George: Homeless and Fragile...
He looked like an fragile old white man; he was scruffy, pale and scrawny, he had a dazed and glazed look in his eyes and when he spoke, we struggled to find any rationality or logic in his words. George seemed to be unsure who he was, where he was and what he was doing.
And then there was something that made this whole situation worse; this fragile old man, who could barely stand up, was homeless! Yes, homeless! Homeless in the dead of winter! Homeless and struggling to survive. Homeless and lacking any sense of direction. Homeless and sick. Homeless and alone. Homeless and fragile!
As with a number of our participants, George carried a paper bag, (protected by a plastic bag), full of his myriad of medications. He had a host of medical issues that were triggered by a failing liver, kidney problems and sarcoidosis, causing this poor fragile man to be rotating in and out of hospitals. The cost of these serious sicknesses caused George to be a very expensive man.
On this particular day, he was scheduled to sleep with all the other men at Epworth Gym. Every morning and evening, these men have to walk a mile to and from their sleeping spot and our daytime drop-in center. As we observed George wandering aimlessly and missing vital check-in times, we knew the Gym wouldn't work for him and he needed to go to a Nursing Home. We honestly thought he had dementia. We knew, there was no way he would last at the Gym, so we made calls and got him accepted into a local Nursing Home...
...but there was one major problem! He didn't want to go, he blatantly refused and we can't force people to do what they don't want to do!
In response to this new dilemma, we had George to live on the 4th floor among our homeless families. For a few years, we'd been housing about 30 older, disabled and sickly men in 5 private rooms. I must admit, I didn't think George would last up there also, I thought he was too sick. Our plan was temporary and my intention was to convince him to go to this Nursing Home.
It took only 3 days for me to realize how very wrong I was. George immediately became my number one example of how important these 5 rooms are for elderly single men; I quickly discovered that he didn't need a Nursing Home; he needed rest, he needed to get off his feet, he needed routine so he could take his gobs of medication correctly, he needed a shower and he needed to regularly eat healthy meals. The beds on 4th floor did all these things and even more; what I witnessed, I'd seen with some other men, but George's transformation was truly miraculous! It took only 3 days and I was looking at a new man. Here he was, surprisingly rational and looking remarkably healthier.
What was also remarkable; during George's stint in our senior program, he hardly ever needed to go the hospital. The harm was being reduced and he was functioning well.
Unless you walk the walk of homelessness, or at the very least, view it first hand like I do every day, it's hard to comprehend the physical toll that never-ending wandering, lines and lack of sleep takes on someone's body. It's also hard to comprehend how devastating a lack of regular food and medicine can be on somebody's health, especially if that somebody anxiously sleeps in the park or on trains, especially if that somebody fears about whether they'll be attacked and not see the morning. The homeless lifestyle is hard enough on a healthy 30 year old, let alone someone older like George, especially someone who also lives with a severely compromised immune system.
read more here, also picture of George: