Miss Pat

Ms. Pat and her dog, Blackie, have lived in the woods and on the streets of Arlington, Texas for many years. Miss Pat was sent to an asylum by her family when she was a child, when she reached the age of eighteen, she was released – to the street. Miss Pat is approximately 59 years of age although she appears to be 20 years older. 

She is an alcoholic who suffers from depression, and has not had contact with her family for many years.  As her alcoholism worsened, 911 calls became a common occurrence. Not only did the City and its citizens incur the cost of police and detention services for Miss Pat, but also incurred costs associated with animal control for her beloved friend, Blackie. 

The Arlington Housing Authority, in response to a referral, assisted Miss Pat to locate a suitable privately-owned apartment for herself and her pet.  Although Miss Pat was able to occupy a safe, decent, affordable furnished apartment, Miss Pat had been chronically homeless for so many years that she no longer remembered the life skills necessary to adapt to her new environment. 

Miss Pat would park her shopping cart, overflowing with dumpster treasures, next to her neighbor’s vehicles in the parking lot of her new apartment. A lack of housekeeping skills resulted in an infestation of bugs.  Miss Pat had to be taught to bathe on a regular basis, and was in need of medical care for a gangrene infection in her foot. 

The intervention strategy with Miss Pat is an example of the “Housing First” model of addressing the needs of chronically homeless individuals. Only after Miss Pat’s most critical need for housing was stabilized was she able to begin to address the other areas of her life that need attention. It has been several years now since Miss Pat and Blackie have moved from the woods to an apartment.

Calls to 911 are virtually non-existent because Miss Pat no longer panhandles in business parking lots. When she drinks it is in the privacy of her own home. She lives in a safe, clean environment and receives the critical care she needs. Having a safe place to call home is something every citizen needs.  This case reflects current research that demonstrates that it is far more economical to address homelessness than to ignore it; and it is the humane and right thing to do.