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25 September 2014

September

Classes are okay. I'm taking two history classes, which I wouldn't necessarily call "easy"-- but they're not computer science or math classes either. They are manageable without a whole lot of managing, at least so far.

I'm not really moved into my new place yet, as September has been busy. I've been to hackathons at the University of Michigan (MHacks) and the University of Waterloo (Hack the North), so my weekends and associated Fridays have been booked up. On the weekends I haven't been at hackathons I've been working, and either way Monday is usually a Day of Recovery in my schedule. Take away class time and normal life stuff and that doesn't leave much.

Strangely I'm okay with not having all of my stuff moved into my apartment. Part of what's going on is that it feels really strange to not have to worry about where I'm going to sleep tonight. It's strange to look at the clock, see that it's 2330, and think about it being time to go home and relax, time to go home and go to bed.  My body is used to looking at 2330 and making sure I'm either somewhere that I can hang out all night provided I stay awake, or finding a place where I can sleep and have a good chance of not getting arrested. I'm used to grabbing a large Dew or a cup of coffee at midnight to make sure I stay awake if I'm going to be someplace that I can't sleep for the next hours until dawn.

It's like I'm waiting for the other shoe to drop. This can't be real. I don't want to go through moving all of my stuff into a new place only to have to go through moving it all back out when I get myself evicted again. I think I'm strong, but I don't know if I would make it if I had to go through that whole process again. I certainly don't want to try.  I've also trained myself to not miss the things I have in storage, so it's just normal now to not have the things that a lot of normal households have. So, my stuff is still sitting in my storage unit on the other side of town.

I am, in a sense, semi-retired (or so my Vet Center person says). I'm taking classes at a slow pace, because even though I only need 18 credits for my degree I know I have to take them one or two classes at a time to get through them. I'm on disability, so I don't have to work the full work weeks I used to work on top of being in college. I've been able to travel quite a bit to hackathons in the past year, far more than I had been able to travel for several years prior to that. I hack, I study, and I work. I wear sandals because they are comfortable and I sit in coffeehouses like this one because it's comfortable and it's a short walk from home. I live downtown, almost within sight of my state capitol, in a nice neighborhood. Things are actually pretty stable for the moment

That's what it's all about right now, really-- stability. The operational goal is to have a stable place to live, to do well in classes, for a year. Then I'll worry about getting back into the harder computer science and math classes. Then I'll worry about who I'm going to work for when college is done. It's within the realm of possibility that I could spend the rest of my life on disability, just chillin', but I won't. That's not me. I need to do something productive, I need to build shit, I need a reason to get up in the morning.

Someday I'll finish college, and then I'll find a company to work for where I can contribute and be an asset, in spite of the PTSD and other crap that makes it difficult for me sometimes.

-----

Some loose ends to tie up: my Senator's office didn't do shit about my issues with the VA's homeless program. As soon as I found a place to live on my own, and signed a lease, I ceased to be a homeless issue. The local VA homeless office said they'd refer me to an organization that might be able to provide moving assistance funds, but that never led to anything. They did say that if I become homeless again, I'd be "chronically homeless" and that would put me at a higher priority for getting help with finding permanent housing.  So that's one Senator I won't be voting for come next election.

I don't know what the solution to veteran homelessness is; the VA says it will have the problem fixed by next year, but 2015 is coming up real soon now. I still see veterans sleeping on park benches and in doorways outside the state capitol every night on the way home. I wish I had an answer, I just know that the current system is broken. 


01 September 2014

Feels a little strange

It feels strange, having my own apartment again. I'm not sure what I'm supposed to feel-- happy? In a sense, I'm very happy because I got the place I wanted. It's more downtown than campus (although the line between the two is pretty blurry). Close to everything.  I'm going to like living here.

Going from the street to a normal place feels like a big jump. Suddenly everything is supposed to be normal. It doesn't feel that way yet. I still have to get everything moved from my storage unit into my apartment, get it unpacked, and figure out where it all goes. I hate moving-- the most recent times I've had to move haven't been much fun, so there are some negative emotions going on. I still feel like I need to look for a place to sleep every night.

What did being homeless for two years mean? What did it prove? What can I take away from the experience? I don't know. So much was negative. All of the bullshit that happened at Porchlight casts a long shadow. I don't trust charity any more-- I've seen enough charity to last a lifetime. Too many strings attached.

College and being homeless don't work together well. I know there are people who manage to pull it off. I don't know if they had to deal with PTSD or not, but it made things more difficult for me. Maybe in a different situation than I was in with Porchlight makes it a little easier.

I actually accomplished a lot these past two years. I've been to a bunch of hackathons, where I've built some cool stuff. I've taught myself JavaScript and a decent portion of HTML5's new goodies. I'm getting pretty comfortable with using REST APIs. I've learned a lot more about programming in general, from reading articles and papers and from an online course from MIT where I learned some Scheme.

The mission now is stability. Staying in my apartment, getting the rent paid. Staying in school, getting good grades. Taking care of myself. Maybe even enjoying life a little bit again. I'm actually in a really cool place right now-- learning new things, hacking, drinking good coffee, working with awesome people.

It will take some time before I'm really relaxed, I think. Getting my stuff moved in will be a big step. Stability is still a goal to reach, but for now I'm winning the battle. 

As always, small steps.


29 August 2014

Ending my own homelessness

tl;dr I've found a new apartment on my own, and I am no longer homeless.

Yesterday I went downtown to the (Madison WI) VA homeless program office. My primary care doctor refered me there at my most recent primary care appointment, and someone other than the person I'd dealt with while I was in transitional housing called-- so I decided to go and talk to the new person. (If it had been the same person I dealt with while I lived in transitional housing, I wouldn't have gone to the meeting. See my post about her response to my being back on the street in April here.)

At the meeting with the VA homeless program office, I found out that since I'm signing a lease I'm no longer homeless, which makes sense. I also found out that I was in fact eligible for HUD-VASH, but since I've only been homeless three times instead of four (in n years) I wouldn't be considered "chronically homeless" and therefore eligible to be moved to the top of the list.

I also found out that there are other resources available, including emergency funding for paying the security deposit and first month's rent that have to be paid when moving into a new place. In addition, I might be eligible for assistance with moving expenses.  Since I've already signed a lease (and paid my security deposit and first month's rent from my own money) I'm no longer eligible for that money, but I might be eligible for the moving expenses assistance.

Funny-- no one told me about those things when I was in the same VA homeless program office back in June.  Even funnier, the social worker I talked to yesterday had no record of anything that had happened with Porchlight. She only knew I was homeless. She had no idea that I had been into the office in June to talk to anyone, or that after I'd been evicted from Porchlight that no one had followed up with me while I was on the streets for three weeks.

No one followed up with me because the only person in the Madison WI VA homeless program office that knew I was on the street didn't follow up-- and she didn't tell anyone else that I was out on the streets again. No one could follow up, and no one could care, because no one knew I was out there.

People at two different agencies-- Porchlight Inc., and the VA's homeless program office in Madison WI-- knew that I was living on the streets.
They knew about my PTSD, my anxiety, my depression, and that I was in therapy. How much more at risk could I be? Yet, not only did they not follow up to see if I was all right, but they made an effort to ensure that no one else did either.

When I was filling out applications for apartments, I found out that when Porchlight was reporting that I'd been evicted that they'd also been including the rental problems I'd had at the apartment before I became homeless-- thus ensuring that no landlord would even consider renting to me.

Incompetence could explain a lot of things, but these people made a concerted effort to toss me away and forget about me. It was personal.

But hey, you know what? I found a new apartment on my own. I signed the lease and picked up the keys yesterday. I'm not moved in yet, but I'll be sleeping in my own apartment tonight.

I'm also enrolled in classes again this fall. I'm attending at least three hackathons this fall, and I'm on the organizing committee for another hackathon in spring.

I win.




26 August 2014

R&R

I'm on vacation, sort of. I'm checked into a chain hotel for a couple of days for R&R. Maybe it means something that I knew I needed to give myself a break. Sleep in a real bed, sit in a comfortable chair, slplash around in the pool a little bit.  Time to myself that Indont have to spend trying not to get arrested for trespassing. 

I'm not far from home, I'm in the same city. This is the west side, a little bit away from downtown and campus. Madisom is a suburb of itself sometimes. There is a mall here, complete with all of the other fluff that surrounds a major mall. Suburbia isn't my thing,  but it's a nice break.

It's an expensive one-- I won't fault you if you are wondering how a homeless guy is able to afford it. Truth is, I really can't, but sanity right now is more important than money. These couple of days are a compromise-- sleeping on soft pillows, and dinner off the value meal at a fast good place around the corner.

Homelessness requires a certain frame of mind. You have to focus on surviving another day. Even harder is keeping the thought alive that there is an end to this, that someday things will be stable again. 

I had an appointment with my psychiatrist at the VA yesterday. No changes to any of my medications, which is what I expected. She's willing to make changes in doses and even new Meds, but not without reason. 

I don't know if I'd call myself mentally healthy, but I do use most if the tools I've learned and practiced in therapy. Those tools and the medications are what get me through some/most days.

I'm tired. There are a bunch of things I wish I could get accomplished, but I'm tired. Even too tired to write more.

R&R.







24 August 2014

Panic at the Laundromat

This is what happens.This is what makes it so difficult. Everything. This is why we can't have nice things. This is why whatever you wanted me to do, the thing didn't get done. No one stopped me. Nothing stopped me.  Everything stopped me, and I just kept on walking until I got here.

"Why can't you do this one simple thing that the rest of the world does every day without even stopping to think about it?"

Ok. Fine. I'll tell you. This is what happened. I tried to do two loads of laundry tonight, and couldn't do it.  See? One simple thing, one simple fucking thing, and it didn't happen. I tried. I really did.

The situation: there's a small neighborhood laundromat not far from campus, easily within walking distance even with a laundry basket. I've never been there. I'd heard rumors of its existence. I wasn't sure though, so I looked it up on Google Maps. Yup, there it is. Still not convinced. What if I cart my duffel bag of clothes over there and it's closed? It'll be a waste of time.

I decide to meet myself halfway. I'll take a walk and check it out. If it's legit, I'll come back this way, pick up some laundry detergent, grab my clothes, and get with the washin' o' the clothes. I'm in the middle of something else, and while that's finishing dude comes in. "OMG WOW LOOK AT THAT I'VE NEVER SEEN THAT THING DO SOMETHING HOLY SHIT". Settle down, dude. It's not 100% working yet. I'm heading out to do laundry, so I'm closing up shop here very soon. (In other words, don't get comfortable.)

Said place where I am is also said place where my duffel of clothes is presently stashed. I'm having enough trouble with this already, I don't need to explain the laundry situation.  "HEY IS IT OK IF I..." No, thing I was working on isn't really set up yet. "OK COOL" *sigh* Fine, dude, push buttons and pretend.  I need to look up on the map where this alleged laundromat is again. That's done, so I'm packing up. "ARE YOU GOING TO BE HERE TOMORROW?" I don't know. Maybe. Go away. I'm trying to do something here.  "WORDS, WORDS, WORDS". I ignore. I leave my clothes where they are, grab my backpack, and set off in search of laundry heaven.

There are people outside.

I've gotten used to (yet again) avoiding much of the world since I've been back on the street. Things are just better that way. No interactions, questions, no explanations. I pass a couple of people on the sidewalk, and we ignore each other. So far, so good. Then I pass the park, where there are people playing volleyball and shouting and doing whatever it is that people do when they're enjoying being outside.  There are people sitting outside on their front porches. There are people just sort of wandering around.

I have to walk faster. I have to get past these people. I won't be able to bring my laundry basket this way, I'll have to come back on the next street over. I can't go back this way either, they've seen me. I don't like this. I keep going anyway. I can see the back side of the laundromat. There's a sign indicating that this may in fact be a real laundromat.

I get to the next intersection, cross the street to the right, and I'm at the laundromat. It doesn't look like much, but up ahead I see light coming from inside. It's open, all right. There's someone sitting right by the door, and someone else leaning on the center table in the middle of the room. I'm trying to look inside, but they're starting back at me. Shit. I can see open washers though, so maybe ok.

But they're looking at me.

I keep going. No way in hell am I going inside that laundromat right now. Still, I figure I can go get my clothes, come back on this other street, and when the people in the laundromat see me with a bag of clothes they'll get it. Until I see the people on the front porch. Double shit. I can't come back this way with laundry, because then the people on the porch will recognize me except I'll have laundry.

I know. I'll come back this way, but turn left a block early so I can get to the laundromat from the back entrance.

I'm on the same street (and in fact the same block) as one of the first apartments I looked at after Porchlight threw me out. There are people sitting on the front porch there too, most likely including the person who got the room there that I wanted to rent. The landlord there said "sure, I'll send you an application, you'll need three references, etc etc"-- never did get that email with an application. So I'm not relaxed. At. All. I keep walking, sweating because I'm fighting the warm air and humidity instead of just rolling with it.

It's only a block to get to where I'm headed but I feel like it's a mile. I just want to find a quiet dark place and be alone. Inside. Alone.

I made it inside, and there aren't that many people in here, but they're all having a competition to see who can talk the loudest. I'm listening to music, which is enough to keep me going while I type all of this shit out but not enough to drown out everyone else. 

I'm tired, now. Exhausted. I feel strung out, nerves raw, can't stop yawning. I know the panic is over now.

The laundry? What laundry? Oh yeah. That will have to wait until later, tomorrow, sometime. I have to figure out where I'm going to sleep tonight, because right now I don't know. I need coffee, and quiet, and to be alone for a while.

-----

It doesn't help that I haven't heard back from Mom, who is supposed to co-sign a lease for a new apartment for me. It's been a week since the 15th when the previous person's lease was up, so the apartment (my apartment) is empty waiting for me to get this paperwork done.

Get the paperwork done, I'm no longer homeless.

Don't get the paperwork done, and at some point the landlord's going to tell me to get bent while he rents to someone else. This landlord is the only one out of 50 or so that actually said they'd rent to me. I can't afford to lose this apartment.