Villa Fairmont, of course, is a locked group home for mentally ill people, run by Telecare Corporation. It’s easy to visit, but so very hard to get into as a place to live. I’ve spent less effort getting my other kids into college than I have spent getting D into Villa Fairmont.
I was leaving Villa Fairmont last night, having dropped off some samosas, hot dogs, pepsi and cigarettes for D and her friends and acquaintances there. A thin, well-dressed black lady in the parking lot asked if I knew the phone number of a cab company. She was wearing a “visitor” badge so I assumed she was the mother of a young inmate—many in their late teens and early twenties end up there after schizophrenia hits.
She borrowed my phone and pushed some buttons trying to look up a number on Google. I assured her my phone was unable to Google anything and we should ask the nurse’s station, which would surely have a number of a cab company. People leave Villa Fairmont once in a while, sometimes with relatives and sometimes in a cab. We went back into the building—there was a delay while she hungrily finished smoking her cigarette and tossed it—and the nurse at South Station told us she didn’t know the number of a cab company, we should Google it.
The lady said she wanted to go to Sausal Creek and I said I’d take her there because it’s three blocks from where I live. Problem solved? No. Walking back to the car, I realized this poor girl was a lot younger than I had thought—beautiful skin, a clean black stylish asymmetric cable sweater, carefully braided hair—and was part of that different world, because Sausal Creek (a government office that hands out prescriptions for antipsychotic meds if you wait around all day) is closed at 9 at night. They are open 9-5 weekdays at most. I had occasion to look into that on behalf of my friend at Villa. This girl—I’ll call her Takeena—must have heard of it as a place that takes care of schizophrenics, but there would be no help of any kind there until after Memorial Day.
When she retrieved a neat athletic bag and a big IKEA shopping bag overstuffed with clothes from the bushes, I realized she had no place to stay. And there is no place to stay at Sausal Creek. There’s an actual creek in that rather poor neighborhood, where cats sleep, but precious little flat ground for a person to sleep, and you would have to climb a fence, which I couldn’t see her doing with those clothes and that luggage.
I told her this and she said she wanted to go to Highland. Again, Highland is a place that takes care of schizophrenics, if you really push them to, they may send schizophrenics to John George, where they have a safe place to sleep. But again, there is no place to stay there.
I thought, of course about my house—if I lived by myself, and didn’t know what I know about mental illness, I would probably have offered her a night in the living room. She was calm and clean, her teeth and skin looked good (not ravaged by meth and homelessness), she wasn’t talking about being in a movie or having hundreds of thousands of dollars in a bank or being married to two men in other states, stuff I hear from D—but I knew enough to be wary.
I told her that if she wanted a place to stay I could drive her up to the back of Villa’s large, rather deserted medical complex, where I knew there were groves of trees, grassy fields, holes in the fence, and in general good conditions for passing the night undisturbed. I got no response.
She put her gear in the car and asked if I knew where Starbucks was, could I take her to a Starbucks. I told her I knew where about ten Starbucks were, there was one in the mall down at the bottom of the hill.
In the car she borrowed my phone again and called someone whose number she had memorized. “Do you have time to talk now? Oh, not now? That’s fine, I’ll call you later.” So sad. No doubt she was working up to asking for a place to stay, and the people at the other end didn’t want to get into that discussion. She put my phone back in the ashtray, and if the people at the other end called it back, they would never reach her.
The Starbucks was open—but mainly a driveup, catering to those unwilling to get out the car for a latte, in the corner of a giant parking lot, not ideally situated for homeless people. At least it had a little patio for her luggage.
As she got her bags together, she asked me if I had any spare money. I got $60 out of my wallet and folded it up and gave it to her and asked her to take care of herself.
Should I have? She might have spent it on meth, but obviously she had been outside a little while at least, a day, and hadn’t done meth that I could see. I suppose it would have paid for a single motel room—there are motels in that area, and a cab driver could have directed her to one. But in my experience homeless people consider motels a tremendous waste of money.
My wish is that Takeena borrowed someone else’s phone and finally found a friend or acquaintance that she hadn’t totally worn out with drama and didn’t want to sexually exploit her. Let’s hope so.
That’s just how my friend D might be when she gets out of Villa Fairmont—no phone, no plans, no money, everything in a bag, and all her friends sick and tired of her. The trouble with D is that she has learned that if you take meth, things will make sense for an hour or two. I fear when she gets out that she’ll get lost looking for some place she has been or heard of, and someone will offer her meth. It has happened before. I’m afraid she’ll be raped, lose her teeth, lose her health, lose her looks, as well as her mind. It’s worth avoiding. Too bad the County is doing as little as it can to avoid it.