Column: The bravest people I know – Salem Reporter

One man was homeless, then found a home, and then lost his home. He said he was sorry he had missed that opportunity, and he wanted to try again. When some waiting lists opened up, I helped him apply online.

Last week a housing person contacted me, asking if I could find him, and to call him as soon as possible – his name came up for a potential opportunity. I often don’t know where people are, yet I am lucky and grateful to know people who know people, who know people. Someone told me the same day that he had been found and was contacting the housing person. Wow!

I bumped into them today, and asked them how they were, and if this could be a possibility. And they call me Bubbles, from when I used to bring bubbles and giant bubble wands to the local park. And people would blow bubbles with me, or not. And mostly, over time, people joined in. Even the shy guys, whose reputations were hard to foster and protect.

He told me parts of his story that I didn’t know. When he first got housing, they wanted him to do rehab and counseling and take mental health medications. And he told them that he knew the steps to rehabilitation and that he could do it on his own, if he wasn’t struggling to survive on the streets. And he told them that he wasn’t taking medications, and he wasn’t getting counseling to wallow in his past, because that’s not who he is anymore. He’s not going back to that; there’s no purpose in it. And despite his rejection of those conditions, they gave him housing anyway.

He told me he asked the housing lady what the conditions were this time? Are there conditions attached? And she told me the same conditions. And she told me he didn’t need rehab, and he wasn’t on medication. And in the past I was thinking why not?! Why not find more stability through medication? And now I’ve learned a lot about how and why medications aren’t viable for many people – our medications and “cures” can often be worse than the diseases they’re supposed to cure or alleviate. And now I still have a lot to learn. But at least now I know there are legitimate reasons why people may choose not to take medications, and the reasons aren’t about being service resistant. A lot of times, the system and medications are actually resistant to people.

And he tells me he doesn’t need counseling. What good could come from rehashing past pain, situations, and feelings? What good could come from sharing things he’s ashamed of? And he’s not that person anymore anyway – who he is now is what matters.

And then she asked him – what if he goes to a counseling session with her? And he told me again that he is not doing counseling. Why would he let himself go through all of this? And, if he accepts her offer to go with him, he would be *someone* who would be listening to all of his private feelings and situations.

And then he tells me this – he thought about this some more, and it became even more clear that she’s offering to go to counseling with him. And this is a woman who will sign up to hear the counselor say things to him. She’ll hear things she’ll never forget. She’ll stay up some nights, not be able to sleep, because of some of the things she hears. And he tells me that this woman is willing to do that for him. And he’s going to accept her offer. Because this woman is real.

I know this woman only as a colleague at work. I have always liked and admired her. Today, she has grown very tall.

Many bad and terrible things happen every day. Good things also happen every day, even if they get less publicity. Neither good nor bad negates the other. And angels also walk among us.

And today, this man and his housing officer are the bravest people I know.

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Lynell Wilcox – Special to the Salem Reporter

Lynell Wilcox has served the homeless in Salem for six years – initially volunteering at the warming center and events for the homeless. As people shared their stories over the years, she saw how much a smile and a hello could create commonality, connection and sometimes hope. And hope can change everything. She writes about some of the things she’s learned along the way, and shares some stories. She loves her children very much, and she loves bright colors, cats, happy clothes, music, cooking, the sky, dogs and daisies.

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