I had a client once, let’s call him Walter.
That’s not his name but I think it fits him quite well.
Walter was one of the brightest men I’ve met in my years in homelessness and I had great respect and curiosity for him.
He had been arrested after assaulting his landlord because his landlord had wanted Walter to move out so that he could do the place up and charge more rent. It’s not very nice but it happens in all the places that people want to live. Gentrification is a quite shit for homelessness.
Walter wouldn’t budge and punched his landlord in the face. He then served 7 years in prison in part because he had undiagnosed schizophrenia. In lots of cases when people are that unwell they cannot bear the thought of being on bail. The paranoia at not having served the full sentence and having something hanging over him was too much to bear.
He should have served 2 years tops but he served the full 7.
We met when an outreach team picked him up on the streets of New York, I put him in a room on the ground floor of a 3 storey walk up in The Bronx. He did not like this much but it was preferable to the alternative and besides, we would eventually find him an apartment.
He read an article that suggested that vegetables had toxins in them and ended up in Bellvue Hosptial with the gout. It turned out he had thought the only safe food to consume was birdseed. I visited his room when he returned from hospital and his room was filled with canisters of it.
I had a hell of a time getting him to eat some broccoli.
In the end we came to an agreement, he couldn’t face preparing vegetables daily so he did so weekly; chopping them very finely and freezing them. That in combination with the odour of home made tippex (he was editing his memoirs by hand with a tiny paintbrush) was pretty potent and upset his neighbours but not as much as the occasional, loud, provocative noises he made to scare people away from his door.
He came to visit my office weekly and always brought with him his kitchen knives which were confiscated for the visit and then returned to him when he left (not my rule, personally I think it’s a good idea TO NOT GIVE THE KNIVES BACK but what do I know?). When asked he explained they were for preparing his vegetables.
We hadn’t found him his ideal apartment before I left that job. He didn’t want to live anywhere but Manhattan. Wide eyed Walter Meade, I hope he got his wish.