A black man mumbled to himself constantly, a conversation with no one but his alter ego. He was a schizophrenic. Not far away, another young man simply stood and stared at the staff member at the check-in desk. He was mentally retarded and a kleptomaniac. There was no way to tell what he was thinking, he spoke no words, standing like an immobile statue and unblinkingly staring for over an hour now. In the back of the stinking, hot and nasty warehouse two black men, a Mexican and a caucasian were arguing with each other in loud threatening voices. Two of those men suffered from Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD), an ongoing pattern of anger guided disobedience, hostilely defiant behavior toward authority figures.
The most common ailment at Aurora’s shelter was an almost unanimous and over-whelming self-centeredness. It was common to hear a person’s initial reply to a request be, “Fuck you and everyone else here” as they refused to behave themselves in preference to doing whatever suited them alone. So, perhaps the most prevalent mental disorder was Antisocial Personality Disorder (ASPD), a personality disorder characterized by a pervasive pattern of disregard for, and violation of, the rights of others.
Many tried to sleep, starting as early as 8pm, right after supper. Perhaps they were tired, so retiring early, but for many, sleeping was better than facing their miserable existence. They managed with various success to ignore the reverberating noise coming off of brick walls and the soot covered metal roof above them. Scores of people talking, shouting, laughing, arguing, moving, opening lockers, eating, snoring, or even pissing near their bunks made it nearly impossible to sleep. Most of the shelter’s ‘guests’ waited patiently in the sweltering building or outside for lights out. It wouldn’t be until 9pm when the female population of the shelter had to leave the supper area that men had a chance to go to bed or relax. When they did so they’d strip to their briefs or boxers nearly naked in an effort to stay cool in the oven like building in which they were being housed.
Many of those at the shelter were drunks, drug-users and heavy smokers. As a result, some suffered from Acute Organic Brain Syndrome, a state of mental impairment resulting from intoxication, drug overdose, infection, pain, and many other physical problems. Some were epileptics, suffering seizures on a regular basis. Others were diabetics. Some had pacemakers in them as a result of bad heart problems. Others had broken bones from fights and falls, usually from drunkenness but sometimes foolish activity. A good number were diagnosed having Bipolar Disorder, swaying daily from hyperactive and manic behavior to sulking depression that sometimes ended in suicide attempts. Nearby a fat young boy, homeless at eighteen, who was known to be an ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). Obsessive–compulsive disorder (OCD) was present a good handful of cases and reared it’s ugly head.
In short, most of the insanities that human kind suffered were present in this shelter in a condensed microcosm of humanity. What they all had in common ‘Normal’ people spent little time addressing such problems as mental disorders for homeless or poor people, since that would require too many resources and costs. Aunt Martha’s, a charitable health program, offered limited medical help with its’ small staff, but no mental help. The usual result of a visit to Aunt Martha’s services was a prescription of pills. Homeless, maladjusted folk found themselves crowded into each other in a mentally and physically unhealthy, stressful environment which accentuated their ailments and gave them new problems.
Admiral Nano observed it all in detail, analytically considering what it implied about human society. This nation of the United States declared itself the most successful, richest country in human history to this date. Some citizens were critical of this claim in the face of the poor economy, corporate scandals, political bias, joblessness and homelessness. But nearly all Americans were treating this lowest echelon of society as something worthless, to be ignored as if it had no bearing on their own welfare and well-being. Despite their taxes being used in greater amounts yearly to keep their fellow citizens from starving to death in large numbers, they pretended it wasn’t important or related to their own everyday lives. The truth is that homelessness was growing and driving many problems to become worse. People from all sectors of society were finding themselves homeless now. Laid off, homes foreclosed, ripped off by poor banking practices, socialistic politics subtly creating a larger lower class so the government can put people on the dole to control them, wall street abuse, etc., many were falling out of the middle class into poverty in historic numbers.
This was the kind of activity that Nano knew preceded the death of nations, societies, cultures and sometimes even resulted in the extinction of a species. He’d seen it many times in many places. It had happened on Earth uncounted times already, but history was never appreciated and learned from except by a few whom the masses ignored or misjudged or mistrusted because knowledge by a few intimidates the ignorant majority. From the Sumerians to the Egyptians to Romans to Napoleon, from pagans to the Catholic church to Protestants, humankind consistently ignored history. So, what did this have to do with homelessness? A society was as strong as the weakest link and when that link was too weak, empires and cultures broke apart, crumbled. Perhaps something would jolt the attitudes of mankind, wake them up to the impending failure of taking their fellow human beings for granted or squabbling over issues which stalled their species’ progress into the future.
Today, sitting with the homeless, it didn’t seem likely.