It’s been three years since I moved from laid-back Western Massachusetts to always-on-the-go New York City. I dreamt of lights and iconic skyscrapers. I wanted an active lifestyle that will provide me more opportunities for education and career advancement. I got what I wished for. But what I didn’t realize is that the dream came with saddening and sometimes traumatizing pictures of events. Every day, I may have to deal with either homeless persons or mentally ill individuals. Most of the time, it is the combination of these categories. These people maybe locals, transients, and tourists. Some are new dreamers of a better life in the Big Apple. People just like myself, immigrant, legally coded as alien. I may be at work or in commute using the subway systems but encounters (however direct or otherwise) are inescapable.
At work, interaction with the underserved is part of my job. However, interaction does not end in just welcoming them in the unit. I am required by my profession to interact as humanely as possible. This includes providing privacy, respect, and confidentiality. These individuals are either suffering some kind of (medical, mental, or behavioral) illness or going through some kind of stress (mental, emotional, or financial). Aggressiveness, manipulation to meet needs, and inflicting pain to self or others are few of the behaviors that come about. These behaviors may be real or a front to preserve oneself. Some of them are hostile while others are more guarded. This makes interaction carry varying challenges to this simple communication thus the process somewhat becomes more difficult. But on top of all these limitations, I have to give them the treatment I would have given any normal client who comes in the hospital.
At any given time away from work, my encounters with the homeless or mentally ill are more indirect. These individuals have been living the NYC urban landscape long before I became a part of it. Just about a block away from my basement apartment, when I first got here, I saw alcoholics and druggies hanging outside the deli. They are either sleeping on a makeshift bed out of cardboard on the side streets or just knocked out on the sidewalk without covers nor any kind of protection. I had to sit beside or across a homeless or mentally ill person on the 7 train on my way to work or school. There were times that my hope of a relaxing day in the park can become exciting because of an emotionally disturbed person who happens to be homeless. They come out of places I do not expect them to be present. They are everywhere, at times unexpected, and they are walking the same streets I take.
Sometimes, I wonder what the government is doing with all these individuals. Given the fact that the country has not recovered from its economic crisis, people are in a panic that seems more chronic than short-term. Individuals (natural born, citizen, legal or illegal aliens) in big cities like NYC go through a lot more stress. Unfortunately, homeless and mentally ill individuals are struck by this phenomenon more than anybody else. I question how they are treated inside municipal shelters for them to, most of the time, end up in hospitals and want to stay there more than shelters or outside. However, If I am to compare them with poor people from third world countries (The Philippines and South East Asian countries as the basis of comparison) they are given a lot better care with federal aids provision of shelter, food, finance, healthcare, and opportunities to overcome adversities.
I could say more and post more questions but let me share this poster I presented for my General Psychology class at CUNY LaGuardia Community College.