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Three years ago, when he stopped taking his antipsychotic medication, her son withdrew into delusions, erupting in unpredictable and menacing outbursts. Fearful of being evicted from their apartment, she and her husband, Sam, sought a no-contact order to keep Andrey away.

These are questions challenging the whole country. As affordable apartments all but vanished in American cities, a whole tier of people with disabling mental illness were forced onto the street, where they now live in numbers large enough to disrupt civic life. Many of them are shunted into the criminal justice system, only to return to homelessness upon their release.

This marked a limit for Olga — she who had delivered his laundry, neatly folded, to his tent in the woods. On the phone with Sam, she finally made the promise: She would not visit Andrey alone again.

Andrey remained in the fortress of his apartment. Over the intercom, he answered the questions of caseworkers and crisis response teams who had been called to the scene, but he refused their requests to enter.

Read more or listen to the audio in the New York Times.

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