One of the myths about the homeless is that they are all mentally ill. Another myth is the way people are labeled as “mentally ill.”
Some experts don’t think “mentally ill” is an accurate term. They don’t think that people with mental problems should be labeled as being ill. For them, “illness”, such as the flu, is caused by a virus. They ask what is the source that causes mental illness?
At the community meals for the homeless and those in need in Bucks County, PA, there are a few guests who act in a bizarre manner. Some observers have postulated that they have mental problems. Are these people “mentally ill”, and not responsible for their behavior, the way a cold makes you sneeze? Well, we are more than just a connected series of organs, nerve endings, etc., that respond to stimuli. We are a special creation. We can reason and tell the difference between right and wrong.
There are some people who can’t, or won’t distinguish between right and wrong. One character, known as “Birdman”, goes from table to table at community meals, as people are finishing up their meal and asks them if they want various items that were set out for their table, as he reaches for the items. Last night at every table he tried to get ice tea, people turned him down. A defeated predator, he slinked away and whined “everyone has to keep it for themselves.”
At one meal, we told him we wanted what was on our table. I added that this is for our table; “go to your own table, leave us alone, you are annoying.”
At a meal after that, as I approached him at the back of the room as I was getting my drink, he asked “Am I annoying you?” I said he wasn’t. He then asked me how he annoys me. I responded “I’ll treat that as a rhetorical question.”
Birdman doesn’t think he’s doing anything wrong. Is he “mentally ill?” No. He just has bad manners and doesn’t have borders. He evidently subscribes to the concept of “The Noble Savage”, where one ignores the restraints of civilization and just follows one’s animal instincts. This concept most recently became vogue at Woodstock, where unruly spoiled brats invaded the farm country at all hours with their revelry, disturbing people in the community.
When I was in elementary school years ago, when the Bible was read in the classroom, at recess we had “out of bounds”. This was an area marked off where we were not allowed to go. We weren’t just afraid that a safety or even our peers would catch us. It was just somewhere we did not dare go. Like the ladies room in the Star Trek Enterprise, a place where no man has gone before, it’s a place kids were reluctant to enter.
Birdman is oblivious to the concept of out of bounds.
There’s another nut – I use the term just to identify bizarre behavior – who goes to the community meals who also selfishly thinks she is a special privileged character who, not content with what the hosts graciously prepared for everyone else, demands a custom meal. I call her “Queen Nora.” At one meal the Queen asked “Do you have anything with beef?”
Both Birdman and Queen Nora think that anyone with a car is obligated to be their chauffeur, simply because they have a car and they do not.
While I’m on a roll, he’s another anecdote about another nut who has gone to the community meals. I don’t have a name for her yet. This one doesn’t like anyone to touch her or even walk behind her, especially when she sits at the table. On one occasion, as we were finishing a meal, another busload of guests came. The hosts were rolling a desert tray down the aisle. Wanting to leave before the other people entered, she chirped “I’m finished my dinner; just give me my cupcake and I’ll go.” Nobody complied. “Does anyone speak English?”, she stammered. She held up her hand and repeatedly demanded “give me my cupcake!”
Even the few examples, whom some people on casual observation may conclude are people with mental problems, are not representative of homeless people.
The homeless are just a microcosm of society. And they are not all alike.
Today, society has become Godless. The Bible was taken out of the public schools. Pink Floyd got it right when they sang:
“We don’t need no education
We don’t need no thought control
No dark sarcasm in the classroom
Teachers leave them kids alone
Hey! Teachers! Leave them kids alone!
All in all it’s just another brick in the wall.
All in all you’re just another brick in the wall.”
Indeed, in our society you are just another brick in the wall. This is the case with the mental health industry in Bucks County. It’s representatives canvas the homeless community like Jehovah’s Witnesses and shanghai the homeless. Their bate is housing. One representative told me that he doesn’t believe in “housing first” because the homeless have to get straightened out first. This presupposes that they all have such big drug, alcohol or mental problems that they need “professional” help before getting housing. Wrong!
The Advocates for the Homeless and Those in Need (AHTN) also treats the homeless as if they are just another brick in the wall. Unlike others who hold the homeless accountable for their behavior, they’ve been known to give unruly homeless people a free pass, evidently reasoning that it is the way homeless people are supposed to act. This mentality fosters negative stereotypes about the homeless and contributes to hobophobia, the irrational fear of the homeless, which, incidentally, is not tax deductible.
But not with God. He made us in his image and has taught us right from wrong. There are absolutes!
“Hear me, you who know what is right, you people who have taken my instruction to heart: Do not fear the reproach of mere mortals or be terrified by their insults.” – Isaiah 51:7