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Feel Guilty Over Giving Up On Homeless Brother?

Joan Jerkovich - April 8, 2015 12:39 pm

My brother wanders around the country moving from homeless shelter to homeless shelter and I feel guilty that the family has essentially abandoned him. He’s burned his bridges and each of us could tell a story of how we tried to help him but he just never tried to help himself. We’ve all closed our doors to him and pretty much given up on him.

His main problem is alcohol and never wanting to sober up and get a job. He’s lazy and seems ok with mooching off people or the system whenever he can. He’s been in rehab numerous times but his efforts at staying sober never last.

I sometimes think he likes his life of wandering around using up services and people only to move on to the next place once they’re fed up with him. It’s like he feels like he’s owed help and none of this is his fault. I think that attitude is the main reason the family has had it with him. His attitude that we owe him something for his doing nothing has burned us all out.

So why do I feel bad that we’ve all abandoned him? My other siblings feel that he’s made his own bed and deserves his life of homelessness. It doesn’t seem to bother them like it does me.

Is there something else I can do to help him turn his life around or how do I let go of feeling guilty that I’ve not been there for him?

Your question touches on many aspects of the plight of homelessness and shares the reality from the family perspective. It’s not uncommon for family to burn out and pull away when their attempts at helping just keep falling backward.

While many things can lead to homelessness, the number one cause is usually an addiction. Since that is your brother’s story, until he gets his addiction under control, he will probably find himself in a revolving door, moving through various homeless shelters.

I’ve read where just providing a home for the homeless, will not remedy the root causes that drive some to the streets. Unless the primary causes such as addiction, unemployment, mental illness and domestic violence are addressed, those people who are living in our shelters or on our streets will remain there.

Since you asked, you can try again to get him help for his addiction. Help him connect with the community resources that provide substance abuse treatment, counseling and assistance.

If you provide him this help and he rejects it, then, once again, step back and accept the fact that he is making choices for his life that you have no control over.

Talk to your siblings. Ask them how they “let go” of guilt. Let go of guilt by consciously changing your thinking and self talk and realize that families tip in and out of helping in these situations as they are emotionally able, so don’t beat yourself up for not doing more.

Embrace your Personal Power with Life Coaching~
• Are you emotionally able to once again reach out, realizing that your efforts may not turn out as you hope?
• What do you think you need to do to let go of guilt?
• How might your siblings help you accept your brother’s situation?
• How can you show your brother love and support without enabling him?

Listen to “The Joan Jerkovich Show” this Saturday from 6-8am and Sunday from 9-10pm. The topic is “Homelessness”. Listen for the top 10 reasons people are homeless and listen to my caller who, in my opinion, feels “entitled” to public assistance. Hopefully, he’s on the path to a change in attitude after our call!

Joan Jerkovich, BCC Board Certified Life Coach

Joan Jerkovich, BCC
Board Certified Life Coach

The Joan Jerkovich Show
News Radio 1150 KSAL
Saturdays @ 6am & Sundays @ 9pm CST
Podcast posts to KSAL.com Mondays

Click HERE to anonymously send Joan your question!

Join the conversation & post your comments @ JoanJerkovich.com

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City of Salina