Bus to courthouse. Go through security, find the elevator, up to second floor. Lots of signs taped to the wall that say "Go This Way". Find the right courtroom, sit down, wait for a while. There's a mediator, who comes out every couple if minutes looking for someone from Porchlight. I briefly entertain the thought that they won't show up, but then I realize that that won't really help solve anything.
Finally I get called. Housing Manager is already in the mediation room. "How much money do you have for me today?"
The mediator had to remind Housing Manager that the mediator gets to talk first. Mediator explains the process.
"How much money do you have for me today?"
None. Same as sixty seconds ago. I explain that I don't know exactly how much rent I owe, because I've never been given a statement of my account.
Housing Manager produces a complete statement of my rent account from a stack of papers. This is exactly the statement I've asking for the past year or so-- so it seems that their accounting system CAN produce such a statement.
I'm trying to keep bearing, but I can't help pointing out that they'd have saved everyone a lot of grief if I'd had a copy of this statement months ago. Housing Manager's shields go up immediately, "You had a copy of this statement." Total defense mode, exactly like the last time I talked to HM last summer.
No, I did not get a copy of this statement. That's the second time today that a Porchlight employee has called me a liar, and the second time they have been wrong.
I take a deep breath. Then another.
And one more, just in case. I'm fuming.
HM knows I was just awarded disability benefits. She wants to know how much I can pay. I already have a number, and I offer that split over two months. She wants the back benefits that I'll be getting from the time my claim was being processed.
If there was ever any doubt left that all that matters is the rent money, it ended right there.
Honestly, I don't know exactly when that money will arrive and I told her so. I also had to explain that I wasn't going to promise to pay money if I didn't know when that money would be in my account.
Fine, no argument there.
Mediator fills out a standard you-pay-them agreement form. There are several blank lines under the amounts I am promising to pay, so I draw lines through that space on the form.
The mediator smiles.
There is also a survey form the mediator asks me to fill out-- she's a volunteer from the Tenant Resource Center, and they need some demographics. I know they use these forms to justify the funding they get, so sure. Happy to fill t out.
Housing Manager starts talking to me while I'm filling out the form. Without looking up from the form, I hold up a finger (not that one, but I damn sure considered it) to say shush. I'm not done yet and you are going to wait until I am done filling out this form to start talking to me.
Mediator takes the agreement form to get a commissioners signature. I stare across the table at Housing Manager. She looks like this is about as big a deal as drinking a cup of Kool-Aid.
Mediator comes back in, Housing Manager starts barking orders about which copy I get. She wants to make sure it's the clearest and easiest to read, so I can clearly see what I need to do.
Save it. I know the game. Pay on time.
I'm free to go? Sweet. I take a minute or so to get my backpack open and stow my copies of the form, and Housing Manager calls in the next case. I grab my shit, GTFO, and go look for the nearest bus stop that will get me back to campus from downtown.
I don't doubt for a second that Housing Managet would have speed dialed the Sherriffs Office to have me removed from my place ASAP if I didn't have disability benefit money coming in soon.
You can say all you want about Porchlight being a charity. Call it whatever you want, It's all about the money just like any other business.
My case manager ddn't do shit to help me deal with the eviction case. Neither the VA liaison nor the Peer Support Specialist did or said anything to help me.
I got online and read the local regs and ordinances to make sure I had my shit together for today. I talked to the Tenant Resource Center and the Veterans Law Clinic. I did the paperwork and math to make sure I knew what I really owed for rent. Had I not known my rights and made it clear that I know them, I could really have been screwed over today.
Some advice: no matter what Porchlight or any other homeless housing agency tells you, don't take what they say as gospel. Read everything they give you to sign and don't sign unless you understand what you're signing.
Verify rent payments and keep receipts. Something wrong? Raise holy hell about it until it gets fixed.
Hey VA: organizations like Porchlight are not the way to end homelessness. They're not accountable to anyone, because they are outside the VA. They say they're helping veterans, but when a veteran has problems there's a quick path to being back on the street. They don't take into account that every veteran, and every veterans situation, is different.
It took going to court and risking being evicted for me to get a simple list of what I owe for rent for each month I've been here.
It took me going to the patient advocate for anyone to blink an eye about a maintenance guy being in my room working while I was asleep.
There are other veterans here, in this facility, that are being jacked around with rent even worse than I have been jacked around. The guys with #PTSD have it the worst, because while we're trying to process what the fuck's going on, Porchlight sees us as the problem instead of training people to help.
My advice? Bring the homeless program completely in-agency. VA buildings staffed with VA case managers and VA social workers who are themselves veterans.
I know it's not that simple-- but if you leave control in the hands of people who are not veterans and who will put a homeless vet back on the street without producing a drop of sweat, you're going to have a shitstorm on your hands when the OEF/OIF brothers and sisters start having problems a few years from now.
As for me, I can't get the fuck out of the Grant Per Diem program fast enough.