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Finding Home

“Homeward bound, I wish I was….” (Paul Simon) His name was Brian and he was homeless - or was he? In years past, whenever I did night shifts in the psychiatric emergency room, there was always a certain nervousness, an excitement inside me. You never knew who was going to show up. And so one night I met Brian. He was sent in by a psychiatrist who was doing research on the homeless. I was informed that this psychiatrist wanted him admitted to the hospital to help him find a home. It turned out that Brian was a very likable and engaging fellow: “I love my life, doctor. I love sleeping outside, being on my own. No one to tell me what to do. Look at you, with all your paperwork. Not the life for me. Please, doc, please, just let me go. Let me go home.” Brian was an intriguing young man. I should say that he did appear to have schizophrenia, as he would hear voices and had some delusional thoughts; he was also quite malodorous and disheveled. However, in my overall evaluation he came across as a more ‘sophisticated’ type of schizophrenic. He had been previously well educated and still had a good residue of world knowledge, still had moments where he could look outside himself. Brian also had sparkling blue eyes, a big beautiful scraggly beard and a perennial smile on his face. He told me he reads the Bible and prays everyday; that G-d wants him to be homeless, that he has a mission to help others who are homeless, that he is a coach for them. So what was I to do? The research psychiatrist wanted him admitted to the hospital but there appeared to be no criteria to justify this. Except for his hygiene, Brian passed his medical workup with flying colors. His tox screen showed no evidence of usage of drugs or alcohol. There were no issues of self-harm, no legal issues, no aggression, no suicidality, no homocidality. Unlike many of the homeless that I have met over the years, Brian was unique; he was undoubtedly home within himself. I realized that night that I was in the presence of a man, a soul, that clearly beat to a different drummer. We are all searchers, craving connection, looking for that place deep inside. It seemed that Brian, in his own way, had found it. As we wound up our conversation, Brian told me that no matter what I decide, he will always be free: “No one can take that away from anyone….not even you doctor.” He then asked me if I felt free. And then, once again, he asked me to please send him home. To his home. And that’s exactly what I did.

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