Today she called me at around 0830 to tell me there were some papers in her office that I had to sign by noon. Again, paperwork trumps respect. My phone has a Do Not Disturb feature that I have set to be on until 1100, so calls go straight to voice mail. I don't answer until after 1100 because I am asleep until then.
Papers that I have to sign by a certain time? The last piece of paper I got that I "had to sign" from Porchlight was an income verification statement, filled out with an income amount that would have instantly disqualified me from VA transitional housing had I actually signed it. More on that below.
I didn't sign today's papers either. I politely explained on each form that I do not agree with the numbers they have on the forms, and so I will not sign them. I also asked that they please provide documentation or justification for those numbers.
The story of the form that would have put me back on the street: a couple of weeks ago, I got a letter and an income verification form that was pre-filled out with my annual income. The letter said that I was to sign the form and return it as soon as possible.
I considered this odd; I'd just done an income verification form in November, when I'd been in the program for a year. Why another one? Then I read the actual form, which said that in 2013 I worked 32 hours per week all year and made close to $30,000.
If I'd made close to $30k last year, the last place I would be living is in a goddamn homeless shelter. So I contacted the person who sent the letter, informed them that they had made a mistake, and asked that they please correct whatever records they were looking at and offer an explanation of what this was about.
I got another income verification form that was also wrong, but by a different amount, with the same directions to sign and return the form as soon as possible.
I didn't sign either of the forms. I let the nice person know that he needed to check his math and if there were any further questions he needed to talk to my case manager (who he should have talked to in the first place).
A couple of weeks ago, I was out of town for a weekend hackathon. I came back to find a clear plastic lock box covering my wall thermostat-- which means someone from Porchlight had been in my room at least once while I was gone, without notifying me.
So it seems my personal space (which I pay for) is no concern of anyone either.
So what? Here's what this does to my life:
I have trouble sleeping.
I jump at every noise or voice outside my door.
I'm afraid that I'm being watched, or followed.
I'm anxious and upset.
I have trouble concentrating.
I'm fighting off depression, barely.
I damn near put my fist through a wall today. (I'm never, ever violent.)
Today I considered, just for a second, going out and getting drunk. (I haven't been drunk in years.)
My studies are being affected negatively-- I should be doing homework right now. Instead I'm having to sort this shit out, write it down, talk to friends, try to calm down.
I'm better at dealing with these things than I used to be. I'll get through this. That means I win.
It sounds crazy, that someone would have something personal against me-- it's a PTSD symptom, this paranoia thing, fer cryin' out loud-- but I'm starting to believe that someone at Porchlight wants me, specifically, out of the program.
I'm clean, sober, no rap sheet, I don't make noise, I don't cause problems, I've been at the same job for 4 1/2 years and I'm in college. I'm a Veteran, with a disability.
So what is all of this about, really?
That I ask people to respect my need for personal privacy?
One of the goals of transitional housing is to get a good rent reference, so when you go try to find a real apartment again you have a snowball's chance in hell of a landlord offering you a lease. I know Porchlight is going to give me a bad rent reference when I leave the program, considering how much effort they put into threatening to evict me. I'll deal with it. I'm strong enough to have made it this far, and I'll figure something out.
I'm also not afraid of going to eviction court. In Madison, you actually go to a mediator first-- I won't be at all hesitant to ask for a full hearing before a judge. You bring your paperwork and I'll bring mine. Am I afraid of losing, or actually being evicted?
No. I'm not.
If it takes sleeping on the street for the next year while I finish my bachelor's degree, then so be it.
I also talked to the patient advocate at the VA Hospital this week. They talked to the person in charge of the VA homeless program for this area, but the response was that there's not much they can do because where I live isn't a VA facility. They referred me to the VA person at Porchlight, who knows about maintenance being in my room while I was gone and knows about the rent issues I'm having.
The story about being in my room was that it was going to be very cold outside, and my thermostat controls the entire floor-- so they needed to put a lockbox over the thermostat.
What? That makes no sense to me.
I haven't touched the thermostat since I turned it up to kick the heat on in November. It's been bitter cold since then, and no one had any issues. It was bitter cold last winter and no one had any issues.
The thermostat wasn't even adjusted while they were in my room. I know what it's set at, and it wasn't touched.
I also have my windows open and the air conditioner set to turn on, because if I don't the temperature in my room gets over 80 degrees. They didn't touch my windows or the A/C.
In fact they didn't do anything besides putting a clear plastic lockbox over the thermostat-- and take a good long look at my room.
Now if the thermostat needs to be adjusted, maintenance needs to be called. Majntenance can also enter my room anytime they want and claim it's an emergency because it's related to the "heat".
I don't have anything to hide in my room. I don't drink, I don't use. I do have personal papers, things that are either from or related to therapy. I'd really rather not have that, or my financial records, open to anyone from Porchlight that wants to walk in.
To them, it's no big deal to jack me around, invade my privacy, fire up my PTSD.
I don't feel safe at vets house. I never really have, and the events of the past couple of weeks have only reinforced that feeling.
Feeling like the world around me is a dangerous place is one of the symptoms of PTSD that I'm in therapy learning how to fight.
It doesn't help when the space that's supposed to be my home is proved dangerous again and again.