When we left off at the last blog post, I had just gone to a meeting with Heather from Everyone Village that cheered me up. And it made me feel like I was going to have a place to live.
Except that very often, things don’t remain simple when you’re dealing with homeless people. (And I include myself.) The problem is that simple situations, things that are no big deal for the rest of the world, often become complicated and full of drama when we are involved.
There are always miscommunications, always emotions, and there are usually fears or anxieties. As a result, simple actions that you might take in stride, suddenly become a situation, possibly an incident, and hopefully not an arrest. We live with high drama that very often it ends in (hidden) tears.
It might be the case that somebody looks at you wrong or somebody doesn’t move out of your way fast enough on the sidewalk or somebody doesn’t give you a cigarette. People in the normal world would go, well, that sucked, but they’d have other things to get on with and soon forget about it.
But a homeless person has no reason not to just ruminate on that all day long. Times I said no to a cigarette from a fellow street dweller have led the homeless person just stand there in my space to punish me for my lack of obedience. On numerous occasions they went away only to come back a few minutes later, triumphantly puffing away as if to say screw you, buddy, I got one.
Really really no reason not to ruminate.
And this operates for fears as well as grievances.
Very easy for a doubt mutate into a fear and then on to a depressing certainty.
And free time to spend time with negative emotions was definitely in effect in the weeks leading to my new residence at Everyone Village.
What happened was, sometime in November, I had this meeting with Heather and then, they didn’t actually say:
“You’re in. You have a place. Move in on this date.”
But towards the end of the meeting, we were all talking as if it was understood that it was a done deal.
So, good. I had a new place coming. I was to be part of building a new community. Only I don’t hear from them for a week and start thinking, “Did I misinterpret that? I mean, they were really acting like they had a place for me and, I was telling her what skills I have and they were showing me their plans for the place and seemed enthusiastic.
So how come no one’s gotten back to me at all on this. Maybe I was assuming things that weren’t there., I mean, I just, I just, I mean, I just . . . .
Looking for housing is a lot of times a sore spot for us. When you finally do get off your butt and start getting on housing lists or applying for Section 8, not to mention approaching all the nonprofits that say they will get you a place, you quickly learn that you probably won’t get anything, or it will take years to get on the top of the list.
Most of the time, it’s a false hope industry.
I signed up for one of those ones and had to call in once a week for every week to keep my spot and did that for like a whole year and then I got a voicemail from them and up went hopes.
So I go there and they say, oh, yeah, we don’t actually have housing for you, we wanted to offer you some case manager services.
Except homeless people have case manager services coming out our ears.
Everywhere you turn someone is offering to be your case manager or navigator. That is just someone you just talk to once a week who gets your hopes up and gets paid whether they get you any help or not. And sends you on wild goose chases.
See what I mean about the false hope?
I even once had a case manager who would promise all sorts of things and the next time I saw her it was like she had forgotten all of it. Each time we met it was like we were meeting for the first time. Finally, I asked her about all the stuff she had said the week before, and she was like a little girl whose dog ate the homework.
She always had a great excuse for not doing all the stuff she had promised and on top of that she wanted sympathy from me for how hard her life was, essentially reversing our roles. She was about 23 and very tiny and had perfect make-up. I finally had enough and asked her why she never did what she said she was going to do. It looked like she was going to cry, but by this point I didn’t care.
I stuck by my guns, not aggressively, but firmly and she chose the nuclear option. She pretended to be scared of me. If nothing else works, the old ‘I don’t feel safe’ is a real crowd favorite.
Once they go down that road there is no coming back, so I never went back. It is a sure fire solution that is much easier than keeping your word.
To connect this to the first few paragraphs, we not only have the general tendency towards elevated emotion and high drama, but we also have years of disappointment.
Which is why, even though Gabe and Heather pretty much told me I could live at Everyone Village, I was living in a mini-drama all by myself and of my own making.
I saw in their Twitter feed that they were having an open house day to visit the site and ask questions and figured it couldn’t hurt to show up. I arrived to find a three-acre grassy, boggy field, with a small paved area in the corner. There were about three shelters and one RV on the site.
In other words, nothing was there, it was mostly possibility. It was nice to meet everyone and all. That didn’t stop new doubts to creep in. Do I really know these people? Is this going to happen? There is nothing here.
Another few weeks go by and I am anxious having heard no word so I call them and they say oh yeah, we’re gonna have a luncheon we’re going to invite you to this luncheon.
So I go and there is good Mexican food and they show us one of the shelters they are working on and everyone seems friendly and positive. Really nice, but it is really vague until the end when they said “we’re doing the official filling out of applications,” and they pass out the village application for us to look and and start taking appointments to come and sign up.
I started filling my forum right then before they could change their minds, there was like oh no, no, no, we were gonna have appointments with you you’re gonna come in and fill out the forms right? But I wasn’t gonna do that man. I’m going to fill out form right then and not take any chances.
Even here, no one said I had a spot for sure. They acted like I did though nobody ever actually said that. So afterward, from the homeless point of view, you’re just like, how is this gonna slip through my fingers? There are so many ways for these things to slip through your fingers. How is this one going to do it? That’s what I was kind of thinking.
Again, not hearing from them for a week, all the negative thoughts start creeping in. I know they have a million things to do, and they did imply that I had a place. So, like normal people, they thought their word or their implications were good enough.
I found out later the problem was that they were waiting on delivery of pallet shelters that were going to be delivered on a certain day. So what they said to me was based on what was said to them and they kept getting put off too.
And to them it was one of a million things they were dealing with so I understand why they didn’t call me back but I also am like, “Sh*t is just really going to happen?”
Every time I kept visiting the site, no new shelters , and it was just big swampy grass place, with four acres of swampy wet grass and everything they said was great, I’m just wondering when it is going to happen. They all seem like great people, but there’s nothing there.
Now I’m thinking: “Well, who are these people? I don’t know them. Do they have it together? Is this really going to happen?” In my mind, a lot of uncertainty all along.
I just needed someone to grab me by the shoulders and say, stop worrying, you’re in.
When I would call them they would reassure me to a degree and remain reticent to a degree.
I think they probably felt bad because they had promised me to move in and then these shelters didn’t show up and even though it wasn’t their fault, they felt bad.
It’s pretty hard when you’re accepting charity, to set any boundaries or ask any questions. You never really forget that it is each person’s job to take care of themself, and at the moment you aren’t quite up to the job. You’re afraid that if you set a boundary they will think you are ungrateful. It really took a gathering up of nerve to ask Heather that simple question.
Finally I said:
“Could you just tell me what’s going on? I’m fine with whatever it is, but I would much rather know.”
I would rather know the truth than be given false hope. I’m probably going to repeat myself a million times on this.
She explains about the holdup with the shelters. and then says, “I know you want to get in one of the pallet shelters, but we have a smaller shelter. Would you be willing to move into that until the other one comes?”
And that was what I needed to hear. I had a specific date and a specific shelter. It seemed for now that I could just quit worrying for a little while.
Next: Moving In and Maybe a New Pseudonym.