11 December 2009
Usually I change the names of Marginopolis residents when I write about them, in order to protect the innocent, enable the guilty, and respect everybody's right to privacy. This post is different. David Poole is not a nom de guerre; he's a guy who is currently homeless in Over-The-Rhine. Mr. Poole is rail thin, and wears a knit cap underneath a baseball cap. This headgear is not unique to winter. He wears the same knit cap/baseball cap combo 365 days a year. He has a craggy, Lincolnesque face, including a a full beard and mustache that grow wild. He hears voices, and speaks in what sounds like nonsense to most people. His speech is quite disordered. Nouns and adjectives, when Mr. Poole speaks, seem not to have any logical connection to the sentences into which he places them. If you ask him how he's doing, Mr. Poole might respond: "Oh, I'm waiting on several geological obstructions to permutate later today, but otherwise I'm not too transmogrified." The hell you say! As fast as he can think, his brain has inserted words seemingly at random, instead of words that most of us would choose. It's possible what Mr. Poole meant was: "I'm waiting on this head cold to clear up, but otherwise not too shabby." If you speak to him more than a few times, you can actually make fairly good guesses about what Mr. Poole is saying. Not trying to say, but actually saying. Some burdensome, incurable neuro-short circuit creates his disordered (but not to him) speech. David Poole has been on Social Security Disability for several years. His case did not languish in bureaucratic grey areas. He is so consistenty impaired that his application --- submitted by third party advocates --- was pretty much a slam dunk. He has been homeless on and off most of his life. He spends colder nights in the Drop Inn Center, but if the overnight low feels tolerable, he prefers to sleep outside. Why? "They have these free agent inflectors there, and they kinda intimidate me, especially after I'm materialized." In other words, guys steal from him, but the staff doesn't understand what Mr. Poole is talking about when he tries to report it. Tender Mercies rented him a room several years ago. Staff had to remind him to bathe and to do his small amount of laundry. They pretty much gave up on trying to convince him to remove his knit cap/ball cap head gear during the summer months. Everybody became accustomed to having Dave Poole around. Then, last year, he began to have money shortages. For awhile he had a representative payee, but grifters would attach themselves to him after his payee gave him some cash. They would claim to be from the government, or from some loan company's collections department. The grifters would talk Mr. Poole out of his money, because he couldn't process what they were saying. Wow, you're from the government? The cash was forked over with little resistance. Only later, after days or weeks of consideringthis, would Mr. Poole realize he was being taken. So he abandoned the payee and began taking his SSD checks directly to a check cashing shop. Not surprisingly, those very same grifters caught up with him there. They changed their scam, or possibly used physical intimidation, but the got Mr. Poole's money once again. Except they scored bigger because the check cashing service didn't hold some of the check in reserve the way the payee once had. During the summer of '09 Mr. Poole became delinquent on his rent. What little money he managed hide from the grifters he spent on marijuana, cigarettes, and endless cups of coffee. Tender Mercies carried him for four months. Ultimately they evicted him. Mr. Poole was once a client at CCHB, but he seems to have stopped going there. It's not clear whether CCHB officially dropped him, or whether his file might still be open. CCHB is notoriously overburdened. They serve the mentally ill population that nobody else wants, and they have neither the staff nor the funding to do more than document their clients' personal information. The most seriously ill are required to show up regularly for injections; appointments are usually a "cattle call" variety. If a client has a noon appointment, there are liable to be 12 or 15 other clients there with the same appointment time. Mr. Poole is not clear about the passing of time. If he has to wait more than five minutes, he can become distracted and wander off. Case managers have more clients than they can contact in a given 30 days. They don't go looking for David Poole. Everybody did their jobs. Everybody at CCHB, at Tender Mercies, did as much as their legal departments allowed them to do without creating dependency, and therefore liability. Yet David Poole is living on street, with occasional nights at the Drop. Could someone have driven him to Mental Health Access Point and walked him through an interagency transfer? To Greater Cincinnati Behavioral, maybe, or to Centerpoint. There are not many options, but there are some. Could somebody at Tender Mercies, for example, have taken the initiative? What is the difference between David Poole, and everybody else? He is profoundly impaired by mental illness, therefore he cannot accomplish much more than to somehow live through another day. The doctors, social workers and administrators who found it easier to let him drift away, to fall through the cracks of the system once again, have no serious mental impairments themselves. Nevertheless, they seem unable to do for David Poole much more than he is able to do for himself. People whose education and experience surpasses mine, people I respect, have explained to me the difference between David Poole and everybody else. Such explanations remain beyond my grasp.
Posted by David Carney at 22:49