Skip to main content

Not everyone in a homeless shelter has a mental illness, but many of the individuals staying there do. Ms. Williams was diagnosed with schizophrenia when she was 28, and has been hospitalized three times since. In her late 30s now, she spent nine months of the past year living in a homeless shelter.

Well, I’ve got paranoid schizophrenia, of course. It doesn’t let me think clearly without my meds. And basically I don’t think as clearly with my meds as I did before I was diagnosed. Before I thought a whole lot more rational. Now I question my thinking and hope it is rational.

When I was sick, I was very paranoid, thinking people are seriously out to get me, to hurt me or harm me in some sort of way. It wasn’t true, but it was a hurtful feeling, those thoughts. I was trying to fight them, thinking it wasn’t true, but the thoughts were still there.

I stopped taking my medicine, and by not taking my medicine, I made some very bad choices–not thinking realistically. My thought process was not clear. I was under pressure to find a place to stay. Not being on my medicine made it hard. I was evicted, and went to a shelter. It was a hard place to be. I wanted to stay on my medications so I could get out of there, for myself and for my kids. My kids are my main motivation to keep myself together.

Going to the clinic has been helpful. I learned some things about my illness I didn’t know. It brought a different light to what was going on.

I’m thankful for having my own place now. What I’d say [to others experiencing homelessness] is that it may take time, but if you are serious about doing what you are supposed to do, it will happen. I had to apply for Section 8, I had to look for my own place. I had to do some legwork on my own.

If I had diabetes, I would feel sad, but I’d feel normal, like everybody else. With schizophrenia, you feel different. It’s something you can’t help, but people just don’t view it the same as a normal illness that people can deal with. If somebody had cancer, they would say, ‘Aw, you have cancer,’ they would sympathize. People don’t want to deal with people who have schizophrenia. I know that people, if I’m on my meds, might not be able to tell that I have a mental illness. But once they find out I have to take meds to maintain my sanity, they view me differently. I don’t understand why you have to treat me differently. It’s just a disease.

I’m a devoted mother, determined to maintain a normal life, not trying to hurt nobody, a humanitarian at heart, suffering from something I don’t necessarily want to be suffering with, but trying to deal with it. I am proud of my kids because they are good kids. I’m really thankful for them. I’m proud that we finally did get out of the shelter and we’re maintaining okay.