29 August 2014

Ending my own homelessness

tl;dr I've found a new apartment on my own, and I am no longer homeless.

Yesterday I went downtown to the (Madison WI) VA homeless program office. My primary care doctor refered me there at my most recent primary care appointment, and someone other than the person I'd dealt with while I was in transitional housing called-- so I decided to go and talk to the new person. (If it had been the same person I dealt with while I lived in transitional housing, I wouldn't have gone to the meeting. See my post about her response to my being back on the street in April here.)

At the meeting with the VA homeless program office, I found out that since I'm signing a lease I'm no longer homeless, which makes sense. I also found out that I was in fact eligible for HUD-VASH, but since I've only been homeless three times instead of four (in n years) I wouldn't be considered "chronically homeless" and therefore eligible to be moved to the top of the list.

I also found out that there are other resources available, including emergency funding for paying the security deposit and first month's rent that have to be paid when moving into a new place. In addition, I might be eligible for assistance with moving expenses.  Since I've already signed a lease (and paid my security deposit and first month's rent from my own money) I'm no longer eligible for that money, but I might be eligible for the moving expenses assistance.

Funny-- no one told me about those things when I was in the same VA homeless program office back in June.  Even funnier, the social worker I talked to yesterday had no record of anything that had happened with Porchlight. She only knew I was homeless. She had no idea that I had been into the office in June to talk to anyone, or that after I'd been evicted from Porchlight that no one had followed up with me while I was on the streets for three weeks.

No one followed up with me because the only person in the Madison WI VA homeless program office that knew I was on the street didn't follow up-- and she didn't tell anyone else that I was out on the streets again. No one could follow up, and no one could care, because no one knew I was out there.

People at two different agencies-- Porchlight Inc., and the VA's homeless program office in Madison WI-- knew that I was living on the streets.
They knew about my PTSD, my anxiety, my depression, and that I was in therapy. How much more at risk could I be? Yet, not only did they not follow up to see if I was all right, but they made an effort to ensure that no one else did either.

When I was filling out applications for apartments, I found out that when Porchlight was reporting that I'd been evicted that they'd also been including the rental problems I'd had at the apartment before I became homeless-- thus ensuring that no landlord would even consider renting to me.

Incompetence could explain a lot of things, but these people made a concerted effort to toss me away and forget about me. It was personal.

But hey, you know what? I found a new apartment on my own. I signed the lease and picked up the keys yesterday. I'm not moved in yet, but I'll be sleeping in my own apartment tonight.

I'm also enrolled in classes again this fall. I'm attending at least three hackathons this fall, and I'm on the organizing committee for another hackathon in spring.

I win.

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