Clarence Hardin

Clarence Hardin waits for dinner one cold January night at the Hope Rescue Mission. (South Bend Tribune file photo/JIM RIDER)

This story was originally published March 6, 2002.

Fourth of five parts

The main character in the movie "A Beautiful Mind," currently the subject of much Oscar buzz, suffers from schizophrenia. He sees things that aren't there. He has few relationships and doesn't care what people think of him.

But Clarence Hardin doesn't go to movie theaters and isn't up on current events. He'll likely never see the parallels.

In the aftermath of Sept. 11, when flags popped up everywhere, TV screens were consumed with the news and it was all anybody could talk about, Clarence was unaware. He was a homeless man too busy surviving.

Clarence has been diagnosed with chronic paranoid schizophrenia.

South Bend Police Cpl. Ron Glon covers the downtown beat and knows many of the various homeless characters there.

He first became aware of Clarence one hot summer, when Clarence was wearing several layers of clothes, sweating profusely and approaching people for money. He was scaring them.

Sweating can be a sign of a body's withdrawal from alcohol, so Glon tested Clarence with a Breathalyzer five different times. They revealed not a trace of alcohol.

Over the years, Clarence accumulated a list of misdemeanor arrests, most related to panhandling. After a while it became clear to Glon that Clarence was never a threat to anyone. He doesn't arrest him anymore.

Even when he was taking calls about the guy walking around with blankets over his head.

"He would never hurt a person," Glon says. "There are no victims in his arrests."

Clarence doesn't ask for money much anymore, either, although Glon has seen him scrounging in waste bins for discarded food or cigarette butts. He's noticed him growing sicker-looking.

"He's digressed a lot," Glon says.

Clarence is a loner who doesn't even hang around with other homeless people. And he's a walker.

"He gets to walking and looking at the ground, sometimes talking to himself, and he's in his own little world," the corporal says.

Clarence doesn't label his problem as schizophrenia. He is disabled by a crippling stress, he says. The medication helps.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, about 1.1 percent of the population 18 and older in a given year has schizophrenia. The course of the illness can fluctuate over several decades.

Experts don't know what causes schizophrenia. Genetics play a role, as schizophrenia runs in families. Research has also shown that a number of factors, such as prenatal difficulties or other stressful situations, influence the development of schizophrenia.