If you haven't read part I, you can read it here.
I didn't get any sleep that night, because I was anxious and upset (and pissed off). I sat down and wrote a reply to the letter I'd received, including most of what I included in Paper Trails part I, and slid it under that peer specialist's door. I made sure to hold it up to the hallway camera first, so it's on film that I dropped that letter off. Kept a copy, too.
I didn't get a reply, but then again I really didn't expect one. This VA transitional housing stuff is about what you're doing, not how you're doing. Feeling down? It's on me to ask for help when I need it. Of course, one of the symptoms of me not feeling well (and a common symptom of PTSD) is that I avoid interactions with other people. It's a circular pattern that's hard to get out of, and "the program" here doesn't address it.
No staff person has ever stopped and said "Hey, you're looking kinda rough lately. Need to talk?"
Instead, here's what happens.
We're constantly being asked to fill out surveys. Maybe you've seen them. "I feel cut off from people around me... not at all? some of the days? half the days? more than half the days?" We're told this information is important to making changes to better serve homeless veterans. Look, I'm not stupid. I know a little bit about collecting data. The results go into spreadsheets and databases so managers can draw pretty pie charts and pat themselves on the back that they're eliminating homelessness.
We're constantly reminded that we're homeless, and that this is our last shot. I keep hearing the same refrain, "you know, you're going to have a lot of difficulty getting a place to live if you don't get a good rent reference from Porchlight when you move out." That's one of the goals of the program: help you get a good reference so you can get a real place again. They're trying to motivate me, right? Reminding me how close I am to taking a step backwards to land on the street doesn't motivate me, it scares the shit out of me. Scared = anxious = triggered.
We learn quickly that we really can't trust you. I know that anything I say to one vets house staff member can be accessed by any other vets house staff member, among other people (!). There are things about the Gulf War and life in general that I wish I could talk about, and I really just need someone to listen without judging and without writing anything down. Have you ever played the telephone game, where you say something to one person, and they repeat it to the next? When you run out of people, the story has always changed. Think about that in terms of the people hearing the changed story, and what actions they could take based on a changed story. I have had enough of people in my life that I cannot trust. I don't need more.
I know, I sound cynical-- especially for someone being provided with a cheap roof over his head and three meals a day-- but being down on my luck doesn't mean I will allow myself to be treated in a way that makes me feel worse.
I'll leave the question of the piss test being related to the documenting of my absence at the resident meetings up for debate-- it just seems strange that they'd be on the same day, as well as not long after such an ongoing stink had been raised about rent.
A person experiencing a certain level of self-preservation related paranoia might wonder if there were forces at work trying to get him out of a program.
Pure speculation, mind you.
Prologue: I met with my original case manager at vets house yesterday. She said that we'd need to meet once a week (which I was already planning on doing again for other reasons), and that she'd read me the information that was given out at the previous bi-weekly resident meeting.
That's fair enough, although it doesn't erase the anxiety that this whole issue has caused me.
This could have been resolved by someone acknowledging what they knew already-- that I couldn't make it to either meeting time-- and trying to come up with a solution instead of making sure my non-attendance was "documented properly".
A reminder: I'm the veteran.
The program is supposed to work for me, the veteran. Not the other way around.