January-February 2022 Newsletter

Loren on her first day as a Volunteer Response Team member speaking with a client
First Glance through Eyes of New Volunteer Response Team Member

BYLINE Loren Levine, PsyD, Volunteer Response Team

Homelessness is a complicated situation that usually involves mental illness or drug abuse and often both. The days of homelessness being confined to downtown’s skid row are long gone.

Out of college, I worked with homeless teens in Hollywood. What I learned was that the streets were dangerous yet safer than some of their homes. Two years later, I was doing psychological testing on skid row. This is where I learned the term “dual diagnosis”. This is also where I learned that ANYONE struggling with mental illness or tough life experiences can end up on the street.

Fast forward 20 years. I see homelessness everywhere. I’m not driving through skid row anymore but walking my dog. I see a person having a psychotic break and I keep walking. Everyone walking by keeps going. To be fair, what can we do? It’s not safe to approach someone in a psychotic state. Who do we call? There is no ambulance for the mentally ill. I just couldn’t keep walking by anymore. So, I reached out to an organization in my neighborhood, PPTFH. A week later I was out with Sharon, den mother to those without a home. She does not keep walking.

This is what I have noticed after 20 years. There is more severe mental illness. The drugs being used to dull the pain of life or quiet the voices of mental illness are more dangerous. Living on the street is still not safe, easy, nor comfortable. I also noticed what an amazing job PPTFH is doing. If only every neighborhood had an organization like this!

Homelessness is a very complicated situation and there is no easy fix. But at least here we are trying. PPTFH gives us a place to help if walking by just doesn’t feel right anymore.

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