LETTERS: “Homeless Mallory” competes in opposition to “Homeless Mike”, the mayor of Aurora

Editor’s Note: This letter was in response to Sentinel Colorado stories about Mayor Mike Coffman’s television story about posing as a homeless veteran for a week in December. That story prompted a letter from Melissa Marscellus, an Aurora woman, who spoke about her daughter, whom she named “Mallory”. She defended Coffman’s message about drug users on the street and described her struggle to convince her daughter to seek drug treatment and shelter. The letter prompted Marcellus’ daughter Mina Marcellus to reply. The Sentinel confirmed the letter and spoke to Mina about her desire to explain her feelings about homelessness and drug addiction.

Editor: Aurora Mayor Mike Coffman – also known as “Homeless Mike” – was homeless for a week. Anyone who has been on the street for several years will chuckle softly to hear that the person they are talking to has so little experience.

I’ve been jumping back and forth between the jail and the sidewalks of Denver and Glenwood Springs since 2015. The mayor, who spends just a week before concluding that the vast majority of us are drug addicts who don’t want help, equates to reading the inside of a novel and then moving on to an essay.

It’s not that we don’t want help – it’s that the help offered is often inadequate and strangled by the methods of treatment programs with ridiculous rates of relapse and relapse.

Time and time again, these programs have been shown not to work, and many of us have forced them down our throats by the legal system. Bureaucrats will wildly claim that we don’t want help, but none of them ever ask us what would actually be helpful.

I write my next two sentences at the risk of being ignored afterwards: I don’t want or need any help with my drug use – after practicing and making a lot of mistakes I have found that I moderate it and integrate it into my life in a way can that is healthy and harmless.

I don’t want or need help with my sanity – every time I’ve been forced or coerced into treatment, my stability has actually deteriorated. I understand my mind better than any therapist an institution can fund with a fortune that I can reluctantly see for an hour each week.

Government officials seeking re-election, respect, power, or some other goal as part of their ambitious career path often come up with suggested solutions to the homeless problem we have all heard before. We’ve heard them before and obviously they don’t work.

There are no words that can hope to express the gratitude I would give to any program or group of determined people willing to look beyond the fact that I am an IV drug user and actually give myself a chance. The first month in a paid home would be enough time, access to showers and safe storage, as well as stability to find a job and – with good budgeting skills – save enough money to have the rent paid for the next month.

Current regulations on housing aid programs and the negative stigma of drug users only seal our fate in the revolving door known as lifestyle choice. I am not going to suggest that we are all responsible, well-meaning, or hard-working.

To be completely humble, I can only speak for myself. Nobody has given me a realistic chance before, but they will willingly toss bags of money down the drain, giving these failing, wriggling institutions one chance at a time.

Do you want the solution to homelessness? Ask the homeless population what they think it will take to get off the street. Do you want the solution to drug addiction? Help those who ask and those who don’t to find out if they are sober, dead, incarcerated, or a working addict.

I was asked again and again: “Don’t you want help?” I have to answer the question with a grain of salt, because they usually mean, “Don’t you want to get off meth and all kinds of mentally disturbed sedatives and get therapy for the rest of your life?”

I just wish someone would ask me sincerely and with the resources and the openness to hear and satisfy the answer, “What would help you get off the road?”

Please, someone, just take me to an apartment for a month at no cost and I will pay for my next month. Nobody would ever see me with a cardboard sign again, and I would be a functioning member of society.

However, because of the marks on my arms, no one is going to take this at face value, and there’s a good chance I’ll remain a statistic, as do the rest of us on the streets.

– Mina “Mallory” Marcellus, via [email protected]

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