Homeless brother


I have four brothers (no sisters) and one of my brothers is now homeless due to severe mental depression and alcohol use. He’s had these problems most of his adult life (now at 48 yrs old) and lost a marriage and child custody because of it. He has a very hard time holding down a job, always gets into fights (and says they were accidents) and is now living on the streets. My whole family has tried through the years to help him both financially (getting him apartments, money for food/clothing, etc.), general assistance (driving him to appointments, job interviews, jail bonds, etc.) and emotional assistance (sitting with him during severe breakdowns). I feel we’ve tried everything possible including many, many prayers yet I still feel a sense of guilt for him being homeless. We cannot have him stay at our house because of his violent drinking bouts and I fear for the safety of our teenage daughter. Our parents cannot take him in for similar reasons (drinking). Same for all the other brothers. We all agree we cannot take him in. There are few shelters in our city and he doesn’t want to go to one anyway. But I cannot shake the guilt of him being out on the streets. He visits the local VA hospital (he’s a veteran) and we’ve explained to them his problems. They want to help but budget cuts have trimmed many of their programs. He’s now threatening suicide which he’s done in the past but now he’s set a timetable for it. Every agency we’ve called says they cannot force him to get help, he first has to try suicide, and fail, or hurt someone else and get mental health help in jail.

I just don’t know if our whole family, as Christians, are required to do more for him now that he’s homeless. We all feel we’ve tried everything and now feel helpless and he spirals down.

I apologize if this seems more of a rant. I’ve read much of this site and there seems to be somebody that’s experienced what other people have. I guess I’m hoping someone here has had similar experiences and can give me advice. Am I failing in my Christian responsibilites???

Pax Christi,




I am so sorry your family has to go through this. Remember that your brother is an individual and has free will. It is actually his choice to be homeless and abuse alcohol. Yes, he may have a disease and among them are depression and or bi-polar or other mental illnesses but it is still his choice to not get or use the help that is available to him.

If you know where he lives in the streets you can give him food and blankets for right now that is all he needs and it will still show your love for him.

Continue to pray for him and if you can, listen to Fr. Corapi’s story. It sounds much like that of your brother and now he is one of our best speakers and apologists out there.

Brenda V.


No, Simon, you are not failing your brother. Ilike Brenda’s idea of blankets and food. Please don’t give him money, and please don’t jeopardize your family’s safety by letting your borther live with you, no matter the guilt.


In the US there are social services available to help people with difficulties. These are supported by your tax dollars which are part of the system which replaces the Levitical system of tithes. Thus by paying taxes to support these programs you are fulfilling your duty to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and shelter the homeless. There are also the diocesan social services programs which are supported by the monies you contribute each week in the collection basket at church. If these things are all you can currently manage in the way of helping your brother, let it suffice.
Continue to pray for him, but he is responsible for his own life. You are not.



Simon, forgive me, but you sound like a family of enablers. You might consider going to some Al Anon meetings to get some advice. Everyone there has been in similar situation.

God bless you. I’ll be praying for you, your family, and of course, your brother.


This must be a terrible situation to be in…
Your brother receives his health care through the VA system? Try to contact the local Veteran’s Service Organizations Representatives (VFW, AM-Vets, DVA - they should have an office and hours at the VA medical center near you and they are Veteran Volunteers that can help you navigate the system and get the help you need) and ask for help reviewing his claim as to how much of his problems are “service connected.” The VA is here to help all veterans. Veterans are America’s heroes…Keep pushing til your brother gets the help he needs and deserves. The hardest part is that your brother has to be willing to work with the system. Ask for all the tests you can think of especially PTSD. The VA hosp. where I work has inpatient, locked psych, transitional shelters, substance abuse programs, PTSD inpatient help.
I’ll be praying for you!


Simon, I understand much of what you’re feeling. MY son, who’s now 23, spent his 20st year homeless, sometimes living in a broke-down van, sometimes living under a bridge.

We would go look for him in the slums of a nearby city, bring him food, blakets, socks, shoes, whatever we thought he needed. But never money. WE were certain that ours would NEVER be the twenty bucks that funded an overdose. NEVER.

How could parents alow for this to happen to their own beloved, beautiful, intelligent son? He was heavilly into drugs. He knew he could come home any time he wanted, according to this criteria: long term treatment, employment afterward, random drug testing. He always refused. Whenever we’d find him, we always drove home in tears. His little sisters and brothers didn’t understand why we couldn’t “just get him.” Free will is so hard to contend with. Free will mangled by addictions is a terror.

The guilt? The guilt was like a disease. Our only peace came from this: every tidal wave of guilt we suffered, we’d give it back to God. We’d offer it up for our son’s conversion. We’d prayerfully remember how sad God is to offer us so much grace and healing and how often we refuse his love. In this, we had a deeper understanding of how often God’s love is refused. The other thing was this: I asked Jesus to accept every one of my tears as a seperate prayer for our son. In that way, I was in prayer very often.

After his homelessness, he was missing for 17 months. That was worse than anything. Private investigator, John Doe searches in morgues-- that was the worst. About 18 months ago, we found him again. MySpace, go figure.

He’s been working and paying rent on a sleeping room for almost a year and a half. He still needs rehab, but he’s not nearly as much a wreck as he was. We saw him last year at Lent and he came home this week for EASTER!!! He was here with us for 4 days!!!

THe prayers never stop.

Maybe this helped? Never stop praying.


I agree with not aiding in his addiction with $.

If he has a plan, means to accomplish his plan and has set a timetable-try to get him to an ER where he can be evaluated by a physician and a psychiatric intake coordinator.

If he is unwilling to go you can call local law enforcement who can obtain an EOD, this may be called something different where you live, but it puts him in law enforcement custody to ensure evaluation to assertain if he is a threat to himself or others.

Keep in mind if he is under the influence many psyc facilities will not accept him until the alcohol and/or drugs have cleared his system so he would be admitted to the hospital until this time, then transferred to the unit/facility.

It sounds like you love your brother deeply, he is blessed to have you.

My prayers go out to you & your brother. :gopray2: :console:

PS Be sure to tell the triage nurse, physician and intake coordinator of his plan, means and time table and how you were made aware of these things.


I agree that you need to try something like this suggestion. It will probably involve involuntary committment - you may have to get him declared psychologically incompetent.

As for his “free will” let me just say that I am bi-polar and was once hospitalized for suicidal depression, my father killed himself and my half brother drank himself to death by age 51 - mental illness removes your free will. The concept of free will assumes one has full control of their faculties. Mental illness robs you of that control. I say this not because I want you to feel guilty (there was nothing I could do about my half-brother’s drinking, for example) but I did recognize that he was unable to help himself. Nor was my dad in his “right” mind when he killed himself. So don’t feel guilty when you can’t “reason” with someone who is not mentally compared to do so, but don’t blame them either.

God be with you.


IMO there’s a time component to being an enabler or otherwise.

This situation is similar to my family. My H used to give me earfuls from day one of my brother’s troubles becoming apparent about the brother making his bed and letting him lie on it, to the point where we all eventually told him to belt up. (Actually, “go to blazes” was what Dad said! We are all, however, still speaking to each other but the point needed to be made at the time.)

So I’ve been though some “enabler” talk in my own home. My parents knew about free will and that they couldn’t force treatment but what sort of parents would decide on day one right up front not to try the things OP mentions, before even seeing whether a helping hand would point him in the right direction? Families might need to work through the options before in good conscience deciding that going further makes them “enablers”. It’s not a decision that everyone can make quickly and it seems that OP and his family have drawn lines and stuck to them. He clearly feels “guilty” as it is, imagine what they’d be going through if they hadn’t tried all the things they have?

sbriton, as mentioned we have one in the family too and one other was doing his damndest to head the same way for a while so it’s something my dad and I (as “the strong men” in the family, as he used to put it!) discussed a fair bit. “Not guilty, Your Honour.”


Having recently been through the VA’s Suicide Prevention Training, I looked this info up for you:

Suicide Prevention Awareness

Suicide is the 11th most frequent cause of death in the US: someone dies from suicide every 16 minutes. Suicidal ideas and attempts to harm oneself are the result of problems that may seem like they can’t be fixed. Together, Vet Centers and VA Medical Centers stand ready to reach out and help veterans at risk for suicide. Seek professional help…Call the toll-free National Suicide Prevention hotline and indicate you are a veteran. You’ll be immediately connected to VA suicide prevention and mental health professionals. We can help-- If you feel you are in Crisis–Call the Suicide hotline (1-800-273-TALK), your local VA Medical Center or Vet Center today!
Suicide Prevention Letter from the Under Secretary of Health

Suicide is not the answer

Are you, or someone you love, at risk of suicide? Get help if you notice any of the following:

* Talking about wanting to hurt or kill oneself
* Trying to get pills, guns, or other ways to harm oneself
* Talking or writing about death, dying, or suicide
* Hopelessness
* Rage, uncontrolled anger, seeking revenge
* Acting in a reckless or risky way
* Feeling trapped, like there's no way out
* Saying or feeling there's no reason for living

Hope this helps! I do agree…bring him food, blankets, clean clothes, prepaid phone cards so he can call you from a pay phone…try to stay in contact…you may be his “lifeline.” Do not give him money! Do not bring him into your home…try to get him into treatment. Medication, properly administered, not drugs and alcohol, along with therapy may be the key to bringing your brother “home”.


If he is unwilling to go you can call local law enforcement who can obtain an EOD, this may be called something different where you live, but it puts him in law enforcement custody to ensure evaluation to assertain if he is a threat to himself or others.

This is almost impossible to do unless he’s physically violent. In our state there are seven criteria to be deemed mentally incompetent. When the mental health outreach workers would interview him (always at our insistence) my son could identify the days of the week, identify himself, etc., He failed the criteria only on ***self-care ***. They wouldn’t help him-- no 72 hour psych evaluation, no resources.


He clearly feels “guilty” as it is, imagine what they’d be going through if they hadn’t tried all the things they have?

I agree with this so much. After giving our kid cars, getting him jobs, paying for school, writing and rewriting contracts, rewriting them again… etc. we finally got to the point of realizing we were hurting him and hurting our other kids, too.

but there comes a line that lots of people cross, the line of enabling. just like the addict, we can be addicted to helping them.

Give a man a fish, he’ll eat for a day. Give a man a fish who doesn’t ***want ***to learn to fish, and he’ll learn to like fish. He’ll manipluate for them, guilt trip for them and steal them if he has to. You can only teach a man to fish when he’s ready to learn to fish.


Sorry for the confusion-sometimes my hands are slower than my brain.

The EOD is an emergency order of detention, it ‘detains’ (actually LE cuffs and escorts) the person to obtain the eval, which may find that there is no problem that can keep them on the EOD they would then be released. If found by the ER physician to have no medical condition to cause their problem and found by the intake coordinator to be a threat to self or others they would remain in custody (EOD) until delivery to an ordered inpatient psyc unit.

If someone has a suicide plan, the means to implement the plan and a timetable for implementing the plan they are definitely a threat to themselves.

Means is a broad term-say someone threatened to OD on benadryl. He has no benadryl, but he lives within walking distance from a store and has $5 in his pocket and says he would go buy it. He has means.
Say he says he will hang himself from a rope, but does not have a rope and does not have the mental capacity to communicate how he would obtain the rope, he does not have means. (even though rope is easily attainable for the average joe, it is unattainable for him)
Unfortunately those who have been in the system (mental health system) have often learned to work the system. The main reason I added for the OP to notify everyone in the ER process of his plan, means and timetable & how he was made aware of them. It’s one thing for a pt to skirt a question from an intake coordinator like “you family is concerned you may hurt yourself, what do you think?” response “I would never do that, I don’t have any idea why they would think that.” As opposed to “Your brother says you told him you would end your life on/by xx/xx/xx, by taking a xxxxx and xxxx. Do you have xxxxx & xxxx?” pt “I have xxxxx but no xxxx.” IC “How would you get xxxx? What would you do if you got the xxxx?”

Issues of mental health and suicide are so not PC that many people are very tenative about speaking up in triage or even to the MD about these things and they wait until the IC gets into the room, all the IC has before they go into that room is what the MD and nurses chart or tell them.

I hope that helps


This is very true. In Illinois, it is harder to commit a person than it is to do just about anything legal.


Thanks for all the input. My wife took my brother to a scheduled VA appointment today and they put him first on the list for a bed in their in-patient recovery program. Hopefully, that will become available in the next week or two. He was supposed to go in today but a young man just home from Iraq and with severe mental problems took priority.

To respond to a couple suggestions that were made regarding having him involuntarily commited, we’ve tried that. We tried to have him Baker Act’ed which means if he’s a danger to himself or others then the cops can keep him, but only for 72 hours. The problem is that he is an excellent liar and deceiver and was able to talk his way out of it by saying we were over-reacting to his drunken talk. He also lies regularly to his VA doctors so they now allow my wife to sit with him during meetings so she can prompt him to tell the truth. That’s what’s enabled him to get on the list for the treatment center. I guess I should also note that my wife is the only person he will talk to as he feels the rest of the family hates him and doesn’t want anything to do with him. She doesn’t enable him tho, doesn’t give him anything, just a ride to the VA and back to the park where all the city’s homeless live.

Without writing pages and pages of stuff I can say that we’ve tried just about everything suggested. The jail won’t keep him longer than his sentences and the doctor there is pretty bad (in the newspaper a lot). The VA and other support places are so overburdened (we have hundreds like my brother living on the streets here) and under-funded (massive budget cuts the past 6 months) that they cannot always offer a bed. And he won’t have anything to do with support groups unless it’s the kind gathered in the park with alcohol.

Anyway, thanks again and please pray that he gets into the program very soon. He’s hanging on by a thread.




Our worst fears came true today when my brother tried to kill himself with pills and alcohol. Thankfully, my wife went to visit him in the park where all the homeless hang out and found him just as he took some pills. She got him to go to the VA hospital with her. To make a long story short (a lot happened in between) he’s at the hospital now, asleep after getting pumped out. The VA police said they would Baker Act him which would keep him there for 72 hours. I hope and pray this is a wake-up call for the VA who constantly promise to get him in as a patient but never follow through. My brother had over 2 dozen full pill bottles with him, all prescribed by VA doctors. That is another issue to be addressed.

Please pray that my brother gets admitted to the hospital as a mental patient. It is his only hope!



Prayer for your brother!

Brenda V.


Sending up prayers for you, your brother and your family.
God be with yous


Just wondering how your brother is doing and you as well, you are in my prayers

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