You see the stories all the time now-- veteran comes back from the war, does okay for a while, has some problems, goes to the VA for help, and somehow falls through the cracks. People in suits thump their chests and say "we can't let another veteran fall through the cracks!" Look, I know the VA is trying. I know there are some really dedicated people that work inside the VA to find and fix those cracks so no one falls through.
I also know there is this pledge to end veteran homelessness by 2015 that's been made. Gen. Shisneki himself has made ending veteran homelessness a priority. Great. Everyone's talking about a problem that needs to be addressed. Handshakes, photos, blog entries, press releases. The number of veterans who are homeless has dropped. We're making progress. Things are getting better. The system works! YAY!
The system didn't work for me, the system made things worse.
In October 2012, I got a phone call from Porchlight, the main agency here in Madison that is supposed to be working to end homelessness. If you call the local homeless hotline, you get referred to Porchlight. There are a limited number of other choices. If you're a veteran, you get put in touch with the people who manage the "grant per diem" program. This is transitional housing assistance, the program I was in until a week or so ago.
I was evicted from transitional housing. I'm back on the street now. You know those cracks? I've fallen through one of them,and landed back on the street in worse shape than when I got into the program.
That's not the reason that the VA's approach to ending homelessness is going to fail.
My case manager never made it to my eviction mediation hearing. Had I not sought out legal advice on my own, and been through the process before, I'd have gone in blind. In fact, no one from Porchlight ever mentioned anything about the mediation process, or that there is such a place as the Tenant Resource Center here.
After the mediation hearing, I didn't hear from my case manager.for about a month. The program says we're supposed to meet once a week. Personally, I didn't see much use in the meetings at that point and I'm sure CM didn't either. Isn't there a point though, if you're a case manager, that you stop and at least wonder if the person whose case you're supposed to be managing is doing ok?
Case Manager did help me by taking some of my stuff in her car to my storage unit. I had to ask, when I said I was moving out that day, if she'd be able to help out. I didn't get all of my stuff in her car though; she worried that it would all be "too heavy for her new car".
With me riding shotgun, her purse didn't fit on the front passenger seat. I've been around long enough that when I'm in a woman's car, riding shotgun means I have to hold the driver's purse.
After a few minutes of driving she wanted to close her purse in case it fell forward. It didn't occur to me until now that she may have wanted it closed so I couldn't reach in to steal something from inside.
The real reason this while end homelessness thing is going to fail? Since I left with my stuff, I've received one phone call from Case Manager. She said I'd need to bring the keys back or she'd have to call the sheriff.
No goodbyes. No well wishes, or good lucks, or even a call if you want to talk.
Not even a "don't let the door hit your ass on the way out."
Even my ex-wife and I hugged and said goodbye, and we wished each other well, the last time we saw each other.
Porchlight hasn't even told anyone at the VA that I'm on the street again.