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A couple of years ago, my husband’s father bought a condo near us, so he could spend half of the year here. He lives the other half of the year in France, where he is a citizen. When he and his wife arrive here every year, we help them with their cable bill, medical, insurance, property taxes, etc. They simply don’t know the ins and outs of getting things done in the United States.

I’ve never really thought about how things work in this country until I have had to try to explain them to someone who has never dealt with our “system.” The way we have things set up is extremely complicated.

I know that most people don’t live on the streets by choice, but some do, and others live in camps or trailers off the grid. Seeing how complicated we have made everything, from hooking up your television, to going to the doctor, it doesn’t surprise me that people don’t want to participate in any of it. Don’t even try to fill out the paper work and make a claim to disability or file your yearly taxes, those two things have become almost too complicated for the average individual to figure out on their own.

I can understand how easy it is for someone in a mental health crisis to go from having an apartment, to being homeless in less than a year. During a mental health crisis like psychosis there is no way I could participate in the “system” we have set up. I would be unable to figure out my insurance. I would be unable to figure out the ins and outs of banking. I would be unable to pay my bills online. I would be unable to be an advocate for myself in terms of bills, medical, pharmacy, etc. (I think some of this applies to the elderly, too, particularly those with memory issues).

It must be terrifying for caregivers of people with mental illnesses, learning disabilities, and the elderly, etc. to imagine what would happen to the people they care for if they were not around to help them find their way through the hoops and mazes we have to work through in order to have shelter, heat, food, and a way to pay for those things. We have not made the necessities of life easy for people to acquire and manage.

I know my husband worries that if something happens to him, and I have a crisis, that my life will quickly spiral out of control as bills go unpaid, insurance is lost, and the complicated system we have set up is too difficult for me to find my way through.

With so many pressing problems like gun violence, mental health treatment, terrorism, the deficit, etc. there is no way anyone is going to campaign to make the details of life simpler for those people who are most vulnerable, it just isn’t going to happen, but there is something people can do. If you see someone who seems to be struggling to pay their bills, do their banking, or buy their groceries, call Health and Human Services (Adult Services). An early intervention can keep someone safely in their home and get them the support they need.

Let’s agree to watch out for each other. You never know when you, or someone you love, will need the concern of a stranger to help you survive.