Homelessness, Addiction and Hope

I haven’t written about my nephew Aaron in a while and I thought I would share a little more about his journey. The good news is that Cooper Hospital’s extended care program has been excellent in helping him extend his sobriety and in providing medical and psychological follow up care. I have seen first hand how positive they are toward him as well as how they also provide him with necessary guidance when he isn’t doing all that he should do.

He lost the cell phone that they provided to him and explained that he would have to replace the phone that he lost. I bought him another phone at Walmart (about $40.00) and we met with an LPN that assists him. She was caring and supportive, but also discussed how he missed the transportation set up to bring him into their office because the driver couldn’t reach him by phone to let him know he was at the motel. I explained that I wasn’t able to contact him to find out if he needed food or to give him his weekly money allowance because I couldn’t contact him. He shook his head in agreement and told us that he was upset with himself for losing the phone.

Less than three weeks later he lost another phone on the bus from Camden to his motel room. He was able to get someone to allow him to call me and tell me about this. He was desperate and told me he was out of food and money. It was snowing and he wanted me to come to Cherry Hill that evening. When he is desperate, his bipolar tendencies manifest themselves in pleading and negotiating with me. I calmly explained that I wasn’t going to drive in a snow storm and used the opportunity to discuss how losing another phone made his life more difficult. I could hear the person that lent him the phone asking him to hang up and give them their phone back. I told him that I would be at his motel room two days from our conversation at two o’clock and hung up.

That may seem harsh, but I didn’t create the problem and wasn’t able to drive 45 minutes each way until the day and time I told him. In addition to this, I had to get the food that he wanted. I had spent a lot of time with his counselors, Social Security and a bank to get his claim settled and become his representative payee. I have tried to explain how difficult and time consuming this was, and he told me how appreciative he was, but he still reacts like an impatient teenager that just happens to be 47 years old.

I drove to Cherry Hill to give him his food and we went to the Walmart that was near him to buy another phone and minutes for the phone. Without being preachy, but needing to make a point, I explained how this impacted both of us and how he needed to be more responsible with this phone, Now that his claim has been settled, I increased the amount of money that he gets weekly and set up my next visit. Less than a week later, and before the day and time scheduled, he begged me to meet him in Camden for his next doctor’s appointment and meet with his LPN / counselor.

It actually worked out well because Social Security started a re-review of his claim and they needed 12 pages of paperwork completed that also needed medical information. As I talked to him, I confirmed that he received his $600 stimulus payment in January and that he had spent it all. He had a lot of new clothes, but really couldn’t really explain how he spent all of the money. As we were leaving the office, he became very agitated and insisted that he didn’t have any money and was starving and had to get a prescription. This really concerned me because that was how he had acted when he was using drugs. I am not sure what to think and not sure what to do, but they do test him on a regular basis. This is not a short term process and is subject to change,

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I have a BA in Psychology and a teaching certificate as a Special Education teacher. I have a MA in Student Personnel Services and I recently retired from my position as a Guidance Counselor. I have been active on advisory boards concerning disability issues for over 25 years. I also have over 25 years of business experience in Human Resources and Operations Management.

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