KAREN'S STORY ABOUT WELCOME HOME HOUSING IN SACRAMENTO

Before I came to Welcome Home Housing, I was homeless for ten years. After receiving a mental health diagnosis and finally receiving SSI, I was able to move to a room and board. To make a long story short, I felt unsafe at two of the room and boards and ran away. In one case, back to the street. At another room and board, the residents were not allowed to go into the main living areas of the house and we were confined to our rooms for basically 24 hours a day. When I heard from my social worker that there was this really unique and wonderful room and board with an opening, I decided to give it a  chance. She said there was nothing else like it in Sacramento.

It turned out to be a good decision, as I have been here now for about ten years. Some time ago, we had a kitchen remodel. With the president of Welcome Home Housing's permission, I was allowed to provide some really beautiful cafe curtains for our kitchen. It was my way of contributing to a place that had finally become my home. I was able to get the material on sale at a closeout price and had them made up by a pattern designer at an amazingly low price. Every time I look at them, I'm reminded of what Welcome home Housing means to me.

Another thing I really appreciate about living here is that, working within a budget, we are able to pick out reasonably priced foods from the grocery store of our own choice. This means a lot to me as, due to health problems, I have to be on a special diet. When I first came here, my cooking skills were very limited. Welcome Home Housing provided me with a cooking mentor until I could get on my feet. It wasn't long until I had the confidence to cook on my own. Now I have a wide variety of recipes to make that I can both eat for my health and really enjoy.

Having staff available means having emotional support when I need it and brings a lot of stability to my life. I hope to be here for a long time to come. I have finally put down roots. I don't have to run anymore. I am home.

NOTE FROM WELCOME HOME HOUSING: We are excited to announce that we are among the nearly 600 local area nonprofits participating in the fifth annual Big Day of Giving. On May 3, 2018, from midnight to midnight, our community will come together in the spirit of giving.

We are grateful for our very generous supporters that helped us raise $5303 last year. Your gifts made it possible for us to expand our program by opening another house. Now six more people have a place that they can call home. We hope that you consider us as your first donation choice again this year and help us achieve our goal of $8,000.

Click here to go to The Big Day of Giving and to make a contribution to Welcome Home Housing.

You can like and follow Welcome Home Housing on Facebook:

www.facebook.com/WelcomeHomeHousing

 Karen's cafe curtains

Karen's cafe curtains

I'D GIVE UP EVERYTHING TO GIVE HIM A NORMAL LIFE by Sherry

I went to see my son today. He smiled and seemed happy we were there. I had to get a picture of us since I feel I don't go see him enough. It breaks my heart each time.

He's written on so many of his shirts, as he did on this one. I wonder what's inside him that feels like he needs to express himself this way. He got in trouble for writing inappropriate things on the bathroom walls but didn't want to talk about it.

I pray for improvement each day, yet my son seems to be getting younger in his mind each time I see him. His hands shake and he closes his eyes tight as he tries to remember what he ate only an hour before.

I would give up everything to give him a normal life.

 Sherry and her son

Sherry and her son

THE NEW BREED by Alison Luterman

-- for Emma Gonzalez and the other student activists

I see her on TV, screaming into a microphone.
Her head is shaved and she is beautiful
and seventeen, and her high school was just shot up, 
she's had to walk by friends lying in their own blood,
her teacher bleeding out,
and she's my daughter, the one I never had,
and she's your daughter and everyone's daughter
and she's her own woman, in the fullness of her young fire,
calling bullshit on politicians who take money from the gun-makers.
Tears rain down her face but she doesn't stop shouting
she doesn't apologize she keeps calling them out,
all of them all of us
who didn't do enough to stop this thing.
And you can see the gray faces of those who have always held power
contort, utterly baffled
to face this new breed of young woman,
not silky, not compliant,
not caring if they call her a ten or a troll. 
And she cries but she doesn't stop
yelling truth into the microphone,
though her voice is raw and shaking
and the Florida sun is molten brass.
I'm three thousand miles away, thinking how
Neruda said The blood of the children
ran through the streets
without fuss, like children's blood. 
Only now she is, they are
raising a fuss, shouting down the walls of Jericho,
and it's not that we road-weary elders
have been given the all-clear exactly,
but our shoulders do let down a little, 
we breathe from a deeper place,
we say to each other, 
Well, it looks like the baton
may be passing
to these next runners and they are
fleet as thought, 
fiery as stars,
and we take another breath
and say to each other, The baton
has been passed, and we set off then
running hard behind them.

--Alison Luterman
I hope this poem finds its way to whoever can use it.

 Alison

Alison

MY SON, GUNS, AND SERIOUS MENTAL ILLNESS by Heidi Franke

My youngest son has a serious mental illness. (We love him dearly.) Recently, he purchased a handgun, without my knowledge, and brought it loaded into my home. He was afraid and wanted to "protect" himself. (Our home had been robbed and our car had been stolen years prior.) I had the police called and they took the gun at my request.

Now, I'm working with a detective to see if this gun was stolen, and to let the owner know he sold a gun to a mentally ill person. Rather than harming someone else with the gun he purchased, it's more likely my son could have killed himself. He's more afraid of what's in his mind than of what's in front of him. According to the American Psychiatric Association, https://psychiatryonline.org/doi/pdf/10.5555/appi.books.9781615371099  (2016), "Mass shootings by people with serious mental illness represent less than 1% of all yearly gun-related homicides. In contrast, deaths by suicide using firearms account for the majority of yearly gun-related deaths." 

According to the detective, there's no information on file with the Salt Lake City Police Department that my son has a mental illness and has been in mental health court. There's no information about his multiple hospitalizations. This is key information for any police officer ever confronting my son. They should have notes on file about how best to de-escalate him. De-escalating a paranoid person who is in psychosis takes knowledge, wisdom, and practice.

As a parent, I've talked my son down from serious situations, even when he was wielding a knife while in deep psychosis. My son called his father and me to the scene. With patrol cars surrounding him, we were able to save his life. No police officers have to live with the fact that they may have shot a young man with a serious brain disorder. He was innocent. It was his brain that was broken. Like a leg. Had my son been in another city, and if he were a man of color, he would, almost certainly, have been killed. Brookings Institute

The detective has requested proof of my son's mental illness which I will send to him in an email. Police need documentation and HIPAA laws prevent them from having it. This is stunning because it's such necessary information when encountering a person who's in psychosis. The police could have a labeled list of discrete data they could immediately turn to when pulling up a person's profile. This data could aide in disarming or de-escalating a situation, even before a confrontation. The list could be uniquely adjusted for each individual.  For instance:

1. Serious mental illness with psychosis, depression, history of suicide attempts.
2. Call parents (names and numbers) immediately.
3. Does not belong in jail. Needs hospitalization. Paramedics are friends to him. Call them.
4. Previous domestic violence protective orders .
5. Responds to questions, subject highly intelligent. "Do you go by Mitch or Mitchell?" "Which do you prefer?" "Tell me about what brought you here today?" "Can I get you a cigarette (be ready to give him one)?" "Can I get you something to eat or drink (be ready to offer something)?" "Tell me how Dr. Gray has been able to help you in the past?"

These questions are unique to my son and could be used to de-escalate his actions.  But how would a police officer know? We have to have the ability to collaborate with our police force. 

I continue to research. I am finding that laws are different from state to state. (New York Times) There's no uniform way practiced to approach our mentally ill other than to shame them or to use a gun on them. I have to say that the Salt Lake City Police Department, in encounters due to my son's behavior, has been professional and above par over the years. We have a Utah Crisis Intervention Team (CIT). The Taylorsville and West Valley City PD are a different story. I can't say the same about my experience with those forces. When you see such disparity in quality of care, you want to advocate for better training and selection, and for more transparency.

Our society has a hell of a way to go when working with the chronically homeless and those with persistent mental illness. I ask that you please vote for people who advocate for sensible gun reform and for funding for services such as affordable housing for the mentally ill. Having a place to call home is so important to many. Thank you for helping to save lives with your vote and penchant for educating yourself with facts.

 Mitchell's loaded gun.

Mitchell's loaded gun.

URGENT: AN OPEN LETTER TO JUDGE HICKS IN MICHIGAN by Anne Francisco

April 3, 2018

Honorable Judge Hicks
c/o Attorney Jason Kolkema
40 Concord
Muskegon Michigan 49442

RE: Tyler West – upcoming trial

Dear Judge Hicks,

I write on behalf of an ill brother in this world, Tyler West, requesting that you extend mercy in your judgment at his upcoming trial. You have all the facts. I do not, since I have never met Tyler West or his family. I do know that he has been diagnosed with autism and schizophrenia and has suffered greatly because of his neurological disorders. He has and continues to suffer terribly at the hands of a correctional system that cannot and does not provide adequate treatment for his illnesses. 

I’m fairly certain that every judge across our nation has been confronted with the horrific problem that the U.S. failed mental health care system has produced. The Tyler Wests of this world have been stuck between the revolving doors of treatment and incarceration, a situation that worsens the problem rather than providing healthy solutions. Tyler needs and deserves humane care in a setting that promotes health and healing, not punishment for symptoms of an illness.

I speak from personal experience. My son was incarcerated for symptoms of bipolar and schizoaffective disorders. He was never violent, never hurt anyone. Yet, he also got caught between the revolving doors of treatment and jail and prison. Four months after he entered prison (for a nonviolent crime while untreated in a state mental hospital, and because there were no other sources of help for him in the state of Missouri), he took his own life while correctional officers went about their business. He had lost all hope that anyone cared about him. His death has been devastating to us, and to all who know his story, even the judge and court system. We must change the way we treat those with neurological disorders in this country. We must quit looking the other way while others suffer.

Please do not sentence Tyler West to the same fate as my son — prison, helplessness, hopelessness. 

Very respectfully,
Anne Francisco

NOTE: If you would like to send a letter to Judge Hicks on Tyler's behalf, please send it, as above, c/o Attorney Jason Kolkema. Tyler's family goes to court with him today for his plea. In May, he'll be sentenced. The judge can sentence him from 20 months to 15 years.

Read more of Tyler's story on this blog:
Walk a Mile in Our Shoes by Kimberlee Cooper West - August 22, 2017
The Failure of Kevin's Law by Kimberlee Cooper West - Jan 10, 2018

 Ty

Ty

IT'S NOT BEHAVIORAL IT'S MENTAL ILLNESS by Sherry Hunter

So, the team and unit that my son is on at Utah State Hospital (USH) has suspended all future visits until further notice. Mitchel's been extremely delusional with psychosis. There have been some forms of aggression on his part, with the exception of his front teeth being knocked out as a form of "restraint". I'm at my wit's end. I've emailed his doctor a half dozen times, left messages, and to this moment, I've yet to hear anything from her or anyone on the team. 

Last night I received a telephone call from Mitchel and he was clearly delusional. He told me that Charles and Madeline (his dog and cat) are in danger and he's feeling violent feelings towards them. He insisted that Charles was King Charles of Buckingham palace and that he'd been reincarnated. Then he proceeded to tell me that "Princess Madeline" was also a descendent from England. He went on about this for several minutes until finally he blurted out "I don't feel the violent feelings anymore. I think talking to you has helped me realize that they are innocent animals and not reincarnations."

Whew.  

Mitchel talks about being on a sitcom, specifically Seinfeld. He believes he will someday be a television star and movie star. These are delusions I think the doctor should be aware of but it's difficult when she won't return my phone calls. I've also emailed her on numerous occasions to no avail. 

I want my son to be treated with the best possible care and it doesn't seem to be happening. His mental health care providers are shoving these incidents underneath the rug and chalking them up to "behavioral issues."  This really makes my blood boil. I know differently and know the mental illness is what's causing the irrational thoughts and outbursts. 

If I had the money, I would place Mitchel in a non-state facility where the care is so much better. There's a place called Austin Riggs Center in Massachusetts that would be a good fit for Mitchel. They specialize in paranoid/delusional schizophrenia. But the cost is outrageous. If I remember correctly, it was about 15 thousand dollars per month. Mitchel should also get veteran's benefits but I'm yet unable to obtain them for him.  I'm jumping though hoops and getting the run around galore.  

I'm going to give them another few days and then I'm going back to Dallas Earnshaw, the director of USH. I always use this as a last resort but the non-communication is unacceptable.

USB Sherry Hunterjpg.jpeg