Her thick wavy hair was pulled back in a puffy pony tail and her face was plain without any make-up. No lipstick, no earrings, nothing. She was dressed in a T- shirt and slack fitting blue jeans. She appeared to be about thirty years of age.
Lucille was interviewing for one of Hyacinth’s Place affordable housing units in this supportive living program. The interviewing team explained the criteria for residency. “You must be homeless and you must have a mental health diagnosis.” Her face turned bright red. “Oh!” She said, “I live in the shelter but I am not mentally ill ….so I don’t have a diagnosis.”
Having received the referral from a licensed social worker at the shelter, we decided to follow through with the interview. Less than five minutes in, when asked a simple, non-intrusive question, Lucille just sat quietly while her huge eyes welled up and the tears began to flow. Once that flood gate opened, there was no stopping it.
This has been our only interview where the candidate spoke to us from beginning to end through tears. Lucille was the oldest of four girls from a middle-class suburban family. She was the only unmarried daughter. Her sisters all had the white picket fence homes, husbands, kids, and ‘perfect lives’. Her mother was a retired airline employee who had moved out of state after Lucille’s alcoholic father died.
Lucille held three different well-paying jobs over the years. One was with the federal government and she had her own apartment in a high end neighborhood. She walked out of all three because whenever confronted with a challenge she would hear voices. One was her mother’s, and she would be yelling, “I’m working this crappy job so you will never have to take crap from anybody!”
When asked if she was ever abused, Lucille’s tears were her answer, the words could not pass her lips. We decided to end the interview. The social worker slipped her a card and said, “Please go to this address, they will give you your diagnosis.”
Lucille was admitted to our program. After one year she stabilized emotionally and she is now in the final phase of completing a very intensive training program which promises to place her in an internship and then a job.
Urla, executive director