ESPN had excellent segment about homeless basketball player
ESPN’s E-60 had an excellent segment by reporter Shelley Smith July 30, 2017 about a woman who went from college basketball star to a schizophrenic homeless person. In 2000, Schuye LaRue was ACC Rookie of the Year at the University of Virginia. After her sophomore year she abruptly decided to turn pro and ended up going to Italy to play. After a brief time, she returns home to the Washington DC area to live with her mother.
It is the best depiction of a mentally ill homeless person I know of. The dialogue, especially, is realistic, capturing the twists-and-turns of conversing with someone mentally ill. The ESP E-60 segment should be used in classes and discussions of homelessness. Below this link, I write my reactions to seeing it.
(Note: I am not a trained social worker. I’ve read a lot of books and talked with lots of people.)
1. LaRue seemed to be on a steady path at UVA but then “just got tired of being there and wanted a change.” Later, she admitted that “leaving after her sophomore year was when her life began to change.
2. LaRue’s mother said her daughter was getting the treatment she need but then moved from one Maryland country to another county where her meds and treatment were discontinued. Often, a caseworker or program change or bureaucratic snafu is mixed in to a homeless person’s problems.
3. The initial conversations with a mentally ill homeless person seems almost normal and typical but a little weird (e.g. going for ice cream in the winter) and the listener often wonders “why is this person homeless?”
4. Many homeless people choose the freedom of being left alone to the confinement of shelters. Most “homed” people, including the ESPN reporter, find this surprising.
5. Homeless people often become loosely affiliated with a small familiar group who often know each other’s street history—but probably not their family history. Homeless people can often disappear for days and weeks as if they forgot where they used to hang out.
6. Sooner or later, in many cases, law enforcement gets involved because the homeless person has a warrant for their arrest stemming from a previous conviction, failure to appear for a court date, or a probation hearing. While sometimes these are serious, sometimes they can verge toward harassment. I can see how fear of getting picked up for a warrant, makes helping homeless people more difficult.
7. Treating and helping homeless people who don’t want to more to shelters is a tough issue to solve. But there are alternatives to leaving them on the street, e.g. micro houses, semi-regulated homeless camps, non-profit organizations taking in a few homeless.
8. Drugs and alcohol seem always to be lingering in the background.
9. The legal system is not equipped to handle these cases. LaRue is currently in jail waiting for a drug charge to be heard and reportedly has shut out everyone from her life. (Missouri is a leader in drug courts—part social worker, part criminal court—that seem to be effective).
10. Shelly Smith captures the heartbroken and hopelessness of it all. In the end LaRue is incoherent, strange and nasty to Smith. Caregivers can’t take it personally.
What should have been done for LaRue? On one level, this is an easier case than most, her former teammates apparently reached out to her and she evidently had some resources early in her story (about 2000 at UVA at least).
Three things could have made a difference:
1. Better reactions by basketball staff in 2000.
2. Better coordination between the two Maryland counties from which LaRue sought treatment.
3. More effective intervention over the past several years.
I understand, and appreciate, our culture of individual freedom in America. Families and social institutions will need to step up and be more effective in dealing with cases like LaRue if predictions about the opiate crisis prove accurate.