Brainpower Helps In Hard Times


The current litany is “The economy is bad and I need more money just to get by.” Patients tell me they are about to get evicted or starve to death.  I know nothing about benefits or their politics, except that governmental entities have no money either and this route is harder.

A lot of people seem to think that their lives would be better if they were plugged into a job that fit them as well as a plaster cast fits a fracture.  But instead, they usually tell me there are no jobs at all.  I try to slip in a little bit of useful advice, but obviously personal experience is limited.  I don’t even have a really good answer for the patients who say “you have a job.  Lucky you.  You can’t understand what I am going through.”

There are patients who amaze me with their resourcefulness.  Mostly, the manics or hypomanics; depressed people seem more likely to get “stuck.”

For homelessness, the ideal solution seems to be family.  Robert Frost said something in a poem a long time ago about home being the place where they have to take you in.

People should try to pay a reasonable rental fee for their space, whether this be in cash or services rendered.  Once there is a foot in the door, don’t be underfoot.  Stay out of the way of the household and it’s problems — maybe going to a public library during the day is a good idea.

There are other ways to find someone to take them in.  Best idea is to make a list of characteristics you share with other people.  People who share your profession, lodge or church membership.  Always make it clear that you will give all you can and that the time will be minimized; maybe line up a few places, to be, sequentially.

Just as an aside, I was far from homeless — living with my parents — when I was travelling the U.S. looking for residency spots. In pretty much every city I visited, I was a house guest of one or another alumnus of the Beaver Country Day School.  My folks paid the plane fare. I called people in the alumni directory and told them my situation; made a lot of friends.  There were mostly women much older than me, delighted with my company and anecdotes and telling them how Beaver had changed since they had been there.

Generating cash may be a bit more difficult.  Everybody’s first thing to try is to sell anything and everything possible.  Nostalgia is too darned expensive. No matter what article we are talking about, chances are somebody is looking for it on eBay.  If you are not into that, garage sales abound; find a friend to do it with you.  Try your neighbors. Worst they can do is say no.  Try barter.

Not everyone will want or be willing to buy things you think are precious. Try selling services.  I have seen patients make coupons good for doing errands or shopping for a certain period of time, dog walking, or cleaning or whatever.  Amazingly enough, I have had patients selling services including drawing portraits of folks, giving foreign language lessons and practice, arts and crafts lessons and products.

Some people sell things that do not yet exist, but you have to be careful here. I remember the patient who, each time he ran out of  money, went to a local restaurant and promised them free paper placemats.  Then, he sold local businesses advertising space on the placemats and had them printed up for a low fee, pocketing the tidy profit. He had done this about a dozen times in his lifetime before I knew him.

Never give up; never surrender.  Just open your brain.

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