For years, Shatonya Tyler wandered between River and Sumner Streets, often seen at bus stops with a shopping cart packed with her belongings. Wrapped in a soiled blanket, she babbled incoherently. Painful wounds covered her legs. She was barely able to walk.
Shatonya was diagnosed with schizophrenia, which kept her living on the streets, unable to discern fantasy from reality. People living with schizophrenia often struggle with hallucinations, hear voices, and feel paranoid. Shatonya was no exception.
With help from the IHS Psychiatric Street Medicine team; Orin Lucas, Case Manager; and the case managers before him; Shatonya began accepting medical treatment for her mental illness and regained the ability to organize her thoughts. It was these moments, when the fog from her illness would lift and the calm would settle in, that were critical to her recovery.
When the COVID-19 pandemic first reached Oahu, it was believed that Shatonya may have been exposed to the virus. Orin and the IHS team convinced her to check into the State Department of Health’s Temporary Quarantine and Isolation Center (TQIC) for COVID-19 testing and quarantine. While in IHS care at TQIC, Shatonya’s wounds were finally treated by a medical team. Her physical and emotional state stabilized enough that she was able to establish her social security benefits and access other government programs that would help her get back on her feet.
Within weeks, Shatonya achieved what was previously unimaginable - self-sufficiency and the confidence that comes with living in her own home. IHS helped find Shatonya housing in Kapolei where she now lives independently. She has her own room that she pays for with her social security income.
Even after being placed into housing, the IHS team continues to stay in contact with clients. Once a month, Orin will take Shatonya to the grocery store to pick up cereals, candy and ice cream, a few of her childhood favorites. The relationship between case manager and client remains strong, ensuring clients like Shatonya will continue to flourish in their new living arrangements.
When Orin first met her, he would ask: “Where are you from Shatonya?” Her only reply was that she grew up in the mountains with little memory of family. Shatonya shares that she now has a relationship with her relatives on the mainland. In fact, she recently asked for a photograph of herself to send to her mother.
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