I have an update on R, the customer who was the subject of the previous two TIHATL posts: #35, a customer who refuses to be helped, and #36, a customer who needs so much more than a library can provide. As a friend said on Facebook, librarians, like teachers, are left to deal with the results of failed social and economic policies.
Staff and I were all worried about R. The December holiday season was days away, which meant social services and health care would be more difficult to access. Many people living marginal existences die during that time of year.
I visited an agency in town, one that serves as an umbrella organization for many services. They were very sympathetic and supportive, and directed me to the general mental health services for our region.
The mental health worker gave me two important suggestions.
One, I learned that the local mental health centre has a two-hour drop-in time every day. They said the slots fill up quickly, so folks are advised to get there early. I confirmed the (unmarked) location and noted the times.
Two, I learned that we can call the RCMP (i.e. the local police) and request an assessment. They will escort the person to the hospital, and speak to hospital staff to ensure that an appropriate assessment is done.
I don't know why I wasn't already aware of these options, but I was happy to add these new tools to my toolkit. My staff were so relieved, they were in tears. We agreed that one of us would walk R to mental health services (it's very nearby) and we would explain about the RCMP call.
I also learned that a doctor's prescription is required for the hospital or another agency to provide free adult diapers. One of our staff happened to have some that were purchased for a relative, but the wrong size, and they were happy to donate them. We put the package in a plain brown bag and determined that we would give it to R the next time we saw him.
Then we didn't see R again.
Days and then weeks passed, and he didn't come in. We speculated that the workers in the Salvation Army, who runs the overnight shelter, connected R with help. But we couldn't know, and we couldn't ask (confidentiality). So we kept an eye out for him, and we worried.
Then, in mid-February, R appeared. He was clean, clean-shaven, and had gained some weight. He told us he had spent a month in the hospital in the neighbouring town. One of our staff discreetly gave him the brown bag containing the adult diapers and he was grateful and appreciative.
Another customer brought in a warm winter jacket that he found in the thrift shop to give to R.
R is still without housing. He still lacks a hearing aid. He is still frustrated and upset by technology. But he's alive. He's eating, he's bathing, he has medication. He says hello to us, and to other people he knows who are also in the library. I think he has hope.