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The Invisible People

Rocky, my wife, opened up this morning’s family conversation with: “Whelp. It’s official. Selena Gomez is back with Justin Bieber and her mom is NOT happy.”
Selena is not an uncommon topic in our family because, like my wife, she has Lupus. In fact, Selena’s lupus is so bad that she has had chemo treatments and a kidney transplant… and she’s only 26.
Selena also has depression. If you type in her name into Google this article comes up on the front page:
Selena Gomez Opens Up About Mental Health and Instagram Fatigue – Vogue
In the article she says about her world tour: “Basically I felt I wasn’t good enough, wasn’t capable. I felt I wasn’t giving my fans anything, and they could see it.”
There are some studies that are suggesting autoimmune disorders are connected to depression because of inflammation.
Famous, successful people experiencing depression and anxiety is not uncommon at all.
Lady Gaga Opens Up About Her Depression | Teen Vogue
Kurt Cobain and Manic Depression (Bipolar Disorder) | Bipolar Lives:
Kurt was diagnosed at a young age with Attention Deficit Disorder [ADD], then later with bipolar disorder [also known as manic-depression].
There is an almost endless list of examples like this. Successful people experiencing significant mental health issues is a common recurring story.
In our family we often discuss how success is irrelevant to depression and other mental health issues. You live your life and mental health issues lay on top of your life no matter how successful or unsuccessful you are.
For years I’ve been on a steady dose of Citalopram. It’s a Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor (SSRI) used to treat depression.
I’m not “celebrity” successful. But I’ve done OK in business. I now get to help the homeless with our day center and tent village. And my family is out of this world. They are SO amazing.
Yet depression and anxiety chase me around too.
I set this stage for you to now imagine this scenario:

  • All of your family is dead or hates you.
  • All your friends have given up on you and don’t answer your calls any more.
  • You’ve spent years in prison.
  • Your father beat you and your mother regularly.
  • You were repeatedly molested as a kid.
  • You started self medicating because $5 of Fentanyl takes away all the pain.
  • Now your opiate tolerance is so high you are spending every penny just to stop the pain from coming back. Being “high” is a long gone dream.
  • Chasing drugs takes all your time.
  • You lost your job months ago.
  • You can’t afford living anywhere.
  • You stay in shelters with people you hate and can’t believe you are now on their level.

If Selena Gomez thinks “Basically I felt I wasn’t good enough,” imagine how homeless people feel.
They are in free fall. Every societal backup plan has failed. The bottom fell out long ago.
I just talked to a person yesterday who, through tears, cried, “How many times can I handle being at the end of my rope?”
These are people who hit “bottom” long ago. Bottom flew past them and now they have no idea where any of this ends.
Mental health issues are at the root of most homeless people I know.
Depression, anxiety and many more mental health conditions are constantly presenting themselves.
Because of the mental health issues along with the homeless issues, seeing some people just totally give up on society is common.
Yet, through all this they are survivors. They are resilient, determined and rarely will you hear them complain about any hardship they experience.
However, as soon as you start talking about mental health support and addiction support they often start to glaze over.
Clawing their way back into society is exhausting. Endless paperwork, hoops and logistical mazes.
The first step is getting 3 forms of identification: birth certificate, state id and social security card. Most people I know start here. They have lost all of these a long time ago.
These are sometimes adopted kids that were born in other states. I just paid $80 to some service to help a person get his out of state birth certificate. It required navigating a series of online forms and ended with paying with a credit card.
I don’t think I know a single homeless person with a credit card, much less $80.
But you need all of these. You can’t get a social security card if you don’t have a picture id. You can’t get a picture id if you don’t have a birth certificate.
And without these you can’t get any services. No food stamps. No Medicaid. No getting on a housing list.
There is a collective “screw it!” among many of these people.
Surviving takes all their time.
Engaging with the maze of society doesn’t feel worth it. Society hasn’t shown to be worth the effort.
And that’s when it begins to happen. These people begin to disappear. You very likely pass by these people every day of your life.
They are in the gas stations. They are walking down the sidewalk. They are in the library.
They try very hard to blend in. If they don’t have severe mental illness that causes them to talk to the voices in their heads, they are very quiet. They don’t look up. They don’t talk in front of strangers. If you go into their camp site they likely will not easily come out of their tents no matter what you offer them.
They move around really early in the morning and late at night.
And so they become invisible to society. And society is cool with that. Society is afraid of these people and embarrassed that we have these people.
It is a convenient symbiotic relationship. We won’t look at you if you don’t look at us. It’s an unspoken agreement.
Occasionally, these people do try to be seen. They try to take a stand to interact with society. They try not to be invisible.
These are the panhandlers.
But they have broken the agreement. They decided to not be invisible.
And many of us are upset by the broken agreement.
They should “get a job!” They probably are actually con artists driving into the city (often in Mercedes) from the suburbs to take all the sweet, easy inner city panhandling cash.
We scorn them because their visibility makes us uncomfortable. We aren’t supposed to have to look at them.
They need to become invisible again so we don’t have to deal with their existence. And in reality, most of these people would rather become invisible too.
They don’t want to beg from you. They don’t want to stand there and take your ignorant, closed minded verbal abuse. But they are fighting to get back in. They are fighting to be back in the mechanism of society through getting money.
Money is the admission pass to society. No money, no society, no community.
Not making money betrays your obligation to society. And so society excommunicates you. Your punishment is to become invisible.

3 thoughts on “The Invisible People

  1. They move around really early in the morning and late at night.
    And so they become invisible to society. And society is cool with that. Society is afraid of these people and embarrassed that we have these people. I was there today …brought hats and gloves from the new beginning store. tried to pay for them but they would not let me. I brought food and thought it interesting . that I added cheese. I am not a good cook …but the fact that they said I added cheese like they were happy with it. I ask them what they needed and they needed milk and I took someone with me to get milk. They all have their jobs within their community. They are an amazing group….family….I did not want to come alone….but they made me feel comfortable, They need D batteries ..those were the only two request. I am going back If anyone can just do one thing….they need to. You will be blessed. BTW I grew up on Kent Street it was amazing to see my old home. .

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