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09 August 2014

The word is 'betrayal'

I'm still trying to resolve everything that's happened so far this year into something that makes sense. I have to start with last year.

The people at Porchlight hounded me last year (2013) to set up direct withdrawal from my checking account to pay my rent each month. They actually wanted me to designate a "payee", a person to whom I'd give my paychecks for them to pay my bills for me. I immediately said no to that-- I'd lived there long enough that I didn't trust them (or anyone else) having full control of my money. I said no to the automatic withdrawals too, because I didn't trust Porchlight in particular. (This was after I'd had someone walk into my room while I was asleep a few feet away, and keep working even after I told him to GTFO my room).

Other than trust, there was also me dealing with PTSD. When it's really bad, I'm really nervous and twitchy, very hyperaware. I'm worrying about things like what I'll do if bombs fall or terrorists try to blow up the big tank next door or an earthquake happens. The simple things that most people do every day, like paying bills, are hard for me to remember and get done. I didn't trust Porchlight, but I also wanted to get back to doing things like paying bills on time on my own.  Giving someone else control of my is no better than self medicating with drugs or alcohol. It's giving up, letting the disability win. I tried to explain that to Case Manager (and others at Porchlight), but no one would listen or even try to understand. It was about them getting my money, not about helping me cope with PTSD.

Three months went by-- June, July, August 2013. Every week Case Manager would ask me where my rent was and tell me I was going to be evicted, and every week I would repeat that I had signed up for direct withdrawal. Finally in August, someone figured out that the paperwork I had signed to start automatic withdrawal was still in my folder, in the filing cabinet in Case Manager's office. No one had sent it to accounting.

Why didn't I just write a check each month? I had the feeling that as soon as I dropped off a check, they'd run the automatic withdrawal and double charge me. That's not quite how it happened when they did finally start taking my rent money from my account-- but still they overcharged me, overdrawing my account and costing me $35.00 or more each time. It went on like that for several months. I finally had to demand that they stop the auto withdrawals. They were guessing at how much money I made, and pulling the maximum amount my rent could be every month (instead of 30% of my income). 


Things had been ugly since I moved in, but then Porchlight tried to claim I was getting money from school (I wasn't). They recalculated my income and decided I was making twice what I actually was. They tried to bill me for a month I didn't even live there.

My Vet Center person is trying to convince me that it was all just a big miscommunication, a big misunderstanding that went wrong and turned out badly. She's trying to help me move on from everything that happened with Porchlight. I'm finding it difficult. The big picture goal for me right now is getting in touch with how I'm doing, where I am with PTSD. Anticipating when the rough times will come, and being prepared for them. At this point, I can handle one big stressful thing-- think 'college'. Toss in a really toxic home atmosphere where I was triggered constantly, toss in the constant eviction threats, and then toss in college midterm exams and projects. Overload.

In the middle of all that, I was evicted. When the dust settled, I was standing by myself, alone.

After I was evicted, the people at Porchlight and the VA homeless program forgot I existed.
You could say that Porchlight and the VA homeless program don't owe me anything, but I won't let that stand without an argument.

I cannot say that I was living well when I was sleeping in my car before I got a room at Porchlight. I wasn't. It was wearing on me, and every time I looked in a mirror I could see myself getting older faster. Winter was approaching, and it was getting cold at night. I tried to picture myself surviving a blizzard or a -25F night while hunkered down in my car and the odds didn't look good. The odds of being arrested for trespassing increased every day. So did the odds of being robbed or assaulted.

It made sense, then, for me to seek out help finding shelter. Google and the VA directed me to Porchlight.  The deal sounded pretty good. Rent 30% of my income. Three meals a day. Supportive staff onsite. All of the residents veterans. Great that you're going to school, we'll support you any way we can. We'll put you on the HUD-VASH waiting list, so in case you're not graduated by the time your two years are up you'll get a voucher for a place to live. We'll help you get your disability claim refiled and we'll fight for it with you. We care about you.

The entire saga with my rent while I lived at Porchlight made it perfectly clear to me that all they cared about was my money (which I had precious little of to start with) and how good they looked on paper (so they could get more money).

I used to believe that the VA had my back. Maybe not 24/7 in all situations, but if things went wrong and got fucked up, I believed that there would be someone from the VA that could help set things right. I don't believe that now. The VA homeless program in Madison WI did nothing to keep me from being evicted. Porchlight's accounting was seriously messed up-- Porchlight's errors (if they were errors) were what caused me to end up back on the street. It turned out that the VA homeless program did not, in fact, have my back. The VA Hospital here never even knew I was back out on the street again (nor did they check).

The eviction was hard. I stood up for myself in battle, and I lost even though I was right and they were wrong. This is the nature of the world. Sometimes you win and sometimes you lose.

I cannot process how the people from Porchlight and from the VA homeless program simply forgot I existed once I had been evicted and once I was out on the street again.

These people said they cared. They said they were there to help me, and other vets, who needed help adjusting and getting life put back together.  It's devastating to find out that after all is said and done, the people who said they cared about me really don't give a shit at all.

I feel betrayed, and that is a bad, bad feeling-- because I'm about to be out on the street again, and this time there's no one to go to when I need to ask for help.

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