I heard back from the Patient Advocate office at the VA hospital here; I'd gone to talk to them after the most recent time I was threatened with eviction. Turns out they are unable or unwilling to help, as they referred me to the VA liaison at Porchlight (the agency that owns and runs the shelter I am temporarily living in). The ball has been passed back to my side of the court.
Or the buck has been passed, which seems to happen far too often.
I got yet another notice this week that was a little bit more polite but still stated that I owe X dollars and that I need to talk to my case manager and work something out for payment. It is a better letter than a 5-day notice to pay or pack up your shit and move by the end of the week, and I imagine many people would read this week's letter and feel it's pretty fair. Even I'll agree with that, but actually fixing this situation is a little more tricky.
The reason I keep writing about the rent isn't that I don't want to give up the money-- I have no argument against paying rent. The problem comes from the way Porchlight is handling the situation, and the way my PTSD circuited brain responds to these notices. I don't see a notice taped to my door as a calm way of saying "Hey, dude, we need to talk about the rent." There have been so many times while I've lived here that someone has flat out said I needed to pay today or pack up and GTFO. My mental response is "Okay, the other shoe has dropped, I need to get out my list of places outside that I can hide and sleep because I'm going to be out on the street again very soon."
I'm triggered, and I will be until I take steps to get untriggered and my body and brain get settled down. I've made it a part of my SOP that I don't sign anything when I'm triggered. I don't make promises, and I don't offer solutions, because I'm not thinking straight. Sometimes the settling down process takes a few minutes, but more often than not it takes a day, or a week, or two. That's actually far better than it used to be, but it still takes time and a lot of energy to get back to a "normal" state-- which for me is pretty anxious most of the time anyway.
The brain can only do so much at once, and when that critical level is reached, survival tasks become paramount and some things get dropped. It's like when you're watching a video online, and it stops for a few seconds partway through because your internet connection slowed down. During the time the video is stopped, nothing is being processed except trying to get the stream caught up. Things that I'd normally do, simple and repetitive things like, say, submitting my time sheet at work get dropped. Add that to me having no sense of time passing, and you get me being behind on both paying them rent and getting me paid, which just makes the problem worse.
I get that part of this is on me for not making sure I'm getting paid on time. It's such a simple thing, it takes about ten minutes once every two weeks. I have alarms of reminders of reminders to do it, and I still forget. I'm in therapy for this kind of thing. It's one of the things that can make PTSD such a damn frustrating disability, because the majority of people in the world can't understand why filling out a time sheet every two weeks is so hard. "How can you not care about getting paid on time?" It's not that I don't care. It's that for whatever reason, my brain has trouble with that particular task.
Which is much the same way as my brain responds as if I'm going to be on the street tomorrow when I get an eviction notice. I've written about this before, when I tried to suggest that giving 5-day notices was something that was triggering me as well as other people.
Putting notices on my door is putting notices on my door. It triggers me, and it doesn't solve anything, no matter how the notice is worded.
I do try to explain the same thing as I'm writing about here-- on this particular thing, the whole rent-getting-paid issue, I need to have someone put on paper exactly what I owe and for what months and next pay day when I do get paid, I can take a big chunk out of what I owe. I also need someone to understand that the filling-out-the-time-sheet thing is a part of my disability.
I don't know why it happens the way it does. It is very easy to turn that frustration inward, and blame myself. I did that, for a long time. I'd ask "Why can't I do this simple thing?" and emotion takes over and starts saying bad things, and then everything goes to hell.
I tried to talk to Case Manager this past Thursday, but she wasn't in her office. I left a note on her door, but I haven't heard anything back. I'll try again this week, but I don't expect that anything will be resolved. She'll tell me again that the housing director is going to evict me, and I'll tell her again that I want to see paperwork that shows what I owe and for when. Maybe I'll need to call bullshit again about some form that I "have to" sign.
All of this put together is a huge distraction from school. I'm struggling to keep up in my classes because my brain is busy thinking about how I'm going to manage getting to classes after sleeping outside every night. I'm even dreaming about this shit. I get back to vets house after being around campus all day and my mood just drops to zero. I check my door to see if anything has been taped to it. I check my floor to see if anything has been slid under my door.
If someone, either resident or staff, from vets house says anything to me I'm in instant fight or flight. I mumble something incoherent and keep walking. I know my brain is keeping the shields up, and I'm really okay with that. During my prolonged exposure therapy at the VA hospital, my therapist even agreed that I'm in a really bad-for-me situation. My counsellor at the Vet Center already agrees about that.
So I'm trying to look for a new place to live. It's scary, but I'm looking.
I'm going to find a new apartment and get the fuck out of this place, and the fuck out of this program.
I'm writing this stuff about the VA Grant and per-diem program, and Porchlight's housing program, for the same reason I started writing about being a college student with PTSD-- there's not much documentation out there that lays out how things really are.
People in positions look at homelessness, and charities, and they have meetings and conferences and task forces, and they say "we're going to end this situation for good by 2015." That's fine, but if the way you're going to end homelessness is letting transitional housing landlord agencies treat residents like shit your plans and recommendations aren't going to change anything. Getting someone away from being homeless means that you show them that a normal life, in stable housing, is possible for them.
Constantly threatening eviction, going into resident's rooms without telling them, ratcheting up a person's anxiety level, and then doing nothing to help resolve the situation is beyond disrespect. It's damn near torture for someone like me that's fighting off PTSD. The games just reinforce the idea that we don't deserve a stable, quiet, normal place to live.
I don't have anything personal against anyone. For a long time, I didn't mention Porchlight directly in my posts for that reason-- but I've had it up to here with the numbers games. Perhaps me writing all of this is like writing messages and putting them in bottles.
That's okay. Sometimes people find the bottles.