.
Then, one day he approached us on an outreach encounter. He’d asked us if the apartment offer still stood. We showed him the apartment and he agreed to take it. Of course it would be another 4 months before he agreed to sign the intake paperwork for S+C – but that’s another story.
Over the next year, things weren’t easy for Scott. On two occasions he had disappeared and we found him hanging out at Concrete Park. He’d also ended up in jail as well after having a psychotic episode that resulted in dispute with police. Then at 2 years of working with staff he finally agreed to take meds. At 3 years, he obtained SSI and Section 8 housing. And after 7 years, he is still a client in the CRT program.
Over the years I learned things about him that I’d never thought I’d learn. I learned that he’d been diagnosed with schizophrenia in his early 30s that he had a Bachelor’s degree in physics and a masters degree in chemistry from the University of Utah. I learned that he wanted to go back to school after he started taking classes again at UNM.
I also learned that recovery for some is a long process and in some cases a lifelong process. I learned that even some of the most seemingly hopeless cases can show improvement; that people don’t get better on my time table; and that working with these types of clients is really hard work.
When I look back at all the time and effort I and others spent working with him, I would sometimes ask myself why I do this type of work. About 4 years ago I came across an old YouTube video featuring the homeless in Albuquerque. Sure enough, Scott was there in the video sitting on a bench just as I had remembered him in those first days in May 2006. It always amazes me where he was then and where he is today. And some days when I come home, I get to say that I played a small role in that. And I think that’s enough for me to keep coming to work each day to do the work we do.”