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The Headline Read: 'Man Killed in Portland Battled Schizophrenia.' That Man Could Have Been My Son.


The headline read: Man Killed in Southeast Portland Battled Schizophrenia for Years Leading to Homelessness. When I read the headline my heart stopped because I knew in my heart I could be reading my 25-year-old son was dead. The article said that Portland police identified the victim not as my son, but as Jason Gerald Petersen, 32.

My son, like so many struggling with the effects of schizophrenia, often isolates himself, struggles to stay medicated and instances of falling into mania occur without warning and far too often. In one such manic and non-medicated instant, my son was reported seen running naked along 82nd Ave in South East Portland one cold and rainy night around 2 a.m. When Police asked him what he was doing he said, for my maker. He could not tell police why he was naked, where he was nor his name.

The ambulance took my son to the ER and placed on a 72-hour hold citing suicidality. Three days later and stabilized he was released directly onto the street with a mere three-day supply of his $700-1,000 a month medication and a single voucher to sleep at the Cityteam Ministries Homeless shelter, where he would sleep on a mat, on the floor, along with another 115 homeless souls.

A fellow advocate reached out to me upon learning of the death of the homeless soul, upset at the lack of attention and awareness brought nor raised regarding the loss of another homeless soul. I told her that his life was not worthless, that he lived, he laughed, he cried, he no doubt loved and was loved. He was a man, who like many, struggled horribly, in silence, but that does not minimize his worthiness.

It saddens me too that little was done, or said, nor raised about the foundation of how and why this man died, only to fall on the street. That’s our job as homeless advocates, that’s why we do what we do, so his life will matter, and through our advocacy, his loss will never be in vain.

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Getty image via Srdjanns74