by Sr Rosemarie Wesolowski
In 2002 I came back to Germany and since then I have completed another training as a psychiatrist and psychotherapist and have been working now for almost another 20 years in this field.
What they need most is respect and to be seen as a person in their own right
Recently, I started special medical consultation hours in a shelter for homeless people in Leipzig. We are 4 to 5 physicians in Leipzig who offer our expertise in various places in the city, we come from different specialties – from internal medicine, cardiology, nephrology to surgery and now psychiatry.
An estimated 80 to 90% of people living in the streets have a psychiatric disease – they are sick and become homeless, or homelessness makes them sick. Most of my patients do not know that I am a psychiatrist – mostly they have had bad experiences with the “system” of established medicine. They come with all sorts of ailments – from skin lesions, to eye problems to pain-all-over symptoms, with wounds after fights, they are very often drunk or under the influence of drugs – but they have in common that they are all unhappy and miserable. Even when I can’t help, I always have time to listen, to wait, to hear their stories, to give them a medical check-up, sometimes even to treat them. But what they need most is respect and to be seen and recognized as a person in their own right.
We can also laugh together
Not everything is sad, we can also laugh together. Especially for people who are really hard to reach, who have experiences of failure, disappointment, loss, trauma, psychosis, addiction, violence, it is good to find a haven for some moments or hours to rest and become a little bit “whole” again.
The place where I go once a week, funded by Diakonie and Caritas, is called Oasis – very meaningful. There is a daily warm meal, the possibility to have a shower, get new clothes, and see a social worker for consultation and help.
In each and every person I meet God
Because of the economy, the situation in Germany is not getting better; more and more people lose their homes or can’t afford one. I also meet many people from other countries, mainly from Eastern Europe, who are stranded here. Fortunately, we have now automatic translators, which often makes communication much easier. But there are still so many who will never come to our place or other places like it. We try to reach them through our street workers, who invite them or bring them in themselves if they need help, and from time to time I go out myself to find one or the other person in the street, and I will treat them there.
My dream is a medical equipped bus with a driver, so that we can go to many more places in the city and offer what we have directly: sometimes a cigarette, a coffee, a chat, a newspaper, new socks – not always only medical help. And I am optimistic that we will succeed in getting this bus.
In the Holy Scripture we hear that God created all human beings in God’s likeness, and that is the greatest gift in my work: to know that in each and every person I meet God.