Last summer, I befriended a young homeless woman￼ who was dealing with all the trauma of homelessness – and substance abuse, to which so many of my homeless friends turn out of a desperate need to cope with all the stress of living on the street.
I let my new, fragile, vulnerable friend stay in the back of my camper van for several days to dry out. I used all my skills as a psychologist – and someone who is learning to be a “real human￼ being” – to try to build up her intestinal fortitude, and to try to find a way to get her off the street.
She thrived from getting lots of “healing validations” from me. But, at the same time, all this human contact and all this appreciation was so far out of her comfort zone that one day she bolted from the van.
The last thing she said to me, before she disappeared up the street to use my EBT card at the Whole Foods grocery store, was “You’re going to stay here, right? You’ll be here when I get back?”
I do believe that, when she took her leave from me, she really did intend to come back. At the point that I shot this video, I was walking up to the big Mission Hospital in Asheville to look for her.
She actually did come back again several days later and spent five more days in the van – and then took off again. It seemed clear that – on that second occasion also – when she left the van, she really did intend to come back.
This second time I have not managed to find her. I grieve for her every day.￼￼
She told me one day that her mother wanted her to go off for residential treatment for her drug abuse. I knew that, in her fragile state, there was no way she could tolerate the structure of the 30-day treatment program – even a very benign one.
Yesterday’s show on the NPR 1A program – about the horrors that go on at some of these residential treatment programs – has left me even more worried about her.￼