Surprisingly, it’s not a question that derives an easy answer. Total freedom, no one telling you what to do. Those were aspects that even appealed to me. But then I would remember, her lifestyle almost killed her. And if I were to believe some people who work with chronically homeless women, the question is not if she was ever raped, but how often. The Not In My Back Yard phenomenon is so strong right now. Concerned neighbors are rallying against people like my sister, the modern-day lepers. They are outcasts to be shunned into ghettos of despair, away from the oh so fragile eyes of us “normal people.” I can’t pass judgment on the NIMBYs. After all, I know I can’t live with my mentally ill relative in the same house. How far can I blame the people who don’t want them to live in the same neighborhood? I can only hope. I can only hope that people feel, when they survey the tragic landscape of Skid Row, there but for the grace of God go I. I can only hope the nights stay warm. I can only hope that the NIMBYs someday realize that services located in their neighborhood for people with a mental illness don’t have much effect on their property values or local crime rates. I can only hope that when the cloud of trouble comes, it will pass over the head of a toothless, one-footed woman. Jim Randall is president of the San Fernando Valley chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness. Write to him by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.orgWant local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! I hated myself for calling the police when she went to the bathroom. She had come to me for sanctuary, and now I had to do the right thing so she could live and hopefully keep her leg. To do the right thing had never felt so obscene. But to not call the police could lead to her death. I didn’t hesitate. And now she had gone AWOL again. I once asked her, trying to get a sense of logic governed by psychosis, why she lived the way she did. It made no sense to me. She replied, “What’s so bad about living on the street?” MY sister recently went missing. She was living in a home for seniors and people with a mental illness. I had taken her to eat at the local Sizzler the previous weekend. She had told me she was now taking walks around her neighborhood. I had been so excited that she was finally taking some initiative to get outside. After she had part of her foot amputated from the gangrene she had picked up living on the street, she rarely left her bed. But now she was taking walks without me, exploring the neighborhood. I gave her a $20 bill to buy things on the outside. Everybody needs a little money in their pocket. Then she used that money to take off. She was last seen heading to pick up a bus. I had reconnected with her a couple of years ago. She arrived at my doorstep after we had lost contact. I quickly noticed she walked with a limp. She had walked 12 hours to get to my house on a gangrenous foot. I saw a hospital bracelet, and got her to give me the phone number. When I called, officials said she had to be taken to the hospital immediately, that she had gone AWOL from a nursing home and needed to have her foot amputated.