Shining a light for a man in dark despair

March 03, 2006|By DAN RODRICKS

This is for Jim, who called here the other day. I won't use the last name you left on The Sun's voice-mail system because I haven't been able to speak with you. It doesn't matter. You know who you are. There's only one person who called 410-332-6166 this week to say he was going to take his own life.

If you haven't done what you said you were going to do, Jim -- and I don't think you have because the state medical examiner, for one, doesn't list anyone by your name among the dead of the last few days -- call me back. This time leave a number.

If it's a job you need, we'll try to help you.

But it sounds like you need more than that. Here's the message you left the other day, in a halting voice, fatigued and close to cracking:

"Hello, Mr. Rodricks. My name is Jim. ... It's February 28th. I'm a 57-year-old white male and I've worked my entire life. A soldier ... a father ... a husband.

"I got involved with drugs when I was 55 years old. I've been clean for a year. I don't know what to do. I've just got back with my wife four months ago, and everybody's coming down around me.

"I never took any money from the state, I never asked for food stamps, I've never asked for help. I never asked for anything. I went through a month at Shoemaker [Center, in Sykesville]. I spent six months at a halfway house, the Friendship House on South Hanover Street. I am clean and ... I can't find work.

"We're about to lose our home. We're about to lose everything.

"I'm gonna take my life today.

"And ... I don't know exactly how or where, but I am going to die today.

"My wife is a wonderful, wonderful, wonderful, wonderful woman and I have a stepdaughter who is absolutely a gem of a person. And ... I'm at my wits' end. My wife is working ... trying to keep everything afloat, and I can't watch her do this anymore.

"I can't get my driver's license back. I can't get a job. I can't do anything.

"I've tried so very, very hard and I don't know what to do. And I figured this is the only way out.

"My wife is a wonderful person. She works ... um, I just ... I apologize. This is lengthy and ... I read your columns. I've read them since ... anyway, thanks. Do what you can do. Tell the people in the legislature to get off the stem cell research and take the money ... "

And what?

Increase funding -- beyond the relatively inconsequential increase in the Republican governor's proposed budget -- so that addiction-riddled Baltimore can offer drug treatment on demand?

Build a public hospital just for drug addicts?

Expand offender re-entry services in the Maryland prisons instead of stifling them, as the Democratic-controlled legislature did last year and may again?

Subjects for another day, Jim.

Right now, you need some help.

Call me or call the 24-hour mental health hot line of Baltimore Crisis Response Inc. at 410-752-2272. Come on. Don't sit there in the dark. Reach out again and get some help. Don't give up.

Homeless man

Charles, the 36-year-old homeless man who collapsed on snow-covered railroad tracks in Harford County after the big storm of Feb. 12, has been moved to a long-term psychiatric care facility on the Eastern Shore.

Charles had been hospitalized at Upper Chesapeake Medical Center in Bel Air after Jim Fielder, the Maryland secretary of licensing and regulation, found him on CSX tracks near Fielder's home along U.S. 40. Eighteen inches of snow had fallen overnight, and Charles' only shelter apparently had been a highway bridge. He told paramedics who responded to the scene that he took prescription medication for schizophrenia.

A few days after his release from Upper Chesapeake, Charles was back in the hospital, this time Harford Memorial in Havre de Grace. He called me from there to say thanks to the numerous readers who had called or written The Sun to express concern or offer a donation.

Charles said he had been homeless for about 18 months after walking away from a group home. "I couldn't get along with the people there anymore," he said.

In and out of various shelters, he landed under the Route 543 overpass the night of the big snowstorm.

Since then, he's been in warm and dry places, which makes him several degrees luckier than a lot of people who are either chronically or episodically homeless. (Health Care for the Homeless vice president Kevin Lindamood says state records show that Maryland shelters turn away as many homeless people as they take in, and state funding for emergency and transitional shelters has been flat-lined for three fiscal years.)

"I'm doing better now," Charles said. A caseworker, he said, was working on finding him permanent housing.

Here's hoping Charles has spent his last night under a bridge.

Success story?

LaFawn Weaver, the former drug salesman profiled in this space on Feb. 12, reports two prospects in his hunt for a job -- salesman at a car dealership and loan officer at a mortgage company. We can't say which position he took. Yesterday, we couldn't reach LaFawn during the middle of the day at his mother's house -- and I hope that's a sign he's a 9-to-5 man now.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.