Thursday, July 7, 2011

Where is my heart?

Remember that wherever your heart is, there you will find your treasure. Paulo Coelho
It's an interesting question. "Where is my heart?"

Today my heart is heavy. A tight work schedule. Stampede craziness. And, a heart-breaking situation with a client at the shelter where I work that leaves me feeling frustrated and the one thing I hate to feel - helpless.

He received a ticket from a police officer. Littering. $500.

As one staff member said when I asked him about how best to approach the gentleman about the situation, "How could they give him a ticket? One minute conversation with him and you know he's not all present. You know he's living in a world of his own."

The man in question is homeless. Visibly so if you were to see him on the street. He pushes a walker on which he has piled on and tied up his most precious belongings. He talks to himself. He talks to anyone around him. About music. Current affairs. Politicians. Anything that interests him. He uses big words. Big vocabulary. He has lots to say but it is hard to follow the thread of what he's saying.

And he got a $500 ticket for littering.

I didn't do it, he told me yesterday when I approached him to talk about helping him with his ticket. I don't need help.

I showed him the ticket he had put in the mail to the Court of Queen's Bench.

He immediately began to talk. Fast. "You shouldn't have that. I mailed it in. How did you get that. I didn't do it. I've got it all dealt with. There was a bus. I was waiting. I told the officer what I was doing. He asked for my ID. I waved at the bus driver. I had to go around some construction. How did you get that. I've mailed it in. That's a copy. I don't need help. I didn't even do it. I wasn't smoking. How could I have thrown away a cigarette butt? I don't throw butts. I roll them. How did you get that?"

I know you mailed it in, I told him. But the address you used for the courthouse was the shelter's address. So it came back to us. I'd like to help you with it.

And he repeated. "I don't need help. I've dealt with it. Talked to a commissionaire. I told them I can't pay it. I didn't do it.

And he walked away, back to the table where he had been sitting prior to my asking him to join me in the supervisor's office of our Day Area to talk about the situation.

When I spoke with our police liaison she told me the officer who gave the ticket didn't remember the details. "He'll have to appear in court. Get a court date and then hopefully, the judge will dismiss it."

But he doesn't believe he has to appear I told her. He believes he's dealt with it.

If he doesn't appear they'll issue a warrant and then he could be picked up next time for anything and he'll be remanded, she reminded me.

I know. But he doesn't.

And the circle continues.

A man with mental health issues. A homeless man who walks the streets everyday, a gentle and non-violent man who cannot comprehend how a ticket addressed to the shelter that he mailed with the intent of sending it somewhere else, is not a sign that 'someone' is watching him, following him, is now afraid.

Not of the ticket.

No, the ticket isn't the issue. He's dealt with that he said.

He's afraid that the 'someone' watching him is me and that I represent someone far more suspect than just 'administration' trying to help him right a wrong.

It is a tenuous situation for this man. His mental health doesn't provide the capacity to understand the gravity of what needs to happen with the ticket to ensure he doesn't lose his freedom to walk the streets whenever he wants.

His paranoia aroused, he believes the fact I had the ticket means I got it through nefarious means. I am party to those 'someones' who continue to watch his every move, track his every action.

And the ticket becomes obscured in the mists of his thoughts. The ticket from an officer who was just 'doing his job'. A ticket that doesn't serve any purpose other than to, perhaps, satisfy an officer's need to appear on the right side of the law with a man who has no understanding of his rights, let alone where he is now standing in jeopardy of the law. And now he is at risk. His freedom and his well-being in jeopardy if we do not find a way to help him move from paranoia to a place where he can understand what needs to happen to deal with a situation he doesn't understand.

Where is the treasure in my heart?

It is in knowing, believing, that there is a way through this confusion. That there is a way to help this man that will not cause him more distress, but will relieve the distress he is feeling.

I know there is a way. I just need to search for it outside the box of the law's constraints that would say, as the police liaison told me, there's nothing we can do at this point. It's in the system.

The ticket may be in the system, but this man doesn't need to be.


Fi said...

Some things just don't seem fair, but the answer will come to you when you least expect it - believe that it will and it will.

Now I understand your comment on my blog.

Happy thoughts my friend even in the toughest times

Hugs & Happy thoughts, Fi

Maureen said...

Would that that $500 were being donated to DI to continue its marvelous work!

Surely, putting this into the "system" costs everyone far more and in the end does nothing to help someone who would seem so obviously in need.

A cop who writes a $500 ticket but doesn't remember the details of the situation? More like, he just doesn't care.

I hope you'll do a follow-up on this. And that it resolves in the best possible way.

Trina said...

Is it possible there's someone he trusts in the homeless community whom you can ask to assist you as an ally? Best.

katdish said...

So sorry, Louise. Many don't understand the depth of issues and circumstances which lead many to live on the streets, mental illness being a factor so often.

Claudia said...

ugh - sometimes i just don't understand this world and_its police and its law and order...

Anonymous said...


it seems to me that you should send a copy of your posting to Police Chief Hanson . . . I am sure this is not what he (or city council) wants in terms of enforcing that by-law

and maybe the ward alderman will give a rip too .... afterall, he used to be a police officer

your solution is not beating your head against a wall with the people at the bottom of the pyramid . . . maybe aiming higher, as in starting at the top, will be more effective

just sayin'


trisha said...

keeping law and order is fine. i know its a tough job but they should add some brain with their toil.

S. Etole said...

He's fortunate to have you on his side ... even though he doesn't recognize it.

Brandi said...

Hugs, friend, and good luck!

I think I know the man you speak of and it is not easy to communicate and try to enter his world....I will pray for his safety and freedom.