A case study of a homeless man with Huntington Disease highlights what happens when diseases fall short of treatment from local medical facilities in Corpus Christi.
Corpus Christ, Tx – Michael Barvosa, a 66 year old man from New Rochelle, New York was diagnosed with Huntington Disease at the New York Presbyterian Hospital in New York City around the year 2000. Huntington Disease is a progressive and fatal disorder characterized by motor, behavioral, and cognitive dysfunction. The disease begins between 25 and 45 years of age. The behavior of those with the illness consists of involuntary movements, which makes the person disabled over time. At this current time there is no medication to treat Huntington Disease.
After Michael’s ceiling collapsed in his apartment in Peaksville, New York, he had no where to go and decided to come with a nurse friend in Port Aransas, Texas in 2006 to live. Michael’s nurse friend later had him evicted due to his neurodegenerative disease. His friend began to think his illnesses was getting out of control. Every since then Michael has been living on the streets in Port Aransas, even during Hurricane Harvey. He has only one valued possession that survived the hurricane, his painting.
Before the hurricane, Michael Barvosa volunteered at the Historical Museum in Port Aransas with Director Cliff Strain. Michael’s number one concern is eating a nutritional meal each day other than shelter. Although, after Hurricane Harvey’s destruction of most of the buildings, it has been really hard for the small town to contribute food and shelter to the homeless population. Migrating to Corpus Christi thereafter “Mike” has been in and out of the Corpus Christi Medical Center on Alameda Street in 2019. Mike has seeked medical attention six times just this year alone, each time being released back into the streets without extended social services.
Health professionals, are already faced with immense responsibilities and pressing time constraints in hospitals. We should learn about any resources available to homeless or ill patients in our communities that are homeless and try to connect patients to services that might help.
Dr. Joel Braslow on an article by the New England Journal of Medicine suggests that the medicalization of diseases in the homeless population will make a city like Corpus Christi more compassionate society by not just giving medications, but just caring for the person. The Demedicalization of medical sickness, whether it is untreatable diseases or mental illnesses, leaves more of the patients like Michael Barvosa on the streets.
No one finds it humane to usher a patient out of the hospital and onto the street. Speaking to many advocates for homelessness find this practice morally intolerable and so does Michael Barvosa. For our community and for ourselves, we need better solutions. So we should be involved in ongoing efforts in the medical and public policy communities to ensure that our most vulnerable patients have the food, shelter, and support they need to live healthy, productive lives.
For instance, Michael Barvosa was arrested earlier this year for criminal trespassing. Michael receives approximately $250 a month in Social Security and when he noticed $50 missing from his account he went to Best Buy to see why they had subtracted the amount from his bank account. Unable to communicate to personnel he was arrested for being on the property in what he says “because I was homeless”. Although the national average of inmates being placed in jail is decreasing, the national rate of homeless person being placed in jail has been increasing since the late 1970’s.
The video below takes a look at the inside of the issue of homelessness with Michael Barvosa living behind the Salvation Army on a mattress.