Part of the problem was that while in transitional housing, I stood up for myself when they were trying to feed me bullshit. They (meaning Porchlight, and the VA homeless program) are not used to veterans standing up for themselves, or so it seems-- whenever I did they took it personally, they acted threatened-- like, how dare you not just lay down and do what we tell you? We have a plan for dealing with broken people and you're not following it. Hate to break it to you, world of social work, all people are not the same, All veterans certainly are not the same. Your program wasn't what I needed and when you tried to shoehorn me into it, it didn't work. You're not the first to try treating me like I was everyone else, you probably won't be the last. It never works.
Of course, if Porchlight and the VA hadn't been stepping on my rights as an individual by violating my privacy and ignoring the conditions of my disability, things would have gone a lot smoother. I wouldn't have had to talk to the VA Patient Advocate, and then the staff at Porchlight wouldn't have had to take it personally when I did.
Do I regret talking to the VA Patient Advocate? No.
Do I regret tearing up the VA Homeless Program Manager's business card, and throwing it in the trash as I walked out of her office? No again.
Do I regret writing my Senator about the situation when Porchlight was blacklisting me while I was trying to find a place to live on my own? No again.
See a pattern here?
What I do regret-- and this is the reason that I'm having trouble letting go of the whole experience-- is that I cannot change it for other veterans. I know that I'm not the only one that's been fucked over by Porchlight. I know I'm not the only one that's had trouble with the Madison WI VA Homeless Program office.
So many veterans commit suicide every day that it's not headline news when it happens. It's a statistic. I'm lucky-- I'd already had a lot of therapy, and I was already on medication, and I'd most importantly learned a lot about being resilient before I ever became homeless. (That it didn't prevent me from becoming homeless in the first place is a subject for another discussion.)
Someday, or maybe it's already happened, a veteran is going to end up in VA transitional housing-- a veteran like me, who doesn't take kindly to being stepped on-- and that veteran is going to see the situation as hopeless. They're going to look forward, and see a life of case managers who promise the world but don't really care. They're going to see that "charities" like Porchlight are nothing more than real estate companies getting rich collecting money from the government. They're going to see a life of being a slave to the system, and they're going to decide that suicide is the only way out of it.
When-- not if, but when it happens to someone in Porchlight's program, it's on the people who run the program. The case managers, the peer support specialists, the housing managers. It's also on the VA, the homeless program managers and the patient advocates who say they'll support veterans and then fail to step up and do what's necessary.
I can't change the system on my own. I'll tell my story to anyone who will listen, but I've been telling my story to anyone who will listen for a while now and nothing has changed. I have a life to live, so I'm putting the whole thing behind me-- or at least, I'm trying to put it behind me-- and so I'm done with it.
I'm sorry, fellow veterans. I tried. I have to move on.