Goodbye, supportive housing!
Last week I mentioned that Anitra “Co-signer” Freeman and I have moved out of rooms where we have lived together for 13 years, into a one-bedroom apartment in a different building. When I mention that the old place was supportive housing, and the new place is non-supportive housing, some people raise their eyebrows. “Why, Wes & Anitra? Why would you give up all that warm fuzzy support?”
Was I the kind of kid who hated teddy bears? Did I stick pins in them and kick them down stairs? Is that why I reject other people’s earnest efforts to help me through life?
Well, yeah, maybe. I was the kind of kid who could spot the lie behind teddy bears. Why do Mommy and Daddy give you a teddy bear to hug? Because they don’t want you hugging them.
Those earnest efforts aren’t always what they seem. Let’s talk about what supportive housing looks like to someone like me, someone who hates teddy bears. As usual I may exaggerate here and there, for the sport of it.
I got into supportive housing because I was homeless and have PTSD. That’s post-traumatic stress disorder for those of you who never heard of wars, but I didn’t get mine from Vietnam, I got mine from my parents. The teddy bear bastards.
Theory was, an agency would provide permanent housing and also support tailored to my specific needs as one whose emotional wiring has been whacked. They would have professionals on staff for me, who understood me. So, at least, was it was presented to me at the time I was offered the place.
I may have missed something in the fine print. After all I was homeless and I just wanted off the street.
However, looking back, I really think the best support I got was help leaving, just this past month.
For example, how is it supportive for someone who has PTSD to subject him to three room invasions per month?
To start, we had one monthly inspection. Because we’re all psychos, you see, we had to be forced to majorly clean our rooms once a month, instead of every Spring and Fall like normal people do. OK, I could see that if we really were all psychos, but guess what? PTSD doesn’t impair your ability to clean. It impairs your ability to tolerate room invasions.
Old time fans of Real Change might remember that Dr. Wes here once dabbled in the graphic arts. This ended roughly 1998, around about the time I moved the art supplies into my room. I set up an easel, laying down old newspapers to protect the floor. The room invaders cried, “Clutter! Awwwk!” Think Invasion of the Body Snatchers, 1978. The easel had to be put away, the paints had to be put away, every month.
The woman upstairs screamed all night, and once even threw a chair through her unopened window, bringing glass and chair past my window to crash three stories below me, while I had flashbacks of Mommy screaming and torturing me. I complained for two years about the effect her disability was having on mine. She was finally evicted when staff decided she was too much for them to handle. I didn’t want her gone, I just wanted a quieter room, away from hers. So I could paint between inspections.
Then bed bugs invaded America, and we got an extra invasion per month because we had to be protected from bed bugs. Who’s the real bug in this room, I would ask.
Then we failed one annual inspection by Seattle Housing Authority, done by a retiring inspector who’d gone postal, and it was decided that to prevent that recurring the number of room inspections should increase by a dozen, because by now they were just looking for ways to push my buttons?
I’m all for Housing First and supportive housing. But, can these agencies never learn that different people have different needs?
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