a special message from the director of
Upper Room of Erie, a homeless shelter

Which is best: Health and safety or freedom?

Not long ago I had a rare experience at the Upper Room. A guy we had been working with for some years finally showed signs of turning around. He had his hair cut and beard trimmed. We put him in clean clothes, and he looked like a million. I was thrilled that perhaps we had made a difference. Then we didn't see him for a while.

One day he came back, still looking good, telling that he now had a place and was doing well. We were thrilled, thinking that perhaps medications and perhaps a case manager and a payee were responsible. He didn't like questions.Then we didn't see him again for some weeks until he showed up after we had closed. He wasn't looking so good but said he still had his place and was just visiting.


Sean looking good.

Then he started appearing again, but this time we got some phone calls looking for him...and it turns out that his "place" was some kind of supervised treatment facility, and he had walked away. When he did came in, we called the facility, but they seemed to be no longer interested. Then several days later we got a call from the Hamot emergency department . They were treating him but were reluctant to release him, because the psychiatrist on duty didn't think he would take his meds. So, they were trying to find a place to send him where he would be looked after. They called us for ideas, and we had none. So with great reluctance the nurse said they would have to release him on his own...back to his old way of life.

Its a situation we have struggled with previously. Do you have a person committed to a facility so he would be taken care of but deprived of his freedom, or do you leave him alone? Which is most important? To let him be free to live however he wants to, however he can, or to have him committed to a care facility so he would be clean and well-medicated...but a captive. Perhaps he would be able to live a more normal life but unable to live as he wished. Which is best: Health and safety or freedom?

We haven't seen him since.

Tom Schlaudecker
December 26, 2013

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