Currently seeking publication contract
SHELTERED – a novel by Josh Jones
During an acute manic episode, Joe Taylor, a 48-year-old Caucasian living on disability in San Diego breaks his lease and boards a Greyhound with the promise of gainful employment in Ohio. Quickly, Joe’s world begins to collapse as a downward spiral of reality sets in as he learns yet another euphoric delusion has misled him. There is no job, no more money. Destitute and out of options, Joe finds a frigid and isolated overpass for shelter. After several near freezing days he enters Columbus social services and gains a bunk in an emergency shelter for men.
Once housed at the shelter the reader learns through flashback and recollection about Joe’s mental illness. His Bipolar Disorder and Schizoaffective Disorder are organic in origin, having begun in his early 20’s. His PTSD symptoms emanate from early childhood abuse. As a young adult, Joe’s primary abuser commits homicide and enters prison. Though incarcerated, Joe experiences psychotic episodes where his abuser is present and imposing. When properly medicated, Joe is engaging, intelligent and docile. Holding on to stability is Joe’s lifelong nemesis. Joe is also a writer, his lone solace in his frenetic life.
At the shelter, Joe meets Malik Arons, an African-American housing coordinator at The Crossroads Men’s Emergency Shelter. Malik grew up in the poor neighborhood of Franklinton where Crossroads is located. He made choices allowing him to graduate college, work for the CIty and move to an up and coming neighborhood in downtown Columbus. A psychological driver for Malik is his father. Malik’s father, a life-long addict was an addict and played only a cursory role in his upbringing. When Malik was seventeen, his father committed murder and was incarcerated. The shared experience and effect of homicide and incarceration are pivotal themes in the novel
After a short period at the shelter, Joe is hospitalized after a psychotic episode in a public library. In the chaos, both his phone and his laptop are lost. During his admission his clothes are taken and he is restrained to an ER gurney. Paperwork for the shelter is found in a coat pocket with Malik’s contact information. Malik is contacted. He has to weigh whether to get involved or not. Malik knows that Joe will lose his space in the shelter because he’s admitted to a hospital and no longer technically homeless.
As Joe moves from the ER to the Behavioral Health Unit (BHU), Malik realizes he can affect change in Joe’s life. He’s read Joe’s file and sees where stability and a support network will make a huge difference for Joe. Malik is part owner of a renovated home that he and three friends purchased from the Columbus Land Bank. They renovated the home and have been renting rooms to tenants in the Franklinton neighborhood where the shelter is located. Their home purchase came after years of involvement in the Franklinton Neighborhood Improvement Initiative where Malik’s mom still lives. Malik and his friends started a chess tournament and an intramural basketball league in addition to their home purchase. The Franklinton neighborhood serves as a metaphor for change and growth.
After meeting with his friends, Malik arranges to provide housing to Joe on a trial period. He creates a Supportive Housing Plan with the current housemates involving a Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) liaison from the Columbus P.D. The model Malik creates to assist Joe gives ground to explore the racial tensions existing throughout Malik’s childhood and still ingrained in Columbus.
The novel finishes on the day Joe moves into the rental house. Medically stabilized with adjusted prescriptions and a therapist arranged through social services, Joe embraces the prospect of starting anew. After meeting his new roommates and discussing the dynamics of his possible behaviors, Joe makes his way to his room where he finds a laptop waiting for him on his desk, a gift from Malik. We leave Joe in his room as he begins to write the story of his experience.