A Vent and Request for Advice


I am back for an update on my homeless, mentally ill, and drug addicted stepson. When I last posted, he had entered into a 30 day program at a local homeless shelter. The goals of the program were basically to provide short term housing while they looked for something more permanent, and ideally to get him working a job in some capacity.

He is coming to the end of his residency and as of this post, has not been kicked out. He has been doing drugs and becoming delusional on and off, in addition to refusing to take his medication for bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. One night during the week he left the shelter at 2:00am, leaving a note saying that he did not want to stay there anymore. He must have thought better of it and returned a few hours later.

He is ready to leave the shelter, which I understand. He became angry when my husband refused to buy him a tent and take him to a campground. Angrier still when he was told returning to our home or his mother's home were not an option. My husband has spoken extensively to the shelter and a few friends he has made there. They say he is not being mistreated or bullied in any way, but appears to be getting fed up with having to follow their rules and becoming dramatic about it.

The ACT program and the shelter are supposed to be securing him more permanent housing, but it is taking a while. The ACT folks get paid through Medicaid to case manage him, but are more often than not missing in action. I think my husband is feeling guilty about his son getting fed up with the shelter but as yet having no place to go. I agree that ACT has been dragging their feet, but have tried to emphasize that this whole situation is between ACT and my stepson. Even if ACT is being negligent, our son put himself in the homeless shelter with his choices, not us.

He only makes contact with his dad if he needs something - a ride, money, or to bring him something. My husband has been hung up on a few times for not allowing him to sell his possessions for a pittance - a $1200 kids motorbike for $200, a prized gold chain he was gifted at graduation, worth $500 but he wanted to sell it for $50. He sold the cellphone his mom pays for and was furious with her a few days later when she would not buy him a new one or continue to pay for a phone plan, his rationale being that he was forced to sell his phone because we would not give him $200.

I mention these details to illustrate the fact that my stepson has no desire to save for his future accommodation and living needs. If he ends up having to or deciding to leave the shelter before permanent housing is arranged, he will expect us to find him a place to live. My husband has been doing really well with putting the responsibility for this on my stepson up till now. I think he feels that if his son ends up on the street at this point, it will be because ACT is not doing their job, and therefore not something that my stepson is entirely responsible for. It is messing with my husband and pulling him back to a place he has worked really hard to move on from.

Questions for you guys :

1. Has anyone worked with the ACT program? What was your experience? Any tips on lighting a fire under them to get things moving?

2. What is our obligation to step in and help if ACT drops the ball completely and my stepson ends up sleeping in the park?
( I know this is down to us but would love some other perspectives. )

As always, I so appreciate the thoughts and feedback provided on this site and thank you for reading. Hugs to everyone. :)


Well-Known Member
Hi there. Sorry you have to go through this.

First if all, in my opinion this is really between your husband and his son. It isn't really up to you in my opinion. To get try to fix either person is enabling. This is where I am coming from. I'm in a 12 step group and no longer tell others what they should do unless it affects me as well. Then I can set a boundary, but I don't always like the other person's reaction to my boundary. Still, if I am at stake I will get involved. "I can't live here if Kay is here." Then see what happens.

My own opinion on this stepson situation is that if I had a child diagnosed with both bipolar and schizophrenia that is extremely serious. Schizophrenia is a very intense thought disorder that often causes losing touch with reality. Bipolar can do that too. This is not somebody who will probably be able to care for himself. I am not sure I would be able to let a person with schizophrenia just go out on the streets without trying to find a good placement. He is different from many of the difficult adults here. His functional limits are probably poorer. It would help if he would get help but often the mentally sickest don't even u derstand they are sick. So it doesn't hurt to try.

Like all adults, however, the adult child.may still leave the shelter that is found for him and become homeless. It's common. We all have heard about all the homeless mentally ill and they tend not to get street savvy. It's very sad, a bad situation for all.

in my opinion let your husband and stepson do what they need to do. Your stepson is not misbehaving. He is very ill. In the end, sadly he may well end up one of the lost homeless.

But in my opinion it should not be up to you. Your husband in the end will be the one facing endless regret if he doesn't do what he feels he should. There are support groups for parents of mentally ill kids. Try NAMI. Look it up.

Ok, none of this means that your stepson needs to come home. If you feel you can't handle it or that he is unsafe set that boundary. "I can't live here with Name here." There are places for disabled adults.

This is jmo. Like I said, I do 12 step and unless something involves myself I was taught.not to interfere. It works for me. So I put it out there.

You have a rough situation and I hope you can all find peace.


Thank you for your response. The type of housing being sought for my stepson is for people with disorders like his. We have become well versed on the subjects of schizophrenia and bipolar. We are working with an excellent therapist who specializes in counseling people with these disorders as well as their families. My husband and I are on the same side, with him taking the lead. All lines drawn with regard to my stepson have come from my husband. All I am doing is trying to be there for him and support his decisions and his own mental health. My stepson's mother finally had to make him leave her home also, and she does not have a significant other. I have heard of NAMI and will look it up. :) Thank you again.


New Member
Hi Mirabelle. It sounds like such a difficult situation.

I used to cope by learning and doing everything I could think of to support my family until I discovered that all my learning and doing did not help at all. I was so engaged with the dysfunction /mental illness /addiction that it made me sick too. I cared and supported myself into exhaustion. The kicker for me was that I was moving so fast and doing so much that others thought I was doing enough for all of us. I was a handy distraction from the hard stuff inside that is painful to deal with but that we all have to claim for ourselves. I swear, I think there were times that I moved so fast around some of my family members that they burned calories just because I was close by. Therapists couldn't see it because I was their dream client family member...organized, informed, advocating.

You may relate to this or you may not. In case you do, I would suggest connecting with a family support group to take care of yourself and your needs. Just for you. We are here exchanging wisdom because we have excruciatingly hard stories to live. We've all been blended, adopted, birthed or otherwise entangled in a deep love for a sick person. The damage radius is quite extensive in families like ours. It brings more peace than I can describe to be with people who get what you are going through, the fear, stress, loss, shame, frustration...and have learned to thrive anyway.

It saved me and my marriage to realize that the only one I could help was myself. The effects of others' addiction take a real toll. Please know that I respectfully offer my experience knowing that I don't know your whole story. I just resonate so with what you are describing that I wanted to share in case it might be helpful. Blessings!