Today I went downtown to see the person who is responsible for the veterans homeless care program for my entire area. My Vet Center person suggested I talk to the program manager person about HUD-VASH, which is a program that's supposed to help homeless vets find permanent housing. Veteran pays %30 of market rent, VA and HUD pick up the rest.
Walk-in hours, as I understood them from the Vet Center, were 0800-1000. I was there at 0830, waited a while, found the person I needed, and she was booked. 1300 okay to meet? Sure.
Interlude - me sitting in a coffee shop from 0830-1300 trying to read but not able to concentrate on jack shit.
Meeting at 1300. I'll summarize, paraphrase, and scribble down what I remember clearly and fill in some blanks (including from the past). This is going to be disorganized.
It's not a transcript. It's me sorting shit out in my head.
Me: you, and the VA hospital, and Porchlight all knew that I was out on the street when I left. You knew about my PTSD, my anxiety, my depression. Not one person called to see if I was ok. Not one person cared enough to make sure I wasn't dead. That is FUCKED UP and it is BULLSHIT.
R: I called you, and knocked on your door, and tried to help you, and you refused and refused and refused...
Me: I told you to butt the fuck out of my life and leave me alone when you called the VA Hospital and started jacking around with my mental health care. Right around that time was the 'intervention' meeting, where I got to sit in a room full of people all throwing questions and statements at me. I didn't like being treated that way and I told you never to do it again.
Me: I also didn't trust you people from pretty early on. You didn't give me any reason to trust you or anyone else.
R: Well you should have been willing to work with _____ and _____ to set up a payee and then you wouldn't have had all these problems.
Me: I didn't like the idea of signing my entire bank account over to someone who I didn't know, didn't trust, and (probably) didn't like. Did I need help with setting up a budget? Yes. Setting up a budget to you people means surrendering control, and I don't do that if I can help it.
R: A lot of the problems you had there are on you; everyone was trying to help you and you rejected all of it.
Me: When I see a steaming pile of bullshit, I call it a steaming pile of bullshit. I signed up for direct withdrawal rent payments and Porchlight didn't take my fucking money and then started taking too much, overdrawing my account. Porchlight sent me paperwork to sign that was obviously wrong. And you wanted me to let you fuckers pick a payee for me? Instead of trying to support me being in college, Porchlight nagged me about the wads of cash I was supposedly getting to pay for school, because they wanted 30% of it.
R: You know, you need to let these things that happened in the past go. You can't stay angry about these things forever.
Me: Oh, okay. Thanks for the treat. I'll go off in the other room and happily wag my tail now because you say everything is okay. I did brush a lot of stuff off. I also saw the system for what it was and stood up for myself when the system was trying to fuck me over. Who else was going to stand up for me? You?
R: Well I agree that it must have felt a bit lonely when you were on the street after leaving Porchlight. We knew you had money, and you could have gotten a weekly rate motel room.
Me: Yeah, it does kinda suck when the people who told you for a year and a half that they had your back suddenly don't have your back. The peer support specialist wouldn't even look at me the day I moved out. He looked down at the ground and kept on going when he saw me. He's a veteran.
And what is it with you people and thinking I'm suddenly made of fucking money and resources? I moved out on April 29, right before final exams. There's no way in hell I was going to get a room ten miles away from campus. There's also no way I'm going to piss away all of the money I did have (which didn't amount to much) when I knew I'd need that money to move into a place of my own.
If I'd had a payee I'd have REALLY been fucked because I wouldn't have had control of my money and probably wouldn't be in an apartment now.
R: Well thank you for coming in, um, is there anything else I can do for you?
Me: The Vet Center says I need to look into HUD-VASH, but that I'm probably moved to the bottom of the waiting list (2+ years long, btw).
R: Since you're in actual housing now, you're no longer eligible for any homeless housing programs.
Me: Really? Well then, we're done. I'm outta here. (At this point I grab my backpack and walk out into the hallway. It's like a maze of twisty little passages, and I'm not sure when door exits to freedom.) "Which fucking door is the goddamn exit?"
R: But but but but but.... (she's chasing me as I'm walking out) here's my card, you can always call and check because sometimes things come up and...
Me: (crumples card and tosses into nearby wastebasket) yeah, sure.
I went there today with two goals: one, to find out for sure about HUD-VASH. Two, to have someone look me dead in the eye and try to tell me that it was okay for me to end up back on the street with no followup from anyone.
"It must have felt lonely." Yeah. It did. It was also cold, and damp, and oh yeah lots of fun having the fucking police as an alarm clock one morning.
That this whole story zorched an entire semester's worth of classes, and is forcing me to take yet another year off from school, she didn't seem concerned about in the least. Nobody but me is worried about college.
I don't know how you people in social work can do that, just not give a shit.
I don't want to know, either.
Veteran homelessness will not end in 2015, no matter how many speeches are read or how many posters are printed.
Awareness of a problem doesn't solve shit. Task forces and reports don't do shit. Talking about what you're going to do for homeless vets isn't shit.
Not until you take a good, long, hard look at 'the system' and see what's really going on, will you see what needs to change.