Thoughts on Starting Work With The Unhoused Population

Jade Scott
4 min readAug 1, 2022
Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

I have not started my job yet but I am writing this out as a hypothesis of sorts. I am terrified of starting work. I don’t know if it is some kind of deep Christian-raised Mother Teresa complex within me that motivated me to work with folks who are mentally unstable, formerly incarcerated, and navigating homelessness but here we are.

Tomorrow I start my orientation for a job that I am terrified of having. I am being honest here but I am doing this because I’m exhausted with feeling terrified.

In our city homelessness is the worst in the nation. I have friends from Lebanon who have told me that our streets in San Francisco look like a warzone. Sometimes they feel like one too. You get followed by folks navigating mental illness. Some people have gotten punched, stabbed, kicked, and bitten by people navigating drug crisis and mental illness and so much more. Our streets smell like urine, and we are always stepping over needles and other drug paraphernalia in order to get to work.

As a community in the city we all kind of just roll our eyes and expect to deal with it, but it seriously breaks my heart. It breaks all of our hearts I know. I think the callousness is due to a feeling of helplessness in these situations. We don’t know what to do. We don’t know how to respond to someone having a mental health crisis. Sometimes, someone's mental health crisis can cause such deep trauma for us that we don’t even have time to consider the other human being in question.

I am taking this job because I am studying to become a mental health professional. I also want to know what to do in these situations. I hate feeling so helpless on the train when someone who is having a mental health emergency can’t be talked down. I know the police are not the answer. They have no de-escalation training and they have no idea what to do.

I am taking this job because someone should have been there for my cousin in the street when she had an episode and jumped in front of a car.

In the past, I have worked with youth navigating homelessness and it has been a little easier to find housing for them (only a little). I have worked with youth with slight mental illness and who have had episodes that mirror my own past experiences so I know…

Jade Scott